Perpetual Torment and Doubt
..."when I was a kid, my ears were eagerly tuned to the dinner cry, and I would come running. Willingly running."
I just got done having dinner with the kids and I am exhausted. Why do I spend over an hour's time cooking, serving, catering to the four year old who never wants what I've made, and infinitely repeating myself for them to "EAT", only to come away feeling as though I'm somehow a horrible, impatient person?! Logically, it sounds ridiculous, and yet!
ALL I want is for them to sit in one place (more or less; fidget all you want, I don't care!), and take one bite after another, repeating the process until their plate is magically clean! Seems fairly straightforward, really. And. Yet!
I made a beautiful pork roast, carrots, fresh bread (yeah, didn't make that part, but I freaking made sure it was there), and at that point, I don't think it would be unreasonable to simply shout out "Dinner!", and have my job be done. But that's not how we roll here, and I accept responsibility for that. With the husband on the road, it’s a balancing act. And there’s no net. I shouted, "Dinner!!". . . ."Dinner!!". . . . Nothing. Now, when I was a kid, my ears were eagerly tuned to the dinner cry, and I would come running. Willingly running. And yet.
Again, now sounding incredibly frustrated, I yelled, "David, Lucas, dinner!!!!!" Then I went out onto the porch, because the middle child was playing with the neighbor kids: "Brooke!! Dinner!!!!" I took the roast out in order to let it rest. Just as I had begun to put the plates out onto the counter, my four year old bundle of raw energy and questions blasted into the room first. He asks, “What are we having?” To which I reply, “Pork roast and carrots,” only to be met with the inevitable response of “EW! No! I don’t want that!” As I’m sure you realize, he’s never, in fact even tasted a pork roast. I did not have the energy for that particular battle. I know I should have made him eat it, and yet…
The toddler and I agreed that he’d have a sandwich. The girl came home and washed her hands. I called the teenager again, and he came down at long last. I asked him why he didn’t come the other four times that I called, but all he'd say was “I was blowing my nose.” So many problems with that answer, especially considering the fact that this whole process started over ten minutes ago. But I took a breath and just began to cut into the roast. Meanwhile, the girl was asking for raw carrots and blue cheese instead of roasted carrots. The youngest was now in a tizzy on the kitchen floor because he noticed that someone had taken the last juice drink out of the fridge. The screaming was incredibly loud, but he finally agreed to drink something else, and then began doing shuttle runs from one end of the kitchen to the other. Dinner should be about half over by now . . . and yet??
Mommy Needs a Time Out!
Finally, I got the roast sliced, and with the other two requesting special orders, I served the teenager. He made his way to the dining room table. Okay, the girl. Roast, raw carrots, blue cheese. Because certainly it’s better to go out of your way and plate-up raw carrots as opposed to roasted just so that I don’t have to listen to complaints regarding said-roasted carrots, right? RIGHT?! Now she’s off to the table. Two down. I mean, dinner should be over, and I should be rinsing dishes by now, no? And. Freaking. Yet.
At last, I can grab the toddler’s plate and start to assemble his sandwich. Except, no. No, I can’t. Because now he’s injured himself on my elbow in the midst of shuttle run practice. I kiss his head, and try to ask him to go sit at the table with the other kids, telling him that I’d have his sandwich out in a minute. He did not like this idea. He wants to be with me. You know, because clearly we’re just vibing, here. Almost as though I was some sort of mommy computer, I could now feel the rage loading. It was a short load. Add to that the fact that my darling four year old was now shrieking at the top of his lungs not two inches from my face, as he frothed at the mouth and blasted snot bubbles from his nostrils in perfect synchronicity with each word that he was screaming (yes, since you asked, feeling another human being’s snot bubble explode on your own face is just as amazing as it sounds), and the download was complete. *ding!* Crazy Mommy had arrived.
Crazy Mommy doesn’t necessarily have to be loud mommy. Crazy Mommy can be pretty intimidating, not to mention effective, even at a whisper. However, when dealing with a hangry four year old who can’t hear anything other than himself, Crazy Mommy has few other choices but to be heard: “Go! Sit! At! THE! TABLE! And WAAAAAAAIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
He took one of those breaths that all of us as parents know all too well. The deep, endless inhalation which signifies that the end is nigh. That huge, interminable breath in which they’re imagining every possible way that they can make you pay for sinking to their level. But all they can muster in response is louder screaming and incomprehensible nonsense as they slink their way into the other room. To that place you told them to go. No, to that place which you just screamed at them to go. And just like that, you go from justifiable verbal momicide (patent pending) to irrevocable maternal guilt. Why are we wired this way?
"We'll do it all again tomorrow."
I finished preparing his plate and delivered it to him. He was a mess. A blubbering disaster, only wanting a big hug and a kiss. I finally returned to the kitchen to fix my own plate, and just then I crossed paths with the teenager, who had since finished his meal. He asked to be excused. I returned to the table, where my youngest was calming down and eating, and my eight year old was about half finished. I salted my carrots just as my youngest bounced up to my side to kiss my arm, and told me that he’s feeling better. Then my girl smiles through her half-chewed pork roast and says, “I love you, mommy!” Sigh. This is probably not the time to remind her to not speak with her mouth full. Rage dissipating. Now I feel like an ass. They’ve neutralized Crazy Mommy. And yet:
Not an entire five seconds passed consecutively for the next ten minutes in which I did not have to utter the words, “Just eat your food! Eat! Eat it all!! Eat it now!!!!” But I was too tired to do anything at that point, other than repeat myself. We all managed to finish. We’ll do it all again tomorrow. I know there are things that I could do, or that I’ve failed to do which got me to this repetitive, frustrating place. What’s worse is that I have more than a good idea of how to fix it.
The problem is that I’m just so incredibly exhausted. And to the outside world, heck, maybe even to my kids directly, I probably just look like a really impatient, cranky, horrible person. Is it my fault that they don’t hear me until I’m starting to get frustrated? Is it on them that I can’t simply wait for my youngest child to complete his meltdown before attempting to broadcast my own rantings over his eardrum-piercing shrieks? You know what? For tonight, we’re just going to go ahead and say yes. Yes, it’s them. It’s not me. I’m only mothering in self-defense. Not that it helps, because at the end of every justifiable motherly rant lies those dreaded words of perpetual torment and doubt: “And yet.”