The same thing happens every night:
At dinner time, I stare blankly into my refrigerator and hate my life. The baby, sensing my frustration, practices empathy. He toddles over, drapes his body over my feet, places his forehead to the ground as if in prayer, and screams for 35 minutes. This perfectly reflects the posture of my soul at dinner time: despair and agony in sackcloth and ashes. Henry is an emotionally intelligent child.
I decide to make the kids something fast. Oatmeal. I slice up some fruit and give each child a little pile of almonds to trick them into thinking that this is, in fact, A DINNER. See? There are sides. It's a meal.
Sam wants 2 ice cubes in his oatmeal because it is too hot. The ice cubes melt and he accuses me of giving him ice-cube-less oatmeal. I put another ice cube in his bowl. Now it is too cold. And too runny. He needs it heated. With more brown sugar. And two more ice cubes...
Madeline is pissed because three weeks ago I mentioned I MIGHT make shepherd’s pie again ONE DAY and how is she supposed to feel safe in the world when I keep breaking these kinds of SACRED PROMISES?
Henry wants to drink the oatmeal from his bowl, and accidentally empties the chunky, starchy, slime down his shirt, into his lap, onto his chair, and onto the floor. Then he panics because THERE IS SOMETHING TOUCHING HIM!
Sam nibbles one bite of every almond and is full.
Madeline eats as fast as a snail on barbiturates, and cries when you leave her at the table.
I say, “IT IS TIME TO GO UPSTAIRS.”
I say, “No, we cannot paint/go to the park/watch a movie/ride bikes/plan your retirement.”
I get the children in bed.
I put the children BACK in their beds.
I deliver cups of water, band-aids, straighten sheets, take off socks, put socks back on, turn on the hall light, turn off the hall light, straighten the sheets again, more water, Sam has to pee, no he cannot have a chocolate chip as a reward, because it’s too late that’s why, and bid them goodnight.
I clean up Henry’s oatmeal waterfall.
I realize that it is 10:00 at night and I have not eaten anything since that PB&J I had at 11:30am. I tell myself, “No, self. You absolutely cannot make little smoked sausages wrapped up in crescent rolls at 10:00 at night.”
I eat a package of peanut butter crackers that I SWORE I would only use for school lunches. This is no time for principles.
And that is why you should send your mothers flowers on Mother’s Day. Because your mother did THAT every night for years.
Mom, I love you. Thank you for loving me in spite of myself.