While this week has been relaxing and a retreat from much of typical daily life, the fact that R and G are here at Chautauqua with me doesn’t completely allow me to escape my parental responsibilities. I want to share the experience of being here with them, but last night at dinner I found myself wishing I could have a stand-in for the night.
Parenting is hard work. Really hard work… and if anyone tells you differently, I assume they either have lots of family help, hired help or just perfect children. And while I love cooking for my family, there are times where dinner feels like really hard work and I feel ready to just hang up my apron (okay, technically, I wasn’t wearing one, but you get my drift), walk away from the kitchen table and give myself a time-out to have a breather so I can gain my perspective.
Last night my aunt and uncle were hosting a cocktail hour and dinner at their inn, a very non-kid friendly event. So while they were on the back patio, sipping wine and really lovely finger foods, I was in our very small kitchen making macaroni and cheese, cut up fruit and some vegetables for the boys. Mind you, that it is cool and pleasant here in the evenings, so all our windows were open, and as I cooked I could hear the happy din of adult cocktail conversations.
It was with an already somewhat longing appetite that I served our simple meal to the boys and I (SPH arrives this evening and my mom, who was with us up until yesterday morning, was already back home). I didn’t expect a standing ovation when I served dinner, but instead I got two goofy, just-acting-their-sweet-ages boys, who were making silly noises, comments and occasionally playing with their food. At first it was cute, but then it became mildly irritating, and then downright annoying. I wanted to be with the adults, having a leisurely drink and fancy finger food, but instead was refereeing two boys who were more interested in pushing my buttons than eating.
Then the unexpected happened…I am not sure where they came from, especially during this wonderful week, but I said in frustration to the boys, “could you please, please just eat your dinner,” as some tears welled up in my eyes.
G didn’t get it, but R got it. My sweet, sweet boy immediately stopped playing around, looked at me very seriously and said to me, “mom, are you having a tough day?”
I paused, “no, not a tough day. It was a great day. I am just having a tough time with this meal. While you boys were playing and having fun, I was in the kitchen, cooking something I thought you would like to eat. Instead, you are not listening to me, goofing around, and not eating. I am frustrated.”
R replied, “I am sorry mommy.”
G was still looking sort of dumbfounded, but then again, he is 3 and I can’t expect him to fully appreciate such a situation. Regardless, I was immediately touched by R’s sincerity and sweetness. The meal turned around, they ate well, and we finished on a pretty good note. Sure, the adult conversation and gourmet food smells were still wafting up from the patio, but somehow my meal with the boys was suddenly more special.
I share this story because chances are you’ve had a frustrating moment or two with your child or family, perhaps even over a meal. It is hard, often thankless work being a parent, and providing your family with good, decent food can be a real challenge, one that often goes unrewarded. So if you cook for your family, lift your hand up in the air, reach to your back, and give yourself a big pat.