I was recently having dinner with a friend and I was doing that really annoying thing that parents do to their childless friends – telling her that she should have children. She thought that my stories of sleepless nights and lack of free time should be my argument against having children, but I disagreed. Another friend piped in and said that when talking about children, parents have a tendency to express the hard parts while internalizing the happy parts. Though I had never thought about it that way before, I found this to be a wise and true statement, the anecdote I didn’t even realize I needed.
I am a complainer, com-plain and com-simple. Always have been, always will be. I think life should be simpler than it is, and the complications have only escalated since having a baby. Though I try to keep things realistic on this blog, I also try to be more upbeat than is my true nature. I don’t want to seem mean or ungrateful, and I want my daughter to know that as sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, I have never loved anyone more. But don’t they say keeping stuff bottled up leads to cancer? It’s certainly led me to a case of Larry King shoulders.
So here it is. I confess. I dread mealtimes with my child. Especially dinnertime. Dinnertime is the worst. By the end of the day when I am already fried, I must prepare the most complicated meal of the day. This never goes smoothly because the baby wants my attention and gets frustrated and whiny when I can’t give it to her. (My husband has to commute so he is not home to enjoy these precious moments.) I’ve found those quick and easy, 30-minute supper solutions to be WA-AA-AAY too involved when trying to care for a baby. I need something that takes minimal prep time. 10 minutes max. It can cook all damn day* so long as it doesn’t need attention from me. Sadly, even a simple roast chicken turns complicated when you go to make the accouterments I can’t seem to find a workable solution so I wind up with overcooked meat or under cooked pasta and a massive mess.
Once dinner is finally ready, Sonja acts excited and willingly sits in her high chair, awaiting her feast. After eating one bite, she then proceeds to throw the rest of her food on the floor and dump water down her pants. This makes me feel like a bad parent. My daughter is on the small side and we want her to gain weight, but she refuses to let me help her eat. When I try, first she covers her face, then she says “no,” then she starts to whine if I persist. And I know she’s capable of getting that food in her mouth, I just don’t know why she doesn’t want to.
Should I try to eat my own dinner, that results in more chaos. Once I start to eat, she wants what is on my plate, even though it’s the exact same food she has thrown on the floor. I relent and share anyway, because who am I to deny food to an underweight child? If ever I should say no in an attempt to put my foot down on what is clearly manipulative behavior, visions of those old Sally Struthers commercials with starving African children flash across my brain and I figure I’m one step away from CPS knocking on my door. For a brief shining moment, sharing from my plate seems to work, but whatever she chews she will spit out, on to her shirt, because she long ago removed her bib and threw that on the floor too.
She gets really frustrated that she can’t have what I’m drinking (tea or water), but I have been unable to broker peace on any front that is acceptable to the parental side. If I share in her favorite open hello kitty cup, she’ll dump the liquid either on her tray so she can splash it, or on to her already soaking pants. If I try to share in one of her sippy cups, she acts as if I have slapped her in the face with my glove.
Exasperated and exhausted, I quickly wolf down whatever I can before the whining hits critical mass, and then it’s upstairs to a bath. Oh how she loves the bath! It is a much-needed respite, though brief. When I try to wash her non-existent hair, the tears recommence. Then I come back downstairs to a floor covered in food, my half-eaten dinner and a sink full of pots and pans, all of which I get to attend to after I put her to bed.
Still, after all the food has been swept up and the dishes have been washed, I peek my head into her room, watch her sleeping and think what an adorable and peaceful creature she is when she’s not smearing mashed potatoes on her head and chucking plastic spoons into the den. That is most certainly one of the happy parts, externalized here for posterity. And I thank you for allowing me to express my frustrations as well. My shoulders feel lower already.
*Don’t even get me started on the waste of space and food that is the slow-cooker.