Parenting: Love is A Battlefield
By Meika Rouda
I feel like I have become complacent in an abusive relationship but I can’t leave, I can’t get out. No, really I can’t because it happens to be with my children and mom’s don’t leave their kids. I mean they do but I wouldn’t. I need to change the relationship and not adhere to it. Like this morning, my six year old son woke up and the first thing he says is “Mommy I love you”. His face is smiling at me, he is absolutely adorable, loving, sweet, perfect. However, I realize that sentiment is just to butter me up because what happens next is him yelling “I want to watch Chima!” “No show”, I say “we don’t watch TV in the morning, you can draw, do legos, look at books.” “NO!” he screams waking up his three year old sister. I walk out of the room. His sister is now crying because she wants me. She wants mommy. I go back into the room and help her take off her sleep diaper and do a dance because it is dry. Hooray, maybe there will be a day when we don’t have any more diapers, ever. After seven straight years of at least one kid in diapers I feel some lament for my kids getting older. But not really because that means one day they might move out of the house and I can read the Sunday Times cover to cover without being interrupted. I dream about this for one blissful second before my son becomes furious that he has no sports shorts to wear to school. Since when did sports shorts become appropriate school clothing? That is all he wants to wear and we only have two pair, both hand-me-downs because I am not buying them for him which means if I am behind on laundry which I always am, I endure a diatribe about him not having the right shorts to wear, which in turn means I am a horrible mommy, which he assures me I am.
Then I head off to make breakfast and lunch for my wards. This may seem like a simple task but it is tricky and I need to enlist many strategies to make it successful. My son is not keen on eating most of the time, especially breakfast. So I have two tactics, A. is to offer him choices which he almost always rejects . “You can have toast, yogurt or cereal, honey what do you say?” Which he replies “No, I don’t’ want any of those things”. He wants pirate booty or ice cream or something unacceptable. Then there’s tactic B. in which I just make something and then he says ” I didn’t ask for pancakes!” and leaves the table. So I go with tactic A., the choice way and he flatly declines all choices. “You need to choose one” I say forcefully confirming there is no negotiation. So he reluctantly choses toast with jam of course, but not too much jam. My daughter, thankfully, will eat almost anything, so I scramble her some eggs and leave her alone. She is happy. Phew. Now on to lunch which again my daughter eats almost anything so I pack her some lentils and peaches and tuna salad which pleases her to no end, “Thank you mama!”. Then on to my son, the picky one. And the one who doesn’t want to eat lunch because it takes up too much time from recess so I have to think of high protein foods he can eat quickly. Hummus and mini pita or sunflower butter and crackers. He can pop them in his mouth and go. I have my plan but this isn’t as easy as it sounds either because if the hummus comes out of the pita bread he will not eat it, it has to stay inside. And if I go with the sunflower butter it has to be the right proportion to the jelly like 30% of a smooth spread to the 70% jam which covers the butter so you can’t even see it.
Ok, so I have breakfast and lunch done, now hair brushing and teeth brushing and gathering of their things for school. No problem, this is the finish line, I got this. I put the toothpaste on the toothbrush but too much came out. I gamble and try to give it to my son hoping he might show a little bit of flexibility this morning but no, he shoves the toothbrush back at me and says “too much!” I scrape some of it off with my finger and wipe it on my sweatpants and hand it back to him. He hands it back to me because now it has my germs on it. Seriously, my germs from my fingers are on it so he can’t possibly use it. I don’t bother telling him that my germs were all over the toast I made him for breakfast which he ate or the perfectly proportioned sun butter and jam crackers I have assembled for his lunch. Why rub it in? So I rinse off his toothbrush and start again with the right amount of toothpaste. I decide not to brush his hair. “Ok kids- you are ready to go!” I rally my husband to drive them to school which he readily agrees to thankfully except now they are mad because they don’t want Daddy to take them to school they want Mommy. The same Mommy who can’t seem to do anything right including getting them to school. “No” I say with my serious voice, “It is Daddy’s day and it makes Daddy sad when you don’t want him to take you to school.” “NO” they protest. They want Mommy. Mommy has the song they like in her car or they left their favorite toy in Mommy’s car or whatever makes them insist I take them to school. But I will not fold today. I hold firm. “No, it is Daddy’s day” I say and go to the kitchen to start cleaning up the huge mess that breakfast and lunch should not warrant. My husband looks at me a little warily, like “Really- you wan’t me to take these hostile prisoners to their cells?” I look at him with the yes I do- off you go look. I can hear them yelling down our stairs as my husband corrals them into his car to drive off. My son yells up from the bottom of the stairs “I love you mommy” I shout back “I love you too”. My daughter blows me a kiss which I return.
Photo Credit: Rolands Lakis