Good Parents. Bad Weekend

The Next Family

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

I would like to write about my weekend.

I would like to write about how I stood in the kitchen rolling out a perfect piecrust while my two adorable moppets (dusted delightfully with flour) stood on chic modern stools beside me.

I would like to write about the raised beds in my back yard and how fulfilling it is to see gorgeous, organic, vitamin-filled leaves unfurling where before there were only weeds.

I would like to write about the smart and funny and deeply philosophical things my son said to me this weekend. I would go on to describe the incisive wit of my daughter and how they both possess a depth of empathy and compassion that is beyond their years.

While I’m at it, I’d like to write about oil spills drying up, flood waters receding, libraries and parks staying open and money being diverted from the military to the school system.

But I can’t.

This weekend, I cooked only burnt quesadillas and dry scrambled eggs. This was a weekend that found us both without food in the house and without the will to go to the market. We foraged. We ate the heels of the bread and pared the dark spots from a few straggler apples. We poured the dusty dregs of cereal boxes into our bowls and made instant coffee. There were no tarts, no carefully stirred risottos, no chickens roasting. It was bleak. And yet, we couldn’t quite make it go any other way.

Nightly the raccoons churn the soil of our raised beds. They toss seedlings aside and leave even the sturdiest squash plants askew in their search for grubs. At first I smoothed the soil, patted the surface smooth, but this weekend, I grew discouraged. I let it go and the raccoons kept digging. They tossed my careful mix of compost and topsoil out of the beds like rice at a wedding.

My son wanted more time on the computer, less time in the bath. He wanted to play with my phone, wanted to listen to the theme from “Ghostbusters” at top volume for the hundredth time. He wanted toys and books and games. He wanted to go to Target and to Chuck E. Cheese and to the arcade. He wanted a Nerf gun and a set of Ben 10 figurines. He did not want to put his clothes away. He did not want to stop teasing his sister. He did not want to eat his dinner. He did not want to stop spitting on the floor. He did not want to stop picking his nose.

“I hate you,” he screamed. “You never do anything for me.”

My daughter wanted us to throw a birthday party for her doll. She wanted it to be perfect. She didn’t tell us that she wanted this until it was nearly bedtime. A party can’t be perfect if you have only fifteen minutes to plan and execute it. She wanted to fill a piñata and she wanted friends to come over. We told her this was impossible. We cited the lateness of the hour, the chill in the air. We thought the rain might be bad for a piñata. We promised to do it soon. To make a real plan for the doll’s birthday. We promised a lot of things.

“I hate you,” she screamed. “You always ruin everything.”

She slammed her door so hard and so many times that the paintings in the hallway hung crooked on the wall.

My husband looked pained. I cried a little. We both wondered if we were doing a good job as parents.

So it was a frustrating weekend. We are as tired at the beginning of this week as we were at the end of the last week.

This happens.

The dog is great. She is always happy to see us. She eats all her dinner. She sleeps through the night.

We are good parents. We had a bad weekend.

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