Mommy Fail: The Late Lunch
It’s been one of those days. I woke up exhausted (my fault, I’ve been terrible about getting to bed on time). I wanted to post a blog before the Baby Bean got up but couldn’t bring myself to finish any of the three I’ve been working on. My allergies were flaring up so I prepared breakfast and got the kiddo ready and out the door in a sneezy haze. We were a little behind on the day so I decided a quick library trip was more realistic than the playground.
Miles had a grand ol’ time at the library, but today was the day he discovered the stairs. And how fun it is to go up and down them. And up and down them. And up and down them some more. So of course, even when I rolled his stroller over to him with a “neeeeiiiighhh,” bowed dramatically and said, “Your steed awaits, my good sir,” he didn’t get the memo that getting into the stroller was supposed to be fun and painless. Instead, he commenced kicking and screaming and his little roll-over butt-slide move to avoid being buckled in at all costs. Luckily, I have my own counter-moves down pat, plus I’m bigger than him, so we strolled out of there minutes later with only about thirty seconds of crying. Whew.
On to the next challenge: fixing a quick lunch for him before he melts down. (Oh yeah, I forgot to mention: the kid’s breakfast was cut short because he threw some food on the ground, and we’re trying to teach him that that’s not OK. So, he’s extra hungry. Greeeeat.) We’d run out of ready-made stuff at home so I was planning on fried rice – I can throw some together in about ten minutes flat if all goes well, and he loves it so it’s a quick and dirty way to get a good variety of nutrients into him. But, just as I was pulling out the meat and rice and frozen peas, Daddy walks right by munching on a bag of candy corn he yoinked from the cupboard. Joooooooshhh are you serioooooussss.
Now, Miles has never had candy corn. He has no idea what it is, or what it tastes like. But all he knows is he wants it and he wants it now and .. eh eh eh [points] eh eh ehhh … WAAAHHHHHH! Sadly for him, I don’t plan on giving him any anytime soon, especially just before I try to feed him a nutritious lunch. (Even if Daddy Bean proudly points out the non-GMO label on the pouch.) So I tell him “no” on the candy, and that I have a yummy lunch coming his way instead. He says, “Oh ok, then. In that case I’ll just sit here quietly and wait the ten minutes for my real lunch. Then I will retire to my crib for a nice little nap.”
Pssshhhhyeah right! No, that’s most definitely not what happened. In place of composure, rationality and sudden onset of verbal communication, we got wailing and rolling on the floor. Sweet.
In an effort to “reset” him and buy myself a little more time, I decide to nurse him. He’s happy, but clinging and starting to get drowsy. Uh oh. Abort, abort! Nursing to sleep right now is no bueno because he’ll likely have a truncated nap and wake up cranky and starving.
I’ve done a lot of things while nursing him – like sleeping, eating, clipping his nails, changing his diaper, and even going to the bathroom (I know, TMI). But I have not yet mastered frying rice while he’s attached to me. Sorry, La Leche League, I have failed you. So I have to put him down and of course that means he’s right back on the floor, rolling around and wailing, except somehow he is louder and more frantic than before. This is not a drill, people. This is an emergency.
By now my only option is to just let him cry while I get his lunch done so he can eat and get to bed. This means cooking as fast as I can while he’s underfoot, grasping at me and kicking and just very very unhappy. At one point, a piece of raw green onion that I’ve chopped rolls to the ground and he army-crawls to it with desperation in his eyes, clutches it between his fingers and shoves it hungrily into his mouth, then spits it out because, well, it’s raw green onion.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my new low as a mother.
I finish the rice in about seven minutes and pick him back up again, but by then my nerves are completely shot. There are days when I know I’m lucky to be at home with my baby, days of peaceful moments looking out the window with him and pointing out the taxis and fire trucks. In those moments, I sigh deep sighs of peace and contentment and am so so thankful for the life we have. Then there are moments like those last seven minutes, listening to my baby cry and watching him scrounge for food on the kitchen floor while I’m pounding down clumps of rice with a wooden spatula as fast as humanly possible … I wouldn’t be surprised if the stress levels induced by those seven minutes could rival what you might find in any boardroom, courtroom, or operating room. Except the stakes are way too close to home and the pay is terrible.
By the time I’ve calmed him down and served him his rice, he’s shoveling the stuff into his mouth like a little fiend. When he starts to slow down, I look over his way and yep, the poor kid is falling asleep. But he fights it, he does. Forces his little lids open to take another bite. Then he asks for his little clementines and eats three of those. While nodding off in between bites. This kid is committed.
Finally I cut him off the clementines and get him to bed without too much fuss. I’m so, so sorry baby.
When I run through the morning in my mind, there are definitely key moments where I might have steered us away from this fate. I could have gotten us out the door a little faster. Or given him a little more breakfast even if he dropped some on the ground. I could’ve put my foot down a little earlier when Miles wanted one more trip up (and down) the stairs. Or maybe picked up some food for us on the way home instead of trying to make it myself. Perhaps the dad and I need a little talk about parading sweets in front of him before his lunch is ready. So on and so forth. Always, there’s something we could have done differently. And this, I think, is the exhausting thing about parenting. Failure haunts you at every corner, and it’s a persistent yet inconsistent specter. Persistent in that the possibility of it is always always there. Inconsistent in that sometimes you escape it, and it lulls you into the false satisfaction that maybe you’re a pretty good parent, after all. Don’t fall for it; it’s just waiting to get you next time. There are days when I fall behind and get Miles his lunch late and he barely even blinks, just plays on his own until I buckle him into his high chair. But I guess those are the lucky days, and I was bound to pay for my tardiness at some point.
Truth be told, I’m a bit of a slowpoke and Miles actually has an amazing amount of patience for an 18-month-old. Today was just not his day.
I think I wanted to write this story out partly because I craved the release of the confessional (I’m not Catholic, I’m Protestant, but I’ve always been intrigued by the practice). And I wanted to write it because a part of me believes all parents have days like this. Maybe I’m delusional. Maybe I really am the world’s worst mother. But I suspect that this kind of thing might actually happen to other human beings as well, and I’d really like more stories like this. More admissions of just how far from perfect we all are, and how much grace we need to get through this holy fire of raising tiny humans into bigger humans who will then turn around and raise their own tiny humans. I mean, God, what the heck are we all doing? Is this folly?
No. It’s not. It’s messy and it’s insane, but it’s beautiful. And someday, I hope, late lunches or not, Miles will survive our imperfect parenting and maybe even come to thank us for it. In the meantime, I think I’ll continue to write up a series of posts on Mommy Fails. It really helps me to process through it so the negativity and stress doesn’t just sit in my brain. And, I hope, it can be a strange sort of encouragement to all you folks out there who are probably doing a better job than me.
With any luck, I’ll get Josh to write some Daddy Fails, too. Those should get us all some much needed laughs.
What about you guys? Any crazy stories like this one? Do tell.