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I am properly grumpy today.
I must have climbed out of the wrong side of bed this morning – which just goes to show that, some days, we shouldn’t get out of bed at all.
I’m wondering how to deal with a cheerfully presumptuous statement from my children that they are going to make dinner today.
Last time they were left to their own devices in the kitchen, it took about an hour to scour the place, degunk the worktops, wash up EVERY pot and pan we own, sweep the floor where most of the ingredients seemed to have ended their lives – and you know how much I love cleaning. Some of the utensils will never be the same again – including a favourite spatula (whaaat? You don’t have a favourite spatula??) which has permanent scorch marks, making me wonder whether we escaped a full-blown fire-engine-requiring emergency by the skin of our teeth.
It would be SO much easier for ME to throw something together in 20 minutes, and spend the hours I saved myself hovering, supervising and cleaning, reading a book or maybe getting ahead on my school planning. Incredibly tempting…
So I find myself at Parenting Crossroads again – like I do almost every day. That dastardly little junction appears around every corner, like a nightmare in a Hall of Mirrors.
Do I take a left towards ‘Tired Mum Avenue – leading to Guilty Mum Close’? I’ll get my evening back, sure, but I’ll have passed up an opportunity to teach my children some self-sufficiency. And just because it was mayhem last time doesn’t mean it will be the same again – UNLESS I deprive them of the chance to improve their skills. Also, the reason I’m tired and don’t much fancy the whole inanely smiley ‘I Can Cook’-type farce, is because I indulged myself last night, dared to go and have a life and dance into the early hours. That is just pure guilt on a plate.
OK. So maybe I should turn right. It’s labelled ‘Do the Right Thing Way’ and it’s lined with Gina Ford-type paragons of virtue, guiding their darling little ones down the path to Responsibility and Life Skills. It involves me changing out of my mum-slob clothes and actually going to a shop, because our fridge currently contains some out-of-date homous, grated Grana Padano, half a turnip, and some pineapple jam. Even I can’t concoct something edible out of those ingredients.
I sigh. Looks like I’m going to be turning right.
But wait. There’s a tiny little path that I’ve over-looked. The sign for it was almost invisible, but it says ‘Cunning Short Cut – leading to Procrastination Village.’
I could just sit here. Sit here while the children are completely absorbed in their play upstairs. Sit here until the shops close, which they will in just over an hour. Then when they finally want to cook (AT dinner time, not BEFORE dinner time) I can shake my head sadly and say, “But you didn’t plan and shop for this meal. The shops are all closed. Today’s lesson is all about planning. Planning is a vital skill in cooking, and today you learned that you didn’t do any. Let’s plan a proper meal for NEXT weekend, and you can give me a shopping list for that.”
90 minutes later:
OK. Here’s a little update on the whole Crossroads thing.
Dearest Daughter told me she intended to make potato croquettes. For the love of God – potato croquettes! Which, as we all know, require potatoes to be peeled, chopped, boiled, mashed; then mixed with herbs and spices, shaped into cakes; then floured, egged, breadcrumbed and deep fried. And it’s not even a frickin main course - it’s just a side dish! Oh, and not forgetting that Dear Son wants to make meringues. Potato croquettes and meringues – sounds like a Dr Who special.
I suggested that we tweak the recipe and make potato latkes instead – grated potato and onion, mixed with egg, salt and pepper, and dropped into a frying pan. The result was a stomp upstairs so violent that the ceiling light in my studio started swaying from side to side.
Although she came around, relations have been frosty. We took a family trip to Lidl, where they both kept disappearing, choosing the wrong stuff, dropping unsolicited items into the basket, disagreeing about whether they wanted strawberries or blueberries with these ruddy meringues, and making the automatic checkout station malfunction. I WAS that mum who talks tersely and impatiently to her kids, who whisks the bags away and walks on ahead with a face like a slapped bum, while the poor kids trail tearfully behind. That was me today.
I feel like I missed a turning. How did I take the ‘right’ road, and still have ended up with this situation – where pulling my hair and eyeballs out seems marginally more appealing?? Where was THAT mentioned on the road sign? WHY didn’t I take ‘Cunning Short Cut’? When will I learn?
Today, the ‘right’ turning was the WRONG turning. I need to understand my limitations and not be driven by an ideal of parenthood seen through rose-coloured spectacles. Because my wish to avoid the guilt-laden path has resulted in both kids thoroughly disgruntled with me, probably totally unenthused about cooking now, and with me needing to lie down in a dark room, haunted by thoughts of whisky. (I don’t even drink.)
Quick update. 4 hours later:
The children made between them delicious latkes and cute fluffy meringues. A few things went wrong and I tried not to be a bitch about it but, as expected, I had to help them out roughly every 2 minutes. The egg yolks kept breaking before they could be separated (so we had to make an unplanned omelette as well) and the first batch of meringue mixture wouldn’t thicken. The little madam decided to play fast and loose with the recipe I gave her, resulting in some very salty potatoes. Blah blah. And on and on.
Anyway. After we’d eaten and I was no longer raving hangry, I explained calmly that things hadn’t been exactly ideal today, and that it was as much my fault as theirs, for allowing them to railroad me into something that wasn’t properly planned or well-prepared.
I told them that their idea of cooking once a week was a brilliant one, and I would back them 100%, AS LONG AS they remembered that they are learning, and need to listen to advice. Any attitude that hinted at arrogance or lackadaisical negligence (such as tripling the amount of salt I said to add) was, in my eyes, dangerous, and cooking club would have to be put on hold.
They agreed immediately, apologised for their erratic and argumentative behaviour today, and we had hugs all round.
I’m still having whisky though.