Sunday, January 04, 2009

Divine Comedy

I know that God has a certain sense of humor reserved most especially for weary, often overwhelmed mothers bearing a striking resemblance to myself. It shines in the absurd, ridiculous, and comedic events of my every day "normal" life. But sometimes it comes through someone else's voice. A little bit of God smiling down on me. I just experienced one such moment.

A couple of nights ago I had myself a good little yap at the children over their eating habits. Between allergies (this one can't have any dairy, that one is deathly allergic to oatmeal, don't forget the carrots, corn, potatoes, eggs, peanuts, lamb - well that's not hard - but spices like pepper and garlic salt can be insidious, and add to it peas, citrus, bananas, and tomatoes), and the almost constant childhood disease of discontentment you have a recipe for one exhausted Mama! Try as I might to fix wholesome, allergen free meals which appeal to everyone the outcome, more often than not, is at least one of my precious children complaining about what is before them. Now, this might not be a problem if I was of the school that allowed children to define for themselves what constituted breakfast, lunch and dinner. It might also be less of a hazard if I was independently wealthy, and able to afford all the specialty foods which my children adore (like beef bologna). But, as it were, I believe one of my principle jobs is training my children to work within the parameters of established boundaries, like sitting at the table and eating at meal times rather than roaming through the kitchen foraging like wild beasts. And I also believe that sacrifice is part of every person's inheritance on this earth, so opening my children's eyes to it at an early age by showing them that our budget can not afford wheat chex breakfast cereal every morning prepares them for a more seamless transition into productive adulthood. I value these concepts very much. They are the reason I make many of my decisions surrounding meal planning, preparation, and serving. Unfortunately, regardless of how altruistic, valuable, legitimate, or otherwise trusted these concepts are it does not change the fact that I am the one listening to my children, once again, complain about some (or every) aspect of their mealtime. And so I snapped night before last, when, after a grueling day of caulking and painting kitchen cabinet doors, I had made ham with homemade glaze, green beans, and pineapple chunks so my children could receive nutrition outside of intravenous infusion (which is sounding better every day) only to be met with lackluster appreciation, and waning appetites. I should note the irony that this dinner, under most other circumstances, is not only acceptable but preferred by my family. So the rejection stung all the worse that in my attempt to serve my loved ones by taking the time to think through and prepare a meal they enjoyed it was eaten thanklessly.

I had enough! Towards the very end of the meal I took a handful of sliced ham pieces, chewed to leave the outer edge (and consequently a large portion of meat deemed to close for consumption) and threw them back on the table. "I have had enough of this kind of pickiness from all of you! I make a dinner you all like only to have you whine about the glaze, the edge, the texture, the whatever. I make homemade bread so you can refuse to eat the crust. I make hot cereal each morning only to listen to you complain about how much more you prefer cold packaged cereal. You want McDonald's, pizza, bagels, anything other than the food I work to prepare for you at home. I am fed up with it!" Practically in tears I began clearing the table in such earnest that children scattered to guarantee their survival. Of course one particular child's voluntary conversation with me about their regret over my hurt feelings, and their corresponding responsibility along with a good night's sleep helped me feel much better in the morning. I was bolstered to look in the face of another day's meal planning, even though I was leery of the inevitable confrontation it would bring. That's when God decided it was time I saw him smiling - reminding me that while I may be exhausted, overwhelmed, and even taken for granted He sees me, sharing my joys and my sorrows, and gently giving me perspective for a soul that can laugh, rather than cry at life's little lessons.

I stayed home from church this morning due to a bad head-cold suffered by myself, and my two littlest ones. When my husband arrived home, toting the rest of our gang in his wake, he plopped a book on the table and absent-mindedly mentioned that it was a house warming gift from some friends of ours. It looked like a children's book. A house warming gift? I was baffled. I picked it up, and chuckled at the book's cover illustration showing seven children sitting around a table in varying states of eating. The name? The Seven Silly Eaters. Not chuckling quite so much as before I opened the book, and literally almost cried as I read the sweet verses of a family with seven children whose mother tried so hard to accommodate each little person's idiosyncrasies surrounding their food choices. For many other families it takes the familiar to the absurd through the unusual number of children, but for me, in my 5th month of pregnancy with  baby #7, it was almost perfectly applicable. Even with its fairy tale ending the hysterical anecdotes of a mother caring for her brood touched my heart with the humor of my own situation. I know that someday I will look back on these days of meal planning, staring at simply my husband across an empty table, and marvel with laughter at how we managed to feed all those children so many years ago. Divine comedy allows me to giggle now at what will surely make my sides ache in another decade... or two.

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