Psst...come over here.
Come a little closer....I have a secret to share, but I don't want the whole world to know. If word got out about my Secret, the population of the entire world could be in danger of extinction.
A liiiittle closer....
Okay. Perfect. Now listen carefully so I can share my Secret with you.
Ready? Here it is:
Parenting is really hard. *GASP*
Sometimes, I dare to say that parenting really sucks. *GASP*
So shocking, isn't it?! You see what I mean, though? If word of this gets out, people will stop! having! kids! and our population will shrivel up faster than an apple peeling left in the sun.
You see...although I love my kids with all of my heart, there are moments when I hate being a parent. I hate being the one who has to stand strong and teach them lessons. I hate having to prove a point while fighting back the guilt that's gnawing at my gut. I hate letting them fail. I hate watching them be uncomfortable. I hate watching their tears fall and knowing that I have to hold my ground.
* * * * * * * * *
Supper time has become a bit of a joke around here. I cook, put the food on the table, watch them poke at the food and choke down a few bites, and wait for the chorus of "I'm fuuuuullll" to begin. This isn't a one-time occurrence. It happens every. single. night. regardless of what I make. And I'm sick of it. Last night was no different.
I made chicken, rice, and broccoli, with a General Tso's sauce. We've had it before, so I wasn't attempting a whole new concoction. It didn't take long for the I Hate Dinner Chorus to begin.
"I can't eat any more."
"I don't want any more."
"Can I get down?"
They all managed to choke down several bites. I finally got tired of telling them to keep eating, so I dismissed them from the table and they went back outside to play. Nicholas put his plate on the kitchen cupboard. The other 3 plates stayed on the table. Maybe 15 minutes later, Ben came in to take another bite. Then he went back outside. Then back in for another bite. Then back out. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. I finally said, through my gritted teeth, "If you're going to eat, SIT DOWN and eat. You're not going in and out of the house 50 times." So he sat down.
About this time, Nicholas wandered into the kitchen and asked, "Where's my food?" It seems that, in my after-dinner kitchen cleanup, I'd thrown his food away. His shoulders drooped. He got That Look on his face. "Aw man!"
So I asked, "Why? Are you hungry?"
And he said, "Yes!"
And I freaked out. "It's the same thing every single night with you guys! SOMEHOW, you can't manage to eat when I put the food on the table. You WHINE about how you're SO FULL and you WHINE about how you can't eat ANOTHER BITE but you come back 20 minutes later LOOKING FOR MORE FOOD. That's IT. I'm DONE. Get outside and play, if you want, but DO NOT come in here asking for food. As a matter of fact, Ben, you're done too." I grabbed the plate he was eating from and scraped the food into the garbage. "You guys need to learn that you eat the food WHEN I PUT IT ON THE TABLE, not when you feel like it 45 minutes later. You get NOTHING for the rest of the night. Don't ask me for one. single. drop. of food. I've HAD it with this nonsense! Tonight you can go to bed HUNGRY for all I care."
I was furious. But I'm still a mom, so the guilt started. I can't stand knowing someone is hungry...especially if it's within my power to relieve that hunger. It took every bit of willpower to stand my ground. There were apples in the fridge that I could have cut up. There was bread and peanut butter in the pantry that I could have used for a sandwich. There was cereal and milk that I could have poured.
But I didn't. Because I refuse to be the mom who makes two meals at once. This is not a restaurant and I do not offer a menu. If I cook it, they eat it. Period.
And so, with the guilt eating a hole in my heart, I sent my oldest son to bed hungry. There was whimpering and tummy-clutching and puppy dog looks...but I held my ground.
Do I feel good about this whole situation? Hell no. I know what it's like to fall asleep with a grumbling stomach. It's not fun. Am I proud of how I handled it? Not really.
But I know that there's a lesson in all of this that I'm trying to teach. Something about respect, I think. And maybe something about how I'm their mother...not their slave.
I know this method (for lack of a better word) isn't perfect for every parent. Maybe you're reading this and thinking that I'm a horrible, cruel human being who had no business procreating. Maybe you don't mind spending 3 hours every night preparing several different meals and then cleaning up the mess. Maybe you don't consider it a sign of disrespect when your children turn up their noses at the meal you've just prepared. And that's fine. You're entitled to your opinion and, luckily, you're allowed to set the rules that work for your family while I set the rules that work for us.
I know I did the right thing.
I just wish doing the right thing wasn't so damn hard.
Happy Mother's Day.