I am maniacally shoving salt and pepper potato chips into my mouth. Why? Because I am mad. Why am I mad? Because my beloved toddler just took a lovingly prepared lunch of organic chicken, avocado, and rice pilaf — heated to just the right temperature, and arranged prettily on a Heath dish — and attempted to dump it unceremoniously on her placemat. She then laughed demonically at my outraged yell. My husband says MJ has a “nervous laugh.” Just like he does, he says. He claims that when anyone gets mad at her she will chuckle. Just like he does. He says it is anxiety. I’ll tell you what. I don’t buy it. I maybe buy it in him; I don’t buy it in her. She is not anxious. She is tickled pink. She is delighted. She is rolling in the aisles. After all, Mommy’s face looks funny, like a gorilla’s. She’s red, and her voice is pointy. It is a laugh riot! Hey! Mommy looks like she may cry. She is trying to pick flecks of pilaf — what the fuck is that, anyway — out of the Chilewick placemat. It is hard. This is too much! Hilarity ensues!
I know. It’s my fault. I gave her snacks after gym class. No wonder she wasn’t hungry. The French say Americans give too many snacks. And it’s true. For a one-hour trip to the park alone we pack enough BPA-free containers of food to supply a good-sized Roman battalion for three days. We offer sheets of Trader Joe’s seaweed after every seventh minute. We seem to feel that eating and breathing should occur with the same frequency. But I am not like that. I am European in my approach. Je parle “wait for dinner.” Gym class, however, is an exception. Gym class is hard work. There are rings, and trampolines, and, well, the balance beam. That is strenuous! That balancing is hard! Never mind that MJ is holding onto an instructor’s hand the whole time. When she’ll do it at all, that is. Which is almost never. Not today, for sure. But still. She is in a gym. She is near all of that equipment. Her little body needs nourishment after. So I gave her cashews. And cranberries. And one of those quixotic little “crushers” from Target with multiple types of fruits and green veggies in them. They’re organic. That is good. The package cannot be recycled. That is bad. They are for babies. My daughter has all of her teeth. They are absolutely unnecessary. I buy them anyway. She likes them. And they are good for her. They have 110% of the RDA of Vitamin A. What does that do? Doesn’t she get that from the sun? Is she getting too much? No, wait. That’s vitamin D. She is fine.
She is fine except she is a malevolent imp who dumps healthful, expensive, perfectly cooked food onto her placemat to see how her mom will react. And how, by the way, are you supposed to react to that? I yelled, it is true. Many would say that is wrong. Many would say “one must never raise one’s voice at one’s child.” Many should go screw themselves. I would like to see “many” prepare a dish that’s basically an understudy for a Thanksgiving meal, present it to their kid, and watch serenely as their kid attempts to use it as sculpturing clay. I would like to watch “many” respond with equanimity when their child then mocked them. Would “many” just shake their heads lovingly? Sing Kumbaya? Offer the child a gentle massage to sooth her into reconsidering her actions while simultaneously preparing a new, more desirable meal and reciting Omar Khayyam poems? Fuck you, “many.” If I ever meet you I will spit in your face.
I handled it the best I could. I put the food — at least that of it which could be scraped off of the placemat — back on the plate. I told her, basically, to “eat or go to bed hungry.” This was not charitable. It was not Mr. Rogers. But it was honest. And she ate. A bite or two. Then I put her to bed. First, though, I read to her. I changed her diaper. I told her I loved her like any other day. I even sang to her, albeit very halfheartedly. That was the best I could do, punishment-wise. Sing halfheartedly. I am the parental equivalent of a pussy. Or not? Maybe I am Mommy Dearest, modern-style. Maybe that lackluster singing was the equivalent of “NO WIRE HANGERS!!!” I just don’t know.
What I do know is that she is in there now, playing with her animals and happily reciting the words to “I love you a bushel and a peck.” She has also asked for a cloth napkin, so that she can “be a bird” while she lies in her crib. I gave it to her. Why not? Maybe she’ll pretend her blankets are birdseed and eat some of them. At least lunch will occur somewhere. Anyway, the sound of her playing is pleasant. How can you stay mad at a kid with that kind of spirit? You can’t. Especially when all of the potato chips are gone.
Still, I might pack up her leftovers and save them for her dinner. Hahaha. Just kidding.