Saturday, April 30, 2016

Scarred for Life

You know those moments when you realize you’re scarring your child for life as you’re in the middle of scarring your child for life?

But you do it anyway because this is a battle you HAVE to win?

Well, I can only imagine the horror stories that my son is going to repeat for the rest of his life to anyone who will listen:

“I do NOT eat sweet potatoes.  This one time, when I was 4 years old, my mom made me eat 5 bites of this godawful sweet potato and basil soup that my dad had made.  Did that bitch eat any? NO.  But she sure as hell made my brother and me eat a bowl of it.”

It’s true, you guys.  I didn’t touch that shit.  It was a concoction that my husband had read about during one of his health-food kicks, resulting in a trip to the store to buy all the ingredients for 12 healthy freezer bag meals.  We spent the following Saturday night as a family date night, having drinks while chopping vegetables and mixing ingredients with our boys while a 90’s station played in our brightly lit kitchen.

Sounds charming, doesn’t it?

And it would’ve been.  It was for a little while—until the kids and I started dancing around the kitchen, unable to contain our joy at the fun we were all having.

It was too much happiness for my very loving but grumpy-by-nature husband, who stayed unfailingly and annoyingly on-task all evening.  “What…? What the hell is this?” he asked from the counter, beckoning with his knife.  “What is all of this…?” He trailed off as if the term for one of the most joyful activities in the history of time—I mean, they even made a movie about it (ever heard of Footloose, hubs?)—had failed him.

I threw a glance over my shoulder as I held hands with my boys, dancing ring-around-the-rosey style.  “Um…dancing?  And hurry up and get a picture of it, will you.  Look at this sweet scene: I am an adorable, fun-loving mother dancing barefoot in the kitchen with her boys!”

When my husband just looked at me, chopping knife suspended in the air in one hand and an onion in the other as if he couldn’t believe the nerve of the request I’d just made in light of all we had to do that night, I said it again. “Hurry up before the moment is over!” I repeated, my voice bordering on a shriek.  “I am an adorable, fun-loving mother dancing with her boys and I WANT A PICTURE!”

My husband obliged, but not before a heavy sigh as he set down the knife, wiped off his hands, and grabbed his phone to capture the scene.  After that, the spell of the picturesque date night as a family was broken, at least for my husband. He began muttering Office Space stapler style about this being “a family project but I’m the only one doing anything,” and I told him—in a way that completely illustrated that I was, in fact, not—that I was sorry that the boys and I had smiled a little too vigorously and that he’d had to slice one extra baby carrot by himself.

We haven’t done the freezer meal date night again since that picture of domestic bliss.

I blame the sweet potato soup.

The night we were chopping up ingredients (I’m not sure if this was just before or just after Dancegate 2015), my eyes rested on the sweet potatoes, and I remember thinking that my husband must have grabbed them at the store without my noticing.

“What the hell are those?” I asked.

“Um, sweet potatoes?” he answered in the same voice I had used to point out the word for dancing.

“Yeah,” I said, “but what the hell are they doing in my kitchen?”

I fucking hate sweet potatoes.

My husband had rolled his eyes and snatched them from the table.  “I’ll do these,” he’d said.

“That’s cool,” I’d acquiesced, “but don’t get upset with me when I don’t eat any of whatever that shit is when the time comes.”

“Whatevs,” my husband replied, already hard at work on the sweet potatoes.

That time came last week.  And it coincided with a week in which the stubbornness that my husband insists my younger son got from his mother had been rearing its ugly head.  My boy had eaten what was for dinner each night, but not without a fight. And I was sick of fighting. I had to let him know that I’m the mom, I’m going to win, and we’re going to stop having fights every evening over how many pieces of cauliflower he’s going to have to eat before he earns a Little Debbie snack cake.

Just eat what’s for dinner, boy!

So I sat with him and spoon-fed him, and I made sure that none of the sweet potatoes “accidentally” fell out of his mouth and hit the floor because if they did, I told him, I would go get another, bigger scoop of the soup and add it to his bowl.

Dammit, I was going to win.

My son ate the soup. But goddammit, I felt awful for him. It tasted so bad that the poor boy held a napkin in his left hand so that as soon as he put a bite into his mouth with his right, he could swiftly throw that napkin over his mouth so that the pieces that involuntarily spewed out would be caught and he wouldn’t have to risk getting a whole other spoonful added to his bowl.

It was so awkward that in the middle of his third bite, he started laughing at the absurdity of it all. I joined him—but not before reminding him not to laugh too hard lest a sweet potato bit come flying out and he had to get another scoop.

To make it even worse, his older brother, who loves healthy food and was honest-to-goodness born with a craving for all things fruit and vegetable (obviously he’s adopted; I’ve heard kids crave what they get from their mother in utero and I’m convinced that’s why my younger son absolutely lights up from within when he sees vats of spaghetti noodles covered with butter and salt), was sitting right next to him, slurping down the soup with a vigor that made even me want to puke.

“Mmmm,” he would groan in satisfaction between bites.  “This sweet potato and basil soup is delicious!

My younger son and I paused for a moment, my younger son with his napkin still held over his mouth, and stared at my older boy in disbelief.

By the end of dinner, 5 bites of the soup had been consumed by my younger son so, as I boasted to my co-workers the next day, I had won.

One of them—the one who brags that she never once had to raise her voice to either of her grown children when they were younger—shot me a look.  “Oh, you consider that winning?”

Another co-worker, a more realistic mom who also happens to be a less of a bald-faced liar than the first, jumped in.  “Hell yes, she won!”

I’m not sure.  It was important to me that my son learned that he might as well stop grumbling and complaining and putting up a fight every night about it because he’s going to have to eat what’s for dinner, but I usually try to at least make it something palatable.  And this shit wasn’t.

“Did you at least lead by example?” the first co-worker asked.  “Did you eat some?”

Heeeell no, I didn’t eat that shit!” I responded, recoiling. 

“Wait,” the second co-worker interjected, “you didn’t?”

I shook my head vigorously.  Because it was like I told that mom’s group I used to be a part of when the leader tried to make us play a stupid game to help remember all of the other moms’ names.

“Just go around the table and assign a food to each lady’s name!” she’d said brightly.  “Like, when you get over here to Caroline, say, ‘Caroline Cookies’!”

I shook my head.  “Nope.”

She stopped abruptly, and I could see her deflate just a little bit.  “No?  You’re not going to play?”

I shook my head again.  “No.  Because I’m an adult and I don’t have to.”

Surprisingly nobody in the group rendered me an asshole, and in fact, many of the other moms nodded their heads in agreement.  “Yeah,” I could almost hear them thinking.  “We’re not going to play this game, either.  Because we’re adults and we don’t have to.” 

Revolutionary concept, no?

But this time, both of my co-workers rolled their eyes. I made a mental note to change that part of the story to a lie insisting that I snarfed a few bites of the soup in solidarity with my son the next time I told it.

In the meantime, I’ll just hope and pray that I didn’t actually scar him for life.

“I don’t get pissed off easily,” I can imagine him saying upon meeting his future girlfriend, “but the one way to make me mad is to offer me a sweet potato.  Don’t ever offer me a goddamned sweet potato…”

A couple of days after our dinner of sweet potato and basil soup, my husband chuckled, shaking his head.  “That shit really was pretty bad,” he said.

I thought about adding the recipe to my Trashy Recipe Recommendation tab, but I wouldn’t do that to you guys because it’s no way to thank you for reading. I think instead I’ll send it to the Army so they can add it to their prisoner of war torture files. It’ll be much more effective than waterboarding. In fact, they could call it sweet potato soup boarding and make the prisoners who won’t talk take licks of this shit off of a board.

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