Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Confessions of a Selfish Mother

A couple of weeks ago, dinnertime came around, and only the boys and the babies were at home. We decided to head over to Five Guys. Eli eats everything except burgers, and every time I buy Rose a burger at Five Guys, it ends up being five bucks thrown in the trash. They usually stuff themselves with fries and peanuts, so this time I didn't order them burgers. I got one for each of the boys and one for myself, and was happy to get away from the cash register parting with less than forty bucks.

The burgers came, and mine was amazing. The cheese was melted just right, the pickles were crunchy, and the ketchup and grilled onions made it a sloppy, gooey, yummy mess. I hadn't taken two bites of that delicious burger before Rose started begging for it. After a couple more bites, she was complaining loudly enough that people were starting to stare, so I sighed, handed over the rest of the burger, and started in on the fries. She took a few happy bites, dropped the rest on the floor, and I spent the next five minutes wondering if there was some graceful way I could pick it up and finish it without being gross. 

There are things I can do with grace as a parent (clean up poop messes, become a taxi service, quiz math/spelling/Latin roots), and there are things I fail miserably at.

Sharing food is one of those things. I used to share my food happily. I used to share just about anything happily. When I was in college, my roommate Les and I would often eat dinner out of a common pot. She and I also had an "open closet" policy with each other. I'd borrow her bodysuits to wear with my jodphurs, and she'd borrow my fisherman's sweaters to wear with her peasant skirts. The only problem is that I did laundry one a week and she did laundry once a month and sometimes my clothes would get lost in the recesses of her bedroom for weeks at a time. But her Penne Arrabiata more than made up for it. 

Tonight Rose was sitting on my lap after finishing her own dinner, and she started in on eating the broccoli slaw on my plate. She took a couple of bites, chewed them up, then spit them out all over the salad I couldn't see to eat with her blocking my view of the plate. "Rose," I whined, "That was my dinner!" Ed pointed out that there was still half a bowl of salad that would certainly go uneaten, but that's not the point. It was my dinner.

In some ways, parenting has either brought to light my selfishness, or else has made me more selfish than I used to be.

I don't want to share my food. I'm a lot like my two-year-olds in the sense that I want my own food. A couple of days before I got married, my mom and I were running errands in Park City and stopped for a caramel apple at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. This was back in the day before RMCF was as ubiquitous as Wendy's, and getting an apple there was a once-every-few-years kind of treat. The apples were enormous and expensive, and I was worried about fitting into my wedding dress, so I suggested we share one. I could feel her eyes boring into me every time I took a bite, sizing up the size of my bites relative to her bites, and when we finished she said, "I am never sharing one of those again." At the time, I thought she was being crazy, but now I get it. As a mom, you're asked to share so many bits of yourself at so many inconvenient times, that there are some things that just shouldn't be shared.

My Diet Coke is another one of these things. I've been known to chug a Route 44 from Sonic, not because I'm thirsty or I'm going somewhere with a no-drinks policy, but because I have a vulture hanging on each leg, begging for a sip. I've cried actual tears after going out of my way to bring home a fountain drink with ice, only to leave the room and come back to an empty cup. For this teetotaling Mormon, my Diet Coke is what wine is to some of my friends, and no mom is ever expected to share her wine with her toddlers.

Also on the list are my iPhone and Kindle (which often get taken when my back is turned), my favorite blanket (see, I am a two-year-old!), NPR on the car radio (I'm secretly gleeful that Eli and Rose broke the DVD player in the car), my time in the bathroom (which didn't used to bother me, but now it does, because my current toddlers like to turn the lights off when I'm in there, and then they want to help a little bit too much), and my exercise time. My ideal workout time is spent chatting with a friend from 5:15-6:15am, but I will gladly spend the same hour with a book on my iPhone. If one of the kids prevents me from getting in my run early, I will move heaven and earth to make it happen during the day, even if I spend the whole time listening to Daniel Tiger and staring into the glass on the framed print hanging in front of my treadmill to make sure no one is trying to climb on behind me. It's not as much about the exercise as it is about feeling accomplished in one aspect of my life, when so much of the rest of my day is about entropy and failing to control my temper.

Ed shares happily. He doesn't mind when someone swipes the bacon from his plate at dinner, and he thinks it's adorable when the kids come by and take enormous gulps of Diet Mountain Dew. But then again, he's with them for about an hour each day. He doesn't have to accomplish anything other than playing with his babies (which I am very grateful that he loves doing), and therefore doesn't experience the (joys and) frustrations of reading/cooking/eating/sleeping/car pooling/peeing with them in tow.

I know that all of the experts say that parents need to take care of themselves first in order to be able to take care of others. Whenever I get time alone, I always think that I'll end that time recharged and ready to go home, but I don't think I reach my threshold for alone time and buckling only myself into the car after an hour or two. So maybe my selfishness is really self-preservation--my way of maintaining a bit of my own self even though I'm the primary parent from the moment I get in from my run at 6:15 until the teenagers finally turn off their lights around 9:30. It's a good life, and one I'm grateful to call mine. As long as no one tries to touch my Diet Coke. 

1 comment:

Katie said...

Yes, yes, and yes. Joey still laughs at me about the time we were at the Costco food court and I swiped back my ice cream bar when Jackson was looking the other way. In my defense, he had his own frozen yoghurt, he didn't need my treat too.