I mean this in the most dramatic possible way: please watch another show and eat this bowl of dry Cheerios because if you do anything else for even one second, I’ll die.
The sound of your breath—which, when I took you potty at midnight last night so you wouldn’t wake in a pool of your own urine, was so precious and lovely—is now a quiet, rasping death knell. Your tiny, delicate hand that, at 8:30 this morning, gently rubbed my back while I read Pinkalicious for the first time, is now oddly coated in an unidentifiable film. What did we even do today that would make you so notably tacky? And why are you repeatedly sticking and unsticking those gummy fingers on my arm hair?
Someone should bathe you.
But not me.
I know parents who bathe their children daily as part of their bedtime routine. This seems like an admirable nighttime tradition, but those mothers have never parented a feral tabby cat masquerading as a startlingly-pretty four-year-old girl.
About 10 minutes ago it occurred to me that the sun was setting, which means that it’s dinnertime, and although the requests for food roll in at about one every seven minutes, they become particularly fervent at this hour. Despite the fact that just 45 minutes ago you consumed half an apple, a peanut butter Lara bar, and the first small bowl of dry Cheerios, you will undoubtedly begin to writhe with pangs of hunger the moment the sun hits the horizon. Even as you hold your second bowl of dry Cheerios, you will be overwhelmed with fits of starving rage. Between you and me, this is an embarrassing first world problem. One for which we will all surely pay in decades to come.
Still. I should have anticipated this.
Good mothers would have had a vision for dinner. I was a good mother three days ago, but that ship has sailed and … I’ve already made a lot of food this week. Like, so much food. Actually, if we’re counting Sunday as the first day of the week (and we are for dramatic effect), I have already prepped, cooked, served, and cleaned-up 14 meals—18 meals if you count your brother’s school lunches as a meal (and I do, obviously). I’ve also served eleventy billion snacks. The math on that is exact.
Remember when we went to Trader Joe’s on Monday? Your sister swore she did not need a jacket, but then the moment we entered the store she said her fingers were ice, and you worried that she had a frozen heart. We wrapped her in a beach towel from the trunk of the van, but you still sang Let It Go for our entire shopping trip. Three different women noted that I had my hands full and the checker asked me how many people I was feeding. I joked that it would all probably be gone by Thursday … and here we are. I think there are some carrot sticks and a bag of rice left. That could be a meal, right? Like stir fry? No? No. No one ever likes rice as much as I want them to.
I untangle your gangly limbs from my lap and stand up in order to make an effort at productivity. Then I notice that your sister has picked up the Pinkalicious book once again and is snuggling on the couch in the guest room flipping through it. This would be adorable if her entirely naked toddler body weren’t draped in three pairs of freshly washed and dried jeans.
“Look at mine nest!” She grins up at me and gestures to the surrounding laundry piles. “And this!” She raises her right hand in the air to reveal a dark, damp-looking lump. “It’s a little yummy, smelly mud. It’s so cute.”
It’s a used tea bag, and I don’t know where it came from. I mean, presumably it’s from my afternoon mug of tea. But somehow this conniving ball of chub acquired it and is now massaging the dripping tea bag like a stress ball in her also sticky fist. Keep in mind she is nestled in nearly three loads of freshly cleaned laundry.
“Mom!” Your brother flings the back door open to declare his hunger. Spoiler alert: he’s currently wearing only underwear and Captain America mask. It is 55 degrees. He’s actually the only person in this house who has the right to be starving. He’s been on the trampoline for almost an hour, and, as it turns out, didn’t “have time” to finish his sandwich at school because his goalkeeping skills were desperately needed and lunch recess is only 30 minutes long. His presence is almost motivating me towards meal preparation, but also his leftover lunch is still on the counter so …
I stand in the hallway trying to look like I’m formulating a plan, but frankly, I’m ready to wander around whining about food right along with you people, except that would be futile because, unfortunately for all of us, I’m the only person who can solve these problems.
This particular issue is one of those that separates motherhood from babysitting. I mean, there are many many other separations (childbirth for one, and also no one is paying me to be here), but the fact that no one is coming home to relieve me from this dinner dilemma is a key differentiating factor. Your dad is working late tonight, so even he can’t save me. Not that he would. He has an unwavering faith in my abilities to make something out of nothing (number of times this man has fallen victim to my drama: zero). I guess this is a compliment.
Anyway, kids, we’re in this together, and I have surmised that we all cannot even.
Honestly, we’ve had a lovely day, and we’ve even had a pretty good week. We really lived it up: parks, zoo, walks, playdates, (laundry), crafts, library storytime, soccer practice. It’s just that we’ve, like, had to actually live it, which also includes: fighting, crying, potty accidents, wiping little buns, more laundry, finding soccer cleats, locating both shin guards, changing our clothes, attempting to bathe, searching for the new pajamas (not the ones from grandma, but the other ones that aren’t new but we still call them new because once they were new, and they are otherwise rather non-descript and calling them “the pink ones” is too confusing), completing sticker charts, filling out reading logs, plus making/packing/consuming/discussing all those snacks. The picture at 5:05 p.m. on a Thursday evening is a bleak one, but the whole is not the sum of its parts. Am I using that phrase correctly? I’m basically a zombie now. I haven’t spoken to an adult in at least 10 hours; my grasp of colloquialism and cliché cannot be entirely trusted. The point is that Thursday is the almost-end of the week. I brought my A game for four straight days, and now … well … apparently I only have that many days of A game. I’ve determined that despite the events on the days leading up to Thursday or on the actual Thursday itself, by the time the sun sets, I’m toast.
Toast. Could that be dinner?
No? You’ve all decided you hate toast? Even with peanut butter and jam? No? Really? Fine.
Here. Have another bowl of Cheerios.
P.S. If you enjoyed this essay, don’t miss our podcast episode, This Is How We Do: Meal Planning (which includes plenty of cereal nights).