During my pregnancy and until a few months after the birth of my son, I kept imagining and planning what kind of parent I was going to be, what norms and customs I’d bring him up with, what our family traditions would be. My biggest obsession was mealtime. At least once a day, my husband, our son and I, would sit down around the kitchen table and eat.
Three years later, I’ve finally let go of this vision. For simple reasons. First of all, we didn’t even have a kitchen table when Stef was born. Second, Dad works late, he always has. Third, babies and toddlers do not want to hang out at the dinner table. Mine doesn’t even want to have dinner. Or lunch. Or breakfast.
I started off by trying to eat breakfast with him, back when he ate. The problem there was that as an early riser, his breakfast was at 7.30am. I was never hungry. Lunch was at noon, so before I knew it, I was wolfing down platefuls of spaghetti; the quickest thing to make, while stuffing organic mushed veggies into his mouth, the mixture of which, I’d slaved over for hours the night before. By dinner and the bedtime ritual, the three family meals that I so longed for, where checked off my must-do list, though I was more exhausted from the stress than I would have been, had I decided to release control.
And then, shock of all shocks, he went on a hunger strike, eating nothing but bananas for six months. I still refused to let go. And the delusional behavior went on, until I recently realized that my obsession is just an illusion. I was raised in a household obsessed with rigid family meals. I hated them.
Everything we imagine as new parents is an illusion. Ninety nine percent of it flies out the window the minute they start to crawl/walk/talk. It’s like planning for the unknown. The last one percent, we continue to hold onto, as if it’s our last chance at survival, when all it really is, is our natural desire to have some form of control in this new world disorder.
I let it go. What he eats, how much he eats, how many times he eats, who he eats with. He knows that there’s a lunchtime, he knows pasta and rice aren’t to be eaten exclusively forever, he knows Daddy isn’t home at lunchtime, and he knows that he can bring Teddy, monster trucks, and Legos to the table on Saturday and Sunday, climb into his high chair and eat spaghetti with his hands. I’ve done all that. And now he’s free. And so am I.