Today, 18 months and 23 days in, I had several moments where I felt overwhelmed by new (mundane, but somehow soul-challeging) parenting obstacles. Why do so many days in this gig feel like the first day on the job? The chaos was because a few things were converging in our world. We took away Imogene's bottle today, which is its own emotional essay waiting to be written (some other day, but it's the end of a chapter of her babyhood, which to me is something). After many months of toying with sippy cups we decided we had to go cold turkey, so the day was full of cranky baby moments (and cranky me moments, because I'm only human, and having a milk cup thrown, spilled, and rejected is bound to make a lady roll her eyes at least a few times). Plus my patience wasn't at its best today, simply from whatever internal tides are churning in me, which at the moment are bobbing between anxious and tired. And, we've decided to start sitting down as a family for dinnertime. But historically, dinnertime for Imogene (who is 18 months old) is not dinnertime for me or Garret. Usually, she eats around 5:30, while at least one of us is still working. Our routine has been to feed her, read stories to her, let her drink milk, and then put her to bed. After she's asleep, I have a glass of wine or a beer and I make us some elaborate wonderful dinner. It's therapy to me, cooking. After a day filled halfway with creative endeavors that don't pay off immediately (writing) and parenting endeavors that feel like they'll never pay off, dinner is something that pays off. I chop, I sautee, I spice, I mix. We eat, we're merry.
But I want Imogene to be an adventurous eater, and I realized recently that we're (well, she's) reaching an age where she needs to be interested in what we're doing to learn things. I want her to see me eating peanut sesame noodles and curry and spaghetti and lasagna and whatever else we might have and be interested in it herself. And so, tonight, I made peanut sesame noodles and water spinach and we sat down as a threesome to have dinner.
The actual meal was nice while it was happening. But prepping it was a nightmare of my pants being tugged at, me worrying I'd drop my knife as I chopped vegetables, and worrying that a little hand might somehow get into the oven as I mixed up roasting cubes of tofu. The whole situation was whatever the opposite of theraputic is. And then afterward, I felt like I had to take full advantage of the fact that it was only 5:45 and dinner was already done, so I cleaned the kitchen in a frenzy, hoping that by 7:30, I could sit down and type away at my computer in a clean, lovely room. And I am. But it's not the same as chopping, sauteeing, spicing, and being merry.
I'm super attached to the therapy that my flights of fancy with food afford me. So now I'm wondering, what can I create? I always have to remind myself that this world is mine to spin. Can I have it both ways? Be a good parent but hang on to my evening routine of culinary exploration? Why not? So I'm toying with the idea of well-planned, easy (or easier) to prep dinners and then an elaborate "small plate" / tapa type thing that I can make for Garret and I once Imogene is asleep. So perhaps I'll become a pro at appetizers and at 30 minute meals. A foodie Jeckyll and Hyde. Or perhaps I'll realize that's way too much time to spend on food. ...but I hope not.