Penance, with Rice Pudding
Our son, Charlie, is 5 years old. He loves playing with Lego, running, climbing, digging in the dirt, watching cartoons, fixing stuff with his Dad, eating ice cream and dancing with his Mom in the kitchen. He says 'please' and 'thank you' and almost never wipes his hands on his pants. He looks gorgeous with a chocolate moustache and his little hands are always warm. He has lovely and cute friends, and they play like there's no tomorrow. I try to show him the world, to teach him everything I can. But I think that sometimes, he's the one teaching me.
I recently had a week from Hell. Something about me finishing up at the place I'm currently at, and looking for a new job, thinking I got a position that then turned out to be a dud, and me going into a drama-queen-existential-tantrum, thinking the world would never come back together again. (Okay, I was post two nightshift and only had three hours of sleep. Reason has tight accomodations under those circumstances.) I had a couple of hand-wringing days where I felt like crap - and that just rubs off on the young'un. When I don't feel good, I can be sure that C mirrors it. Or perhaps he doesn't, it's just that I get ticked off more easily, and I choose my battles very uncarefully. Actually, I don't think I even choose - I just crash into them, without even thinking.
It can be all sorts of stuff. 'No, we can't go to the café AGAIN today'. 'Charlie, for the 100TH TIME! PUT ON YOUR CLOTHES so we can get out the door!!'. 'The CD's don't belong on the floor, do they?' 'No. More. iPad. I'm serious.' 'Eat your vegetables.' 'No, we're not reading the third chapter of the book that you did not even WANT to read.' 'Go to sleep!' 'I'm not just going to come because you yell for me to come - you come here!'
I'm sure these are by no means extraordinary utterances in households with 5-year olds. Even as I read them, I'm thinking: is it that bad?
It isn't. But some days - those were I'm more drained of energy, or tired, and can't even begin to think what we should eat for dinner, let alone put together a sentence where I'm full of understanding and embracing of all of his feelings - even the smallest of questions or request will be met with a: No. Because I said so.
Go ahead and call the social services.
Most of the time, I think I'm a pretty okay mother. No really, I do. But there are definitely days where I wish I could be a little more fun, a little more 'whatever'. More playful and understanding, more compelling and assertive. More sure that what I am doing is right, and good, and will turn him into that lovely and wonderful young man I want him to be.
But that week wasn't one of the weeks I was an okay mother. I knew it, I felt it deep in me. So when it finally ended, I knew I had to make amends. I took him for a walk, wanting to hold that little warm hand and hear his little voice chatting. He wanted to ride his bike. I said yes, with a lump in my throat, because damn it. He's so big now it's no longer important to hold you Mom's hand? Not even when she needs it?
I didn't tell him I needed it. He's five. I'm not sure you're supposed to put that kind of responsibility on a child. But the next day, I took him to the toy store, and bought him Lego, however politically incorrect it is to try and buy the love of your child. I needed to just sit next to him and listen to his words and see his hands at play and ruffle his hair and hear him laugh. And I cooked him rice pudding for dinner, because some days, I don't care. I just need to make it all better again.
Rice Pudding - or Risengrød, as we call it here
- from Frøken Jensens Kogebog
1½ l. milk (I prefer full-fat)
200 ml. pudding rice (grødris in Denmark - I know some people use risotto rice, when grødris aren't available)
1 teaspoon salt
Sugar & cinnamon (mixed) and salted butter for serving
Put the milk to the boil, being careful that it doesn't burn.Add the rice, stirring carefully, and bring back to the boil. Put on the lowest setting, and let it simmer until all of the milk has been absorbed into the rice - around one hour. Take off the heat, stir in the salt, and serve with a generpous sprinkling of cinnamon-sugar and dollops of butter.
PS: Charlie is having a friend over as I write. He just yelled down the stairs: 'Mom, come up here!!' I replied: 'Charlie, you really need to stop just yelling: get up here! What do you need me for??' 'We just wanted you to come up here and sit and chat with us.' Boo-yah.