Saturday, January 17, 2009

1/17/09 Grownup meals

Every so often I have a glimpse of what it's like to truly be a grownup again at meals. With the kids in daycare full-time, I actually get a lot of grownup time during the day, but meals are scarfed bites at my desk. At home, most mealtimes are spent with me on my feet, in service mode, fetching or cleaning or cutting or wiping or serving. The boys set a place for me only as a formality; I rarely sit down and join everyone. Many times recently, I've wished there were an easier way, a way to get a break from the intense effort of mealtimes.

Take-out, right? You'd think. But on weeknights, take-out presents numerous timing issues; we actually get everyone fed and ready for homework and baths sooner if I can start dinner as soon as I get home. Betsy, who's well-versed in the art, suggests calling in and picking up takeout on the way home. I'll have to try that, but I can well imagine that the various food weirdnesses in this household will quickly reveal flaws in that plan.

Restaurants? Worse. During the week, restaurants are out of the question; we can't tie up an hour of Gabriel's valuable evening time, and Katrina is a time bomb after 7pm. Weekends? Still iffy. Despite the recession, restaurants around here on weekends often have a wait.

Maybe I was feeling cocky after a nice evening Friday night at a good homey local restaurant I sat through the whole meal, didn't cut anyone else's food, didn't pick anything up off the floor, didn't ask for extra napkins, didn't clean up any spills, didn't wipe anyone's face with my fingers. I ordered food I wanted and was able to eat it fresh and with my right hand. I had two glasses of wine and enjoyed lots of grownup talk (including with some new old friends we ran into).

I was glad to see my little bunch after sleepover this morning, and planned for a morning of nothing. I had one weekend goal: get shoes for the boys. This was critical weeks ago; they both have enormous holes in their shoes, and it just can't wait any longer. This evening, we also needed to stop by the house to look at how some new deck design ideas would work. This turned into a Plan: house, dinner out, shoe-shop.

Dinner out? Now count the number of letters in the word "PLAN."

Stop by the house, fine. 10-15 minutes, kids stay in the car, the boys managed to emerge from the experience with bones intact.

Dinner? ARRRGH.

In a word: Katrina. She was impossible, unbearable, and downright antisocial. I spent most of the dinner outside with her, with three attempts to bring her back inside to eat. Twice I pulled her fast out for throwing -- first a fork, then a cup full of milk, then as the tantrum escalated, anything she could reach. Outside, she varied between being mildly interested in a fountain, and throwing herself on the ground in a hissy-fit.

I sat on the edge of the fountain, staring at the ground, and wondering what sin I committed in a previous life to bring this scourge upon me. Do I really deserve to be banished out here with this irrational, obnoxious little brat? Can't I just go inside and sit down and have a few bites of salad without having to drop my fork, leap to my feet and rush outside, still chewing my bite? Didn't I pay my dues with Gabriel? I'm done with this! I woefully watched several cheery families walk by, carrying calm curious toddlers. Why can't she be like that?

I chewed a few bitter bites of salad after Dave took over tantrum-duty, wishing I was home. Gabriel had gone outside to help with Katrina, and Julian was absorbed in a coloring project. This is no fun. Well, I consoled myself, at least I don't have to clean up.

After that major investment, we were getting shoes, dammit. Besides, I'd left no margin for error: the boys only have one pair of shoes, and both were really shot. Besides, shoe-shopping should be fast, and the mall (ick) has various distractions, right?

No, shoe-shopping was incredibly stressful too. She wouldn't get out of the stroller (fine), but wouldn't accept sitting in it not moving either. Dave finally took her out into the mall and wheeled her around. Meanwhile I hurriedly searched the racks for boy shoes, as the complexity of putting together sale prices, sizes, and light-up soles oppressed me. I could hear Katrina screaming and fussing and crying, and I could feel my insides pressurizing, my stomach churning, my heart sinking.

I know we'll get past this. I know she won't always be two. I know that these negative characteristics will have positive manifestations later. I know she won't always turn a nice evening out with the family into an ordeal. But will someone please tell me when?!

Yesterday before our morning jobsite meeting, I had some extra time, so before dropping Katrina off, I took her to a park near Tonya's so we could spend a little playtime together. My working-mom-guilt is strong about how rarely I take her to parks. When Gabriel was a toddler, I took him to parks several times a week.

It's a really lovely park.

Katrina liked playing on the play structure, though for some reason refused to go down the slide.

As I expected, our departure involved a fiery protest, a football hold, and stares from strangers. Just because I can fit her in for 20 minutes doesn't mean she's going to smother me with gratitude.

Before our rattling excursion tonight, I found some time to let Katrina go around the house bare-butt, so far the only measure she permits toward potty-training. I tried again to persuade her to put on training pants (so I know if she goes), but she was adament against it.

Then I thought hmmm....wonder how she feels about Curious George underpants? There's the hook! I showed her all the underpants in Julian's drawer, and that got her started. It didn't exactly work as I planned, since she kept wanting to change them to something else. Julian's skivvies are marked with an unfortunate variety of licensed characters -- Shrek, Scooby-Doo, SpongeBob, Spiderman -- and soon I found it was easiest to put them all in a basket and let her go to town.

She was more interested in putting them on than wearing them, but it's a start.

Strong personality...willful...opinionated...high-spirited....all code for "pain in the neck!" I love my little girl, and when my blood pressure returns to normal, I can even laugh about what she does and admire her forceful spirit. But it'll be easier when I can be a grownup again.


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