I think that just means I'm a parent. Even as Type A as I am, I don't think I realized the levels of neuroses and high-strungedness that becoming a mama would lead me to. As a new daddy friend of mine pointed out the other night, the whole Type A, micromanaging strategy has been very successful for me thus far in life, and it is really, really, really hard to let it go. Cases in point:
(1) My mother in law is wonderful, fabulous, attentive, inventive, creative, and ingenious with children. She really is. I trust her completely. I am so happy to have her in my life, and have her visit and babysit sometimes. Yet the other morning when she was going to make the Olive a scrambled egg, I went all micromanagey postal because SHE HAD A SCRAMBLED EGG YESTERDAY! SHE MUST HAVE DIVERSITY! SHE CANNOT HAVE A SCRAMBLED EGG! I DECLARE AS MOMMY OVERLORD THAT YOU MUST GIVE HER A WAFFLE! In retrospect, oh my gawd. Embarassing. WTF, lady? What is wrong with you? The baby can really have eggs two days in a row and IT WON'T KILL HER. Not even close.
(2) No. 1 is tied to my ongoing neurosis/deep dark fear that I am somehow going to raise a picky eater. I have read and re-read Ellyn Satter's books; I have also read books with titles like "My Two Year Old Eats Octopus"and "Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father's Quest To Raise an Adventurous Eater." And all of these books say pretty much the same thing. Your job is to provide a variety of healthy, tasty foods. Your kid's job is to choose what to eat and how much. Serve your children what you eat. Don't be a short-order cook. Eat with your children. The end. I know all this. I know it. I try to practice it. I buy papaya and parsnips and barley and millet and feed them all to the Olive --all foods I never ate until I was an adult. I neurotically ask Seth over and over again if I am feeding the Olive enough variety, as I season sweet potato oven fries, and stir a bechamel cheese sauce for some broccoli. My dear husband does not roll his eyes at me even when I ask this for the twelfth time in a week. He just says, "yes." Here are some of the things the Olive eats: guacamole, sesame peanut noodles, blueberries by the pound, meatballs, pesto, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese, cheese (all kinds, every kind, so far), hummus, spinach and feta omelets, chow fun noodles (she hasn't met a noodle of any nationality that she didn't like), and fish tacos.
I know that. I know it. I know she eats all of these things! Yet, I quiver and practically burst into tears when she devours a pea and couscous dish one night, and won’t touch it another night, and when she spits out the broccoli with the delicious béchamel sauce. I am devastated that she doesn’t like spicy-hot food yet, because I know of other toddlers who happily devour salsa. Then I am certain that she will become one of those kids who will only eat mac & cheese from a box; who only eats four things only in nugget form, and only if those have ketchup on them; who won’t touch anything an onion even looked at. I start counting the number of times I have served her a certain food that she‘s not crazy about, to see if I’ve gotten to the magic 15 or 20 times it may take for a child to accept a new food. I haven’t created an Excel spreadsheet for this. Yet. I also feel guilty and worried when I succumb and give the Olive a “kid” food, like animal crackers, or Goldfish crackers (whole grain!) or these stupid organic Earth’s Best crackers shaped like Big Bird and Elmo. (The last one is a double-guilt whammy – marketed “toddler” food plus licensed characters!). I am convinced sometimes that with these seemingly innocuous snack crackers (that she loves) that I am leading her to a path of McNuggets and Doritos for every meals for the rest of her life.
I just re-read the previous paragraph, and I know it just reads as CRAZY! CRAZY! CRAZY! I know. But here’s what it is: I love food. I love to eat. I love to cook. It’s an adventure, a travel journal, a science experiment, a sensual experience, all in my own kitchen. I really will eat about anything. I’ll at least try it. My list of weird foods eaten includes caterpillars, grasshopper and impala liver. My husband is very lucky that I tolerate (a) his dislike of chunks of tomato in salad and (b) his lukewarm enthusiasm for sushi. I know – I just have impossibly high standards. I simply have no understanding or tolerance for picky eaters. I can find redemption even in food that I don’t really like (green bell peppers - eh - but delicious on fajitas)– everyone else should be able to do that too, dammit. I grew up in a house where everything was made from scratch, and where my parents did a remarkable job in the grocery-challenged seventies and eighties of adventurous cooking and eating. Food was fun and delicious. My father was the driver of adventure, trying new things (squid! artichokes!), changing recipes on the fly. My mother was the steady arbiter of basics, teaching me to love the bitterness of Southern greens, spending mornings making cookies with me, teaching me to make scrambled eggs. We ate some junk food too – occasional fast food, and there was always some kind of bag of chips in the house. Even with that, there are so many things I had never eaten until I got to college. Proscuitto. Sushi. Brie. Real maple syrup. The key is that I wasn’t afraid to try them, and I’ve spent every year of my life since leaving home devouring (literally) whatever came across my path.
It is thus unthinkable and heartbreaking to even imagine that my baby girl will be nothing less than a miniature foodie gourmand. She’s going to be one if it kills me. Which it might. Excuse me, I have to go make some dal, because she hasn’t tried that yet, and a green bean casserole because she is going to like green beans. She is. Shut up.
You want to kill me now, I can tell, after reading what you just read. Yes, I am lucky that my husband has not throttled me in my sleep.
What is it? What makes me this crazy? It’s that I want the Olive to have The Best. I want to do The Best. The Right Thing. Whatever all of those things are. When what I really need to do is let the fuck go, and not worry and allow us all to sometimes eat just French fries for dinner. It is going to be FINE. We are all FINE. And if I let go just a little, it isn’t the slippery slope to Certain Doom (otherwise known as the McDonald’s Happy Meal – AAUGH, the horror! The horror!), and my husband might even like me a little better if I weren’t quite so tightly wound these days. The Best. The Right. The CRAZY! Good grief, just pass the wine already, and tell me what it is that makes you this crazy. Um, if anyone else could possibly be this crazy. Thanks.