The other night at dinner I am the only one actually sitting at the table. Without warning, the 11-year-old runs off to “get something,” the 8-year-old gets up to go to the bathroom and the not yet 2-year-old goes feral, sliding around on the dirty kitchen floor barking. My husband is fed up in a Mad Men sort of way and tries to herd them all back to the table, brow furrowed, lecturing them about respect and permission, drink in hand.
I stare at the juicy grilled chicken on my plate, the steamed broccoli. I want them all to come back to the table, I really do, but I can’t seem to make it happen. Is it inertia? Hunger? Indecision? I am at a parenting impasse: poopy diapers on one hand; a tween with the beginnings of hairy armpits on the other; and a third grader who could go either way on any given day. How is my oldest supposed to take me seriously when I can’t stop the toddler from throwing peas at the dog? Sometimes I just want to give in. Not to the kids, but to motherhood. I want to know how to do it. Pick a path and follow it. My parents seemed to have some kind of plan; why can’t I? When I was a kid, I didn’t dare leave the dinner table without permission, but that’s because I was scared of the consequences — although I cannot for the life of me tell you what those consequences might have been.
My kids know nothing of consequences. They prance and laugh and scowl and opine and whine at will. I love that they are so present, so in touch with their emotions and desires; but I also really resent it. Their multiple winning personalities can suck the air right out of a room, which makes it kinda hard to breathe. I need a little air of my own. At 44, I’m no baby bunny, but no old cow either. I’m ready for it to be about me. Before the hot flashes set in. Before the river runs dry. Before the chicken goes cold.
They all eventually trickle back to the table: My husband with a sigh, the 11-year-old throwing daggers, the 8-year-old in a huff, the little one with peas in her hair. The food is eaten, the toddler bathed, the bigs tucked in for the night. Another day gone by. I fall asleep before my husband; he leaves in the morning before I wake up. Another day of diapers and drama queens begins.