We were talking about kitchen chaos, right? First of all, not only do I not bake, I also don’t cook, unless you count tossing some frozen things that are allegedly made of chicken into the toaster oven for seven minutes. The biggest joke is that, when we bought our house, it came with this enormous double oven that has eight burners, a separate broiler, and a griddle surface. When Julia Childs died and the news showed clips from her old cooking show, I happened to notice in the background that she had the VERY SAME OVEN. Meanwhile, we’ve lived here for almost six years, and I’ve used that oven exactly six times -- to reheat the Thanksgiving turkey that I order every year from the gourmet market down the street. But anyway, back to dinnertime.
Chaos Level 1 is this: my husband and I are both picky eaters, and we’re picky about different things, so even if I did cook, trying to make the same thing for him and for me is nearly impossible. My daughter, who is four, is on a weekly rotation of Mac & cheese, grilled cheese, chicken tenders, and cheese tortellini with no sauce, and my son, who is 19 months, will eat only what she’s having, plus spaghetti and meatballs. So on any given night, we are all eating at least three different meals that I have not made.
Which brings me to Chaos Level 2: my son gets hungry at 5:00, so he eats by himself in his highchair in the kitchen while I ignore him and attempt to catch up on some work phone calls. My daughter gets hungry around 6:00, so she eats at the kitchen table by herself (well, not really by herself, if you count her good friends on whatever TV show she’s watching), while I ignore her and my son as I try to check my e-mail. My husband gets home around 7:00, and after we put the kids to bed, he usually goes and picks up something from one of four chain restaurants in our neighborhood, and then he eats standing up at the kitchen counter while he goes through the mail, and I eat sitting down at the table while I read the paper. Nice.
And then there’s Chaos Level 3, which is occurring inside my body and giving me a colitive ulcer because I am so stressed out about that fact that we never eat as a family, that my kids have never known a home-cooked meal, that I am setting them up for a lifetime of obesity from eating in front of the television, not to mention a lifetime of high blood pressure, heart disease, and God knows what else from all of the pesticide and trans fat laden crap that I allow them to eat and now, thanks to that mother, that I am not giving them any flax seed oil or wheat germ – all because I was too busy working for a living to ever set a good example and am still too busy working for a living to take control of the situation and get them eating right while I still have a fighting chance.
And the worst part is, I have no moral for this story, no witty solution, no answer that I have come up with at two in the morning when I am supposed to be sleeping but am instead lying wide awake, thinking about all of the ways in which I am ruining my children’s lives. The only thing that I can come up with for an ending to this story that is even remotely satisfying is to remind myself that I can’t do everything. I can’t be a mother and a wife and volunteer at pre-school and schlep my kids around to ballet classes and swim lessons and open-play-with-some-guitar-singing-at-the-end classes and go to the gym and write a book and write this column and go to the market and do laundry and feed my dog and have friends and set play dates and plan birthday parties and remember to make doctors appointments and dentist appointments and, on top of all of that, get dinner on the table for four people all at the same time every single night and also bake muffins with flax seed oil and wheat germ in them. I just can’t. And so I’m going to have to deal with this issue later. Later, when my kids are older, and hopefully, more amenable to eating chicken that isn’t breaded and fried, and when they go to bed at an hour that isn’t still considered daytime by many people. And when that time comes, we’ll eat healthy food together, as a family, at one table, in one place. Just, most likely, that place will be in a restaurant, because I’m pretty sure that I still won’t have time to cook.