French Toast

A few weeks ago, I made a thousand pancakes for the freezer. I did it because for the last year, Charlotte has asked for pancakes EVERY. SINGLE. MORNING.

Since she eats them so often, I try to make them as healthy as possible. I blend up about half a bag of frozen spinach, an overripe banana, and whatever produce-type stuff I have on hand that needs to be used up (riced cauliflower, sweet potato, broccoli, blueberries, etc.) with milk and eggs, add it to Kodiak Cakes pancake mix, and voila. Pancakes. We even water down her syrup.

The last few weekends, Catch has made french toast in an attempt to mix things up. It’s been great. The kid loves french toast. It’s a nice weekend treat.

This morning, Charlotte woke up and after a few minutes of cuddles in her bed, she said she was ready for breakfast. She wanted french toast. I told her we don’t have any bread and that french toast is for the weekends. Cue the ultimate meltdown. A) The kid is NOT a morning person, and B) her ideas about food have become about as inflexible as you can get without literally starving yourself. It’s not that she doesn’t like things, it’s just that she only wants what she wants when she wants it, and all attempts to convince her otherwise are painful for everyone involved.

So there she is, lying on the floor of her bedroom kicking and screaming about french toast all before I’ve had a single sip of coffee. I basically just groan and walk away.

Eventually, I am able to coax her to the table to eat some of the gazillion pancakes taking up space in our freezer. I silently congratulated myself on the win until I realized what comes next… getting dressed.

If her ideas about food are inflexible, her ideas about clothing are like reinforced steel. It’s not like we even care what she wears provided that what she picks out is weather and situation appropriate. Beyond that, she has a wide variety of attire to suit her every whim, and she can have at it.

Lately, she refuses to wear anything but long-sleeve dresses with leggings underneath. That’s fine, because it’s been plenty cool enough and we stocked up on cotton play dresses for school.

Today, though… sigh.

Today, it is warm. Beautiful, sunny and almost 80 degrees. This is not the kind of day when you go outside to play in a long sleeve dress and pants.

Unless you’re Charlotte.

Oh, how she fought me this morning. It was painful.

Honey, these are called cartwheel shorts–you wear them under your dress and they’re just like leggings, but they won’t be as hot.

Nooooooooooooo!!!!!! THOSE ARE TERRIBLE!!!!!!!!! I DON’T WANT TO WEAR THAT! *collapses in hysterical heap on floor*

Repeat ad nauseam until I give up and walk out, telling her she can wear whatever she wants because I’m not going to make any further suggestions. When she finally emerged from her bedroom, she was wearing a short-sleeved, but very heavyweight cotton dress with navy blue leggings and water shoes with no socks, which are not permitted at school.

She knew. She stood there giving me that look of challenge and defiance that 3 year olds are so good at. I sat down and drank my coffee. Her grandfather was taking her to school today, and I knew he wouldn’t let her out of the house in those shoes. I also knew that she wouldn’t fight him the way she fights me.

By the time she left for school, I think the whole house breathed a sigh of relief. I hate mornings like this, where it’s just one battle after the next. I do try to choose my battles, but there was no way I was making french toast this morning. Normally, even if I don’t want a full on battle of wills to ensue, I still at least try to tell her why I’m suggesting the opposite of what she wants so that she’ll eventually be able to connect those dots herself. Long sleeves and pants + 80 degree spring day = hot. That sort of thing. Also, that gives me the opportunity to whisper I told you so behind her back later when she starts complaining.

So now, the house is quiet. The dogs are asleep. The windows are open, and the spring breeze is blowing in. I am sitting here folding two loads of her little clothes–all those long sleeve dresses and leggings–and suddenly, I found myself thinking of the parents out in the world who no longer get to fight with their kids about what’s for breakfast or what they’re going to wear because their kids were killed by guns in classrooms or school hallways where they should have been safe.

I know this was a very roundabout way of reaching that point, but I think it’s important to stop and recognize what a gift these frustrating mornings with my child are.  I am with her, and she is with me. Even if we aren’t seeing eye-to-eye, we are breathing the same air and sharing the same space. How many mothers out there in the world right now would give anything to be sharing one of these grouchy mornings with their child?

In the wake of these recent suicides by survivors and their families, I wish every voter and politician in this country could stop for a moment to imagine what that empty space in a morning must feel like. I don’t understand how anyone can possibly think that their right to own a weapon is greater than a parent’s right to be able to argue with their child in the morning about french toast.

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Best Part of the Day

Every night at dinner, we sit at our table together and take turns telling each other what the best part of our day was. It’s a nice little ritual that started months back, and now it’s just expected. Charlotte loves that time, and after we’ve all had a turn, she will frequently offer up her “nother” favorite part of her day and request that we also share our “nother” favorite parts of our days. Many times, I find myself telling her that right now—all of us talking about our days over dinner—is the best part of my day.

I know it sounds like a Campbell’s Soup commercial from the 80s. The reality is that there are days when I want to tell Charlotte that the best part of my day was dropping her off at school, or that it hasn’t happened yet because she’s still awake. There are plenty of times when the best part of my day doesn’t involve her at all, and those days rattle her a bit—often leading her to prompt me for “nother” moments until I finally mention something that involves her.

Today, the best part of my day was logging into Blackboard to see that I got an A on a final project that started at the beginning of this term and then consumed my days and nights for a solid week before I turned it in. It also elicited more frustration than any other project I’ve tackled since returning to the academic world.

It was a quiet little victory that gave me a lot to think about, because the project involved creating a social media marketing strategy for a start-up family photography business. Frankly, I chose the business with my own interests at heart, and being forced to sit down and research/audit the market and the competition gave me some incredible insight that makes me feel like I could actually have some success at this if I gave it a shot.

That will be the moment I lead with at the dinner table tonight, and afterward I’ll probably throw the kid a bone and tell her that the “nother” best part of my day was watching her at swim lessons.

Going back to school has been so valuable. Not necessarily because of the learning, because although I’m enjoying it, it’s not exactly “news” after working in communications for 18 years. It’s more that it’s reassuring me that I do know my strengths, and that they are real assets. It helps to quiet the significant part of me that struggles with imposter syndrome.

Soon, I’ll tackle the resume that hasn’t been touched in a decade and hope it will lead to some equally awesome best parts of my day.