Food Is My Love Language

Popsicles on the front porch, sun settling into the hill,
darkness descending like the sugary juice down my arm.

Taco salad, bean tacos, beef, chicken, Korean, fish;
soft and hard, sometimes on Tuesdays, always delicious.

My grandmother’s macaroni and cheese, served alongside pork
chops, dipped in applesauce; this is my youth, my memory, too.

Haluski, cabbage rolls, pierogi upon pierogi,
sauerkraut on the first day of the new year, for luck;
brown sugar sweetened but their lips still pucker.

The ribs their father makes, following his mama’s recipe.
He is known for them, at the fire station, at home;
it is one of his masterpieces, beloved by all.

Salads without dressing, though this is of their own doing.
Absurdity is what it is, but they happily crunch along.

Shrimp at the beach, four ways. Peel and eat, skewers,
in the pasta, over grits; their father and their uncle,
a Bubba Gump operation on the shores of North Carolina.

Waffles on Christmas morning and other holiday delights:
My stuffing, even though one claims not to like sausage.
That deep fried turkey, so golden and crisp.
Cookies, cookies, cookies, cookies.

Homemade pizza, every Friday; kneaded by hand,
rolled out and baked on a stone in the oven.
Pepperoni half for one, mushrooms and banana peppers the other,
cornmeal scattering across their plates, the table.

New recipes, three or four a week. Some flops, like the
sour lemon rice, others added to the rotation, instant favorites.

I joke, “If I love you, I will cook for you,” but
it is the truth; food is my love language, one I hope
they’ll remember me speaking when they take a bite
of something, long after I am gone.

Food Is My Love Language

Don’t Ruin Taco Tuesday

Don't Ruin Taco Tuesday

If I wrote How I Became This Mother today, the story would go a little different; the tone would lean more toward the negative.

Parenting feels hard some days.

It’s not any one thing, really. I’m hashtag blessed with decently behaved children who do well in school. They have a few really good friends. They participate in sports and extra-curricular activities. We have one special need in the hearing loss department, but it doesn’t usually get in the way of anything we want to do as a family.

But some days, man.

It’s funny, too. During my workday while they were at school, I felt pretty good. I got a lot of work done. I felt on top of things. I thought to myself, “When the boys get home, we’re going to have a great time together.” I felt in control of my moods and my anxiety.

I picked them up from school and nothing felt out of the ordinary. In fact, as we’re in the downhill slide toward the end of our school year, things feel exceptionally easy. No homework. Happy kids. Good times.

But then the time crunch started.

The older boy needed to arrive at the ball fields to warm up for his six o’clock game by 5:15. Kid pitch games don’t go quickly—walk, steal, walk, steal, home run, steal—and my family can’t wait until after 8:00 in the evening to eat dinner. We sometimes eat at the ball field, but I wasn’t feeling hot dogs or “taco in a bag.” My bean tacos (Taco Tuesday!) are a quick 15 minute meal, so I threw them together.

And then I called the boys to the dining room.

One child arrived immediately. One child did not. When I called the dawdling child on it, he gave me attitude.

And my wheels fell off.

I’ll eat cereal for dinner if I’m by myself. I don’t care enough about my nutrition, though I should. But I put time and effort into planning and preparing meals for these two boys so that they can have enough energy to do all the things they do, including talking non-stop. That takes a lot of energy, folks. I keep healthy meals which they enjoy on rotation. I plan those quick and healthy meals for game or practice nights so they don’t get hangry at practice and beg me for junk from the concession stand. I put a lot of work in during baseball season especially to make sure these two are well fed and ready to go.

I don’t expect a ticker tape parade for my meal planning efforts. I don’t. They won’t appreciate the thought and work that goes into feeding a family until they’re involved in the process. (And don’t even attempt to say that they won’t really understand it because they’re boys because my husband fully participates in this endeavor, he just happened to be at work today. We will raise our sons to be participatory in all actions of the household. End of discussion.) Most nights the boys thank me for dinner, but sometimes we get lost in conversation and they forget. It’s fine. I recognize that I took the meals that both my mom and dad (again, both participatory) planned and made for us as we grew up for granted, especially on nights I had places to be and things to do. I had no shortage of extra-curriculars and my parents always had a hot meal for me.

But, damn, son. All I did was call you to the table with enough time for us to eat our food, have our daily dinner conversation, clean up the dinner mess, get you dressed for baseball, and out the door on time for your game. And you wanna wag your head at me and shake your finger and act like I’m somehow disrupting your day because I made you a hot meal, one that you love? Nope. Sorry, Charlie.

And so, I yelled. I said things I regret. I sent a kid to his room.

Then I had to calm down the other kid. Take ten deep breaths over my tacos, which were delicious, by the way, and call the room-sent-away kid back to the table. I had to apologize to him, both for word choice and for my inability to keep my cool. But then I explained, calmly, the work that I do to get food on the table for them before they have to go play games or practice. I explained that we seem to have a problem with “coming when called,” and that both their father and I are quickly losing patience. And I apologized some more because, you guys, I really like these two boys. I like parenting. I like being a mom. I like making meals that are delicious and healthy and filling and, well, I just like food.

But don’t sass me when I call you to the table on a really full scheduled night. Because I might just lose my shit over tacos. Tacos. Don’t ruin Taco Tuesday. Just come to the table and tell me about your day. I’m your mom and I really want to know about it.

PS: When we got to the field, the kid with the game said, “I forgot to put on my cleats.” And I didn’t cuss once. So there.