Last week my mom and I took the kids to Steak ‘n Shake. It was a last minute decision because we had been on a mission to buy a new vacuum as our Christmas tree destroyed the last one (don’t ask). The restaurant was in walking distance from the store and dinner that involves no dishes and not having to load everyone in the car again is a no-brainer.
The restaurant was crowded. Charlie was restless because I had left the wheelchair at school so he was constrained to a stroller. The twins were in pajamas (I would if I could too) and were determined to hunt down every germ. Jonas sampled each french fry he found on the floor like a connoisseur while Cora swung from greasy chair rails. It was also 90 degrees in there, a miscommunication between the fifty degree weather outside and the heater indoors. Hot sauna burgers.
But something happened to turn it all around. Cora asked for pepper in her ketchup. Those who know me know I love all things spicy. Last week at an Indian restaurant the manager asked me if I had Indian blood in me after polishing off the spiciest vindaloo. Fire in my veins, or as Jody would claim, no taste buds. As I watched Cora lick the pepper off the fry my heart did a quick pirouette. She was my girl, my heart, my mini me! We had a moment.
Of course, most of the time she and I fight to the death. She knows how to push me to the edge and then watch as I crack.
“No mommy, we have to eat the banana in here. We always eat it in here.”
“Mommy you need to sweep that up.”
“Mommy you have to fold it like this” (I kid you not).
She is determined and OCD and basically me. Most of the time this does not work in our favor. I fear for both of us when she reaches teen-dom. I may take a sabbatical.
Jonas is Jody reincarnated with some rebellion on the side. Whether this is toddler rebellion or here to stay is yet to be determined. He can get immersed in one task and will not come out again until it is finished. He is social and content in almost every situation. He’s easy to love most of the time because he’s the chilliest.
Charlie watched a video at the restaurant. He tried a french fry but refused the shake (crazy human). But whenever I caught his eye, he smiled and held up his arms, a silent request for contact. It was a slobbery mess of a hug because he’s congested and drooling, but it was absolutely unconditional.
Is that why it is so easy to love Charlie? Because he doesn’t push my buttons? Because he loves me no matter what and isn’t in it for the mind games (my sweet plotting Cora)? Because his stubborn streak is often melted by hugs and toys that make loud noises? I don’t want to play favorites but I catch myself doing it all the time. Cora with the pepper. Jonas when he’s introducing himself to every single person in the restaurant. Charlie with the bottomless affection. So does that mean I love my kids conditionally? Maybe. At times. But I’m going to accept this with as much grace as I can muster and try my best to be an equal-opportunity hugger.
If I think about the “whys” and the “how much” for every parenting emotion/decision, I’ll only accelerate my speed towards crazytown. Some introspection is good, but too much is well…too much. Here’s my New Year’s motto: Love your kids as best you can and put the rest in prayer.
Thank you Amanda for letting me Think Out Loud on this one.