A common theme in my writing about parenting is my overwhelming need to untangle generational parenting styles to figure out what will benefit my own children the most. In plainer language, I want to do better than my mom, whom I understand wanted to do better than her mom, et cetera.
Rationally, I expect that my own kids will do the same thing, should they decide to become parents. Emotionally, I wonder how I will react when that time comes. Will I freak out? Will I respect their choices? Will I assume that they are rejecting my way when they strike out on their own?
This month’s Minnesota Women’s Press is food-themed, a loaded subject for women, mothers most of all. When we feed our children’s bodies, we imagine ourselves filling their hearts and souls. Which we’re not, but tell that to the Paula Deen, Rachael Ray, and whoever else the Food Network is pushing.
When my maternal grandmother died in 2003, I opened her eulogy with the following words: “my grandmother is the smell of butter.” When I wrote about her for the Women’s Press in 2009, I declared: “butter was the woman’s natural milieu; I think she probably dabbed it behind her ears.”
She loved butter, and she probably loved us too, but she never said so. If she declared her love for anything, it was probably for Johnny Carson and the Marlboro Light 100s she chain smoked. That was much less embarrassing and vulnerable than admitting to loving a person. Sheesh.
My current column is titled “When food means ‘I love you.’” I would very much like for my children to see food as a source of nourishment and/or delight, not as a conduit of my affection for them. Already, however, I am touchy when my hard work is sniffed at or spat out. If Elliott dislikes my chicken fried rice then he must not love me. If my coffee cake is burned I must be a failure. ALL LESSONS LEARNED AT MY FOREMOTHERS’ KNEES! That they, in turn, learned from the women before them! At least they could do it in an age before Pinterest and mothering as an Olympic-level sport. From the column:
I follow a number of so-called “mom blogs,” and you’d think to read them that not even abortion is as loaded a topic as whether children ought to eat yogurt that contains high-fructose corn syrup. Even though we 21st-century moms aren’t shy about telling our little darlings we love them, our culture compels us to express our care and concern through cookery.
Here I must cop to the fact that the chicken I put in that fried rice recipe was not a free-wheeling hippy-dippy bird that I picked up at Seward Co-op. Elliott could taste it! I just hope I can handle the grief when my future grandchildren are organic vegan gourmets who turn up their noses at the kind of nut cheeses I bring for Christmas.
Right now is a difficult time of year to strive for balance, emotionally or nutritionally, for bizarre schedules and hot weather lead to nights where ice cream is the only thing on the menu, and carrot-spinach ripple it ain’t. I am trying very hard to let myself off the guilt roller coaster so I can enjoy it.
And I also committed to say “I LOVE YOU” with words and smooches several hundred times a day without fail…but I do that anyway.