I have lived out of home for well over a decade, and I have been making meals for more than half my life. I couldn’t even begin to guess how many omelettes I have made in my time, particularly over the last few years of having a small child and part-time work. Some nights creating even the most humble of omelettes is almost more than I can manage! You would think that this would be the kind of meal I could make with my eyes closed and one hand tied behind my back and yet sometimes (perhaps more regularly than I would like to admit) they turn out looking like the mess above. This is not the only area in my life where I should know what I’m doing and yet regularly make an apparent hash of things.
I am consistently 10-15 minutes late for work. This is because I always hit snooze on my alarm one too many times, because I have always stayed up just a little bit too late (or had a little too much wine) the night before. On the odd occasion when I do get to bed at a respectable hour, make it through a night of unbroken sleep and get up when the alarm first rings, everything else just falls into place – we get ready BEFORE we leave the house, we make it to the bus without running, we get to creche without drama, I get to work on time, I leave work on time, we get home in time for a proper dinner (not just an ugly omelette), we go to bed at our respective bedtimes ready to do it all again tomorrow. It seems so easy. TOO easy. Yet I have never managed to do it on two consecutive days. I have never managed to do it twice in the same week! Why haven’t I learned?
Similarly with parenting. I am newer to being a parent than I am to most things in my life. Still, I have close to 5 years of experience and by now I really should know the basics. In fact, I do know the basics – don’t let your child get overtired &/or very hungry; don’t get mad at your child if she’s playing up because she’s overtired &/or very hungry; have realistic, age-appropriate expectations of your child, especially when she’s overtired &/or very hungry. I know the basics, I just don’t live the basics. Time and again I will find myself engaged in a loud verbal battle with my near-hysterical daughter, having fixated on some minor misdemeanor of hers (snatching, not saying please, etc) whilst having conveniently neglected to remind myself that she is only 4years old, she had half a cruskit dipped in yoghurt for dinner, she has gone all day without a rest and it is now 8pm. Why. Haven’t. I. Learned??
Well, the truth is, I have learned. I’ve learned an awful lot, and I am still learning. I have learned that there are patterns of behaviour that are ingrained, whether through nature or nurture, that are extremely difficult to change – but there are ways around them. For instance, I remember being unfairly scolded as a child – but I don’t ever remember being apologised to for it. I have learned to be mindful of my reactions to my daughter’s behavior, and when I overreact I apologise and explain to her that sometimes I get tired and cranky too. I am learning to stop and think before I snap – I am, after all, the adult in the situation. I have the ability to apply self-control, even if I sometimes forget to.
I have learned that, while punctuality is important, there are other things in my life that I value more highly than being at my desk by 8:45am – things like sharing a glass of cheeky red and a long talk with my housemate; my husband reading aloud to me late at night, putting on silly voices to make me giggle; sitting by our daughter’s bed in the wee hours, soothing her back to sleep after a bad dream. These are the things that carry meaning in my life, small things, memories that I treasure.
I have learned to be kinder to myself, especially when I don’t meet my own expectations.
And I have learned that I know how to make delicious omelettes. They may not always look like they should, but they are quick, easy, tasty and nutritious. And, like so many things in life, the wonky bits can always be hidden under a layer of cheese…