It’s 4pm, the sun is closing in on the horizon. You notice that the tone of the room has changed. The hair on the back of your neck stands up; you quickly look at your toddler, their smiling face has turned into a momentary 1000 mile stare. Your butt puckers when they let loose their battle cry, signifying the descent into madness that is Dinner Time.
The first stop on your slow and agonizing descent into insanity, is the task that requires the most multitasking, focus, and agility. Making Dinner. You have to whip something up quickly, while your toddler rotates between clinging to your leg like a leech, reaching for the knife on the counter, and climbing onto the table. Every time you open a drawer, he’s there, reaching in, grabbing the soy sauce and shaking the bottle as he runs away. Every time you take a step, you trip over him, sending him flying into the cupboards. Now he’s crying. Well, fuck kid, what did you expect? You strap him into the highchair and hand him a portion of his dinner. Just a few more minutes you say, ya right. Eventually you manage to get some semblance of a healthy meal put together. And now the real work starts.
You’ve whipped up a meal, you’ve dodged your kid over and over, and now you have to find somewhere deep inside of you, a level of patience so high, even nun’s look at you in awe. You see, you’re once amazing eater has turned into a complete and raging asshole. Suddenly, he doesn’t want to eat anything, despite being hungry. A meal he scarfed down yesterday he turns his nose at today. When he does take a bite, he chews it for a few seconds and then spits it out. Oh, lets not forget about the fact that now he won’t even think of taking the food if he isn’t feeding it to himself. Greeeeaaaaat. That alone slows the process down by 10-fold.
You sit there, without distraction, having left your phone elsewhere so you could compete at your highest level. You will face no greater challenge in your time than feeding a toddler dinner. You’re a competitive athlete? Your skills are useless here. Oh, you’re a competitive chess player? Your skills are also useless here. You negotiate treaties/with actual terrorists/hostile takeovers? YA AGAIN, NOT GONNA HELP YOU HERE.
A toddler is an effective manipulator because they don’t speak your language. Their body language makes no sense. And their logic is non-existent. You can’t figure out what they are thinking. One bite is too hot, despite you checking, the next bite is totally fine, despite being the exact same temperature as the previous bite. But the most difficult challenge in this daily mind fuck, is that you don’t know when it will be over.
Will it be over in 15 minutes? Will he eat everything? Is this just a phase, or is my kid a complete dickhead now? How long is this phase gonna last? Next week, next year? Until he moves out? The trick is to take it one day at a time; don’t think of anything more than the amount of food you’ve set as the bare minimum.
You clap, you sing, you cheer with every bite. You yell, you swat, you curse, you clean up spilled food.
Finally, you sigh with relief when he finishes. Hell, you sigh with relief even if he didn’t. Whether you finished the feat of strength with a “OH YA WELL THAT’S ALL SHE WROTE KID!” and sent him on his way. Or you managed to finish it with some semblance of dignity, you attempted to nourish him. That’s all anyone can ask.