5pm. Kids’ suppertime. And supper is being served, in all directions.
I try to make resignation look a little more like composure. Vanity, eh? Mentally, I am already hunkered down under the kitchen table, waiting for it all to be done. And while I’m down there, a thought suddenly takes me on: that the kitchen could tell the story about us. The real story.
I have two children, one aged nearly 3, the other, 9 months. For them, the single most tedious thing that you can do with food is to eat it. My infant daughter will release her inner Jackson Pollock with every tray of finger food she gets. The eldest, meanwhile, has clocked the fact that her parents are happier when she eats her food, and presumes this to mean that, somehow, she isn’t getting her way. Meal-times become the perfect cover for insurrection, with food as leverage (unless it’s cheesy pasta, of course – then it’s definitely food again).
The real story is on the floor, mostly. A rookie C.S.I. technician could outline our day pretty quickly: dried cereal means that we’ve managed breakfast; dry cereal means that daughter no.1’s bizarre dry-cereal-eating habit has returned; cherry tomatoes indicate that baby Pollock has lunched (cherry tomato on the ceiling means I gave her food, when she wanted the sippy-cup). And paint or glitter reveals that the morning coffee was waaay too strong, and one parent has set off at an unsustainable pace. On paint-and-glitter days, supper-time is very interesting.
But then, supper-time is bound to be interesting. It brings the perfect-storm conditions: low blood sugar and witching-hour tetchiness. The girls can get moody, too… Yet, even from my mental safe-place under that table, there’s an obvious funny-side: I’ve been psychologically duffed-up by a couple of cherubs; my kitchen is a land-fill (again). And a similar tale is unfolding, in family homes across the land. If you should meet the four of us in a café – all chubby cheeks and latte-harmony – just remember what the kitchen told you, and smile.