My initiation into the mom scene was a bit different than most. It wasn’t until after I had spent a few years helping to raise my step-kids that my son was born. I wasn’t going to be able to bond with these kids while changing diapers or teaching them their ABC’s or snuggling with them at bedtime. This was going to be initiation by fire and I knew it. And I thought I was ready!
I had these Norman Rockwell type visions of all the fun things we would all do together: the holidays, the school functions and the family dinners. I desperately wanted these kids to like me and accept me and I wanted my husband to feel that I was up for the job. I was pretty naïve back then.
Now, before we go any further, one thing you need to know about me is that I was always “kitchen challenged”. My refrigerator is always a mess. Once, the cardboard from a case of my husband’s beer stuck to the bottom of the shelf because of who knows what that had spilled. I probably left it there for 6 months and only cleaned it because we were having people over. Usually, I just placed a carton of eggs or something over it so that nobody noticed.
Baking? Ha!! My attempts at baking early on resulted in cookies that could have been used for hockey practice and cupcakes that were raw inside (that’s why my mom stuck toothpicks in there?). But I desperately wanted to be accepted into the Mom’s Club so I persevered.
And cooking was a complete nightmare. Although I’m pretty proficient now, my earliest meals were nothing short of disastrous. My grandmother actually bought me a fire extinguisher for Christmas one year if that’s any indication. And years later, my parents divulged that after the first dinner that I had invited them to, they went to Wendy’s as soon as they left my house.
Something else you need to know about me – I have an incredibly weak stomach. Actually, I have gotten better over the years out of necessity. Running the boys to the ER for stitches and holding my daughter’s hair while she puked will do that to you. But in the early days, the wrong sight, sound or smell could send me running for a barf bag.
With all of that in mind, imagine the scene: I went to extra lengths to prepare a dinner that would make my mother proud. I followed the instructions exactly. There was plenty enough food for everyone. Nothing was burned. There were no signs of smoke billowing from anywhere in the house.
The table was beautifully set. I could not wait for my husband to arrive with his then 6 year old daughter and 4 year old son. This was going to be a magical night and these kids would love me forever.
As soon as we sat down at the table:
6 year old: What’s this???
4 year old: I wanted wiener wapps (wraps). Where are the tator tots?
Daddy: Guys, this is actual food. And wasn’t it nice that she spent so much time making this nice dinner just for us?
They both gave me sideways glances and looked down at their plates. This was not a good start.
Eventually, the kids started to eat and my husband decided to engage them in conversation to keep them at the table longer. His theory was that the longer they stayed, the more they might eat.
We weren’t 5 minutes into the dinner conversation when this took place:
6 year old: Oh Daddy, guess what happened at school today?
Daddy: I don’t know, Honey. Tell me what happened.
6 year old: I got kicked out of school!
Daddy: What?!? What did you do?
6 year old: Silly Daddy. I didn’t do anything. I have lice!
Understand something: my darling step-daughter was sitting right next to me. I quickly slid my plate to the opposite end of our very long table. I’m not proud of it, but all I could think was “please do not let me throw up in my plate”.
That thought had no sooner crossed my mind, when this conversation occurred:
4 year old: Daddy, what is that green thing Sissy is putting in her mouth?
Daddy: That’s asparagus Buddy. It’s really good, you should try it.
4 year old: Daddy, Sissy doesn’t look so good.
Have you ever seen the movie, Pitch Perfect? You know the scene at the beginning where Aubrey chokes on stage and showers the first three rows of the audience with her vomit? That was pretty much what happened right into the dinner plate of the 6 year old.
It was in that moment that I realized I had been officially initiated into the Mom’s Club. The Norman Rockwell scene looked more like Animal House. It wasn’t at all what I had envisioned and it certainly wasn’t a gradual process.
But in that moment, even though I wasn’t their “real” mom (something I heard echoed many times throughout my mothering career) I was present. If they needed food, I was there to do my best not to burn it. If they needed help with a school project, I was all over that! If they had boo boos, tummy troubles, or even (gulp) lice, I was on it. And I’ve never looked back or regretted it for a single second.
In that moment of chaos, my poor husband just looked at me and said, “Sorry Honey. Which do you want to deal with…the lice or the puke?” I took the puke. After all, it wasn’t the first time that my attempts at cooking resulted in an epic barfing episode.
By the way, what did we have the next night for dinner? We had wiener waps and tator tots of course!