Late June: Of Food and Parenting
Late June is the taste of garden fresh summer squash, just barely cooked enough in coconut oil, mixed with fresh tomatoes and basil and feta-like cheese made from raw milk. It tastes so unbelievably good that I’m devouring the leftovers right now.
If I wasn’t a foodie before, I think I’m turning into one this summer. We’ve gotten raw milk for a few years now and are beginning to experiment a little more with homemade whipped cream, butter, yogurt, Greek yogurt, kefir, cheese, whey (what do you do with whey?! This site recommends washing your face with it, but that’s a little too far-fetched for me as of yet. It kind of sounds like choosing a perfume named “sour milk.”)
A friend gave us some scoby (which my spellcheck just flagged, but Google confirms I’m spelling correctly). Ben has started to make kombucha with as much enthusiasm as someone who brews their own beer. I totally take back anything bad I’ve said about kombucha. It’s been a few years, like since college, since I allowed myself a practically unlimited supply of cold, carbonated beverage in the summertime. Now years after basically quitting soda, I have something to sip on hot summer afternoons. I don’t know that I’d recommend going straight from soda to kombucha since it’s a bit of an acquired taste, but it certainly is nice to know you’re drinking wellness in a cup and it actually tastes good.
In the 80s and 90s when I grew up, I think the health food movement was associated with vegetable burgers and tofu and textured vegetable protein and other strange things masquerading as food while actually taking you one step farther from nature than the thing they were replacing. I’m grateful those days are gone, and that today health food basically means good food, really good food, like once you’ve tasted broccoli straight from the garden fried with tender slices of grass-fed steak, there really is no going back.
I’m currently reading The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball, a fascinating account of a travel writer turned farmer. It’s pretty much convinced me (not that I needed convincing) that farming would not be the best career choice for us, and I never want to make black pudding. That said, it’s been an enlightening and entertaining read that has helped me appreciate local food more. This afternoon I was laughing over the story of her haphazard wedding, and Elanor, nursing, looked up at me quizzically. There is at least one selfish reason why Elanor is not yet weaned, which is that I hesitate to give up my dwindling reading time.
I was grateful for other reasons this week that I hadn’t weaned Elanor yet. Monday she broke her leg going down a slide. It was pretty sad at Urgent Care, looking at the X-rays of two little bumps in her tiny bones and understanding why she was favoring that leg so much and not her happy self. I feel a little perturbed with myself as a mom, that this is the second broken bone my very young children have had, and maybe I should just encase them in protective bubbles from now on.
Two days later, and Elanor is anxious and petulant. She hates her leg brace with a passion, and is frustrated to have lost so much freedom of movement. It’s kind of like a dark cloud has settled over the house that only lifts when she is sleeping. I’m trying to remind myself this will only last about a week since baby bones heal so fast.
Elanor just turned one year old, and spends the better part of her waking hours in communication with us. It’s amazing how much a young child can communicate, through various sounds and gestures, and recently through sign language she’s learning from the Baby Signing Time videos. I love to watch her personality blossom, to understand so much of what she says, and to know she understands me back. She spends the better part of each day, at least she did before her accident (now she just fusses), asking to watch Baby Signing Time, to eat yet another cracker or banana or preferably both, to go outside, to see Daddy, to wear shoes, or to nurse to sleep.
Usually I love all the communication and find Elanor delightful, with her strong will, her constant appetite for food, her love of the outdoors, her desire to be interacting and involved, her insistence that she can do everything that David does. Then there are moments that I think if she demands something one more time, or tears apart one room when I’m just beginning to clean another, that I am going to go insane.
David turned four this month just before Elanor turned one, and so far four has been a breath of relief. Three and a half, and especially as David would say “three and three quarters” was frankly terrible, with its tantrums and tears and “what in the world am I doing wrong and why is my son behaving this way?” I learned a lot in those months about my own insecurities as a parent and my desire to be in control.
Now we have finally broken through into age four, and though a few tantrums managed to sneak across the border with us, we’ve mostly come out into much better behavior. Suddenly David is actually a helper, a good playmate to Elanor, someone who can follow very simple directions with a sense of importance that he’s actually doing it. Right now he’s playing legos quietly by himself and has been for almost an hour, which is basically a dream come true for me.
I wish I could remind myself whenever parenting goes badly—you’re in the rapids now, but you will get through to calmer waters. It’s not necessarily anything you’re doing wrong that’s got you here. Just keep going, get advice from parents you respect, and it may take days or weeks or months of years, but you will make it to the other side.
Communication with David is like a constant game of Twenty Questions, only I wish we stopped at twenty. Like Elanor, he wants to communicate almost constantly. (I like putting them in a room together and then escaping so that they can talk at each other, which usually goes well for about two minutes.)
David says all sorts of strange things, and I’m learning to roll with it. He’s a little shy around strangers, and will turn to me with loud earnestness: “Don’t tell anyone that we are superheroes!” The other day when one of his aunts told him she liked food, he responded solemnly, “You should like people better than things.”
David likes to sit back and observe a situation, and only jump in when he’s confident that it’s safe and he can do it well. Sometimes this frustrates me, like when all his friends are playing with water balloons, and he is resolutely dry in the corner, only jumping in to play when it’s almost time to leave. I’m learning to be patient with him. He’s currently in a swim class, and his achievement as of day six was that he got his head wet. We are getting somewhere!
If there’s something I’m learning this June (other than that I love food, but I knew that already), it’s that God has entrusted to me David and Elanor, these two very unique individuals, and my job is not to wish that they were different or easier, but to love them—over the calm stretches, through the rapids, across the broken bones and late bedtimes and bad shopping trips. I find myself wishing at times that they would roll with things a little better and not get so hung up on details, but I need to learn that first.