In response to some queries, here was our Shavuot menu. It was successfully nut, seed, dairy, egg, wheat, bean and squash-free.
spice cookies (barley flour)
fed by the culiarily resourceful magid, we provided spelt challah, and feasted on a
roast mango chicken salad (with vinaigrette, rather than mayonnaise)
fruit crumble (although I happily ate chicken salad for dessert)
Indian spiced salmon, a la Alton Brown (thanks, Brownie!)
potato salad with green beans, green olives and roasted tinned artichokes and onion
curried tofu in coconut milk
blueberry pie (with a rye crust)
Persian rose water rice cookies (bleh. No rose flavour to them, a real disappointment.)
2 salsas, one with cilantro & peaches, the other a classic tomato minus jalapenos
lime corn salad
fruit, pear-berry crumble
leftovers, also known as the time in which we collapse and hold our aching tummies.
All told, this was almost too much of a good thing! Outstanding dishes were: the corn salad, the blueberry pie, potato salad, magid's chicken salad (especially when mixed with the eggplant!). Dishes that hold promise: the spice cookies (I used a mix of spelt and barley flour on them. They're better with just barley flour), and Brown's salmon, which was baked instead of broiled. Probably better broiled. And the challah was lighter and whiter with the VitaSpelt flour than the Arrowhead Mills spelt flour. Not that I care about the colour, but the difference is striking.
Conclusions: yum. I won't be able to eat for a week.
Guestage was wonderful, with a lovely array of dear ones and people we just don't see enough, all happy to hang out, eat voraciously and play with small children. One of these guests was the baby's "play partner," as she described herself last week: a person who began as a babysitter and has become a friend. Babysitters and child care professionals are a tricky category for a mama, as they are professional parental substitutes, which means they've much less likely to have shrieked at a child for no reason whatsoever, beyond his unlucky presence in your moment of crisis. Or at least, one hopes not.
Our caregiver is remarkably honest, and admits to me that she knows that parenting is very different than caregiving for a limited number of hours per week. It's like grandparenting without the high sugar quotient and a sheepskin: you play, you enjoy, and you avoid losing your temper over silly little things, knowing that you get to hand the kids back. I'm deeply grateful for her honesty, although I maintain the sneaking suspicion that she'd probably make a better parent than me, most days.
So one Shavuot night, she and I sat on the kitchen floor while I nursed the baby to sleep, and we talked. I told her about my eldest's adjustment and concerns after the baby's anaphylaxis. We brainstormed about ideas for helping him. We talked about communication and teaching kids honesty (my son had told an untruth about something minor earlier, and he and I had worked through that) and of course, talked about food. Long after the baby was snoring at the breast, she told me that she admires my parenting, my calm and communication with my sons and partner, my.....oy. I shriveled inside. I remembered roaring at my son countless times, and how even a subdued roar now triggers an intense response from him, so primed is he to respond to my ire. And I remembered this:
The child had knocked over a bowl of rice (I patiently helped him clean up), spilled his drink (I almost calmly handed him a towel), neglected to pick up several small toys which were painful underfoot, and finally slammed the door to the room where the baby was sleeping. When he hollered down the stairs, I finally snapped. I had just spoken to him about shouting down the stairs while the baby slept...and I seized my opportunity. I ordered him to his room, ignoring his rather sensible explanation ("but I called down the stairs because I didn't want to go down and I wanted you to hear me"), and growled that I'd be back after five minutes. Righteously, I stomped down the stairs.
A few minutes later, having caught my breath and my temper, I left the baby with my partner and went into the child's room. I found him reading a Dr. Seuss book on his bed.
Oh, I said, you are reading. That looks nice - why don't I go and get my
book, and we can sit and read together.
You are talking to me in a different voice, he said thoughtfully. You
aren't the angry scary Mummy now, are you?
I resisted the urge to pour out apologies and excuses, kissed him and went to fetch my book.
It's the reality of his world: the all-powerful adults who care for him can also be the most frightening creatures imaginable. I remember when he was two, and I roared at him for something. He froze, burst into tears, and rushed to cling to my legs. Even though I was the source of his distress, I was also his place of safety and ultimate comfort. The combination of the two roles flattened me.
It astonishes me how sensitive he is to my moods, and how easy it is to set him up to respond in anticipation of my emotional spillage. I know that he is a resilient kid, but he's also so easily moulded, psychologically, that it frightens me a bit. What an enormous responsibility to nurture this person, to not break or at least bend him irretrievably! Inevitably, I will fail somehow, if only to give him some angst to use when he's a teenager. So, while I'm tempted to bask in the praise of our caregiver, I think instead I will rest comfortably in this reality: this week, I parented well more than I parented badly. Sometimes I was even proud of my parenting. And that will just have to do me.
Note to the reader: this is not a plea to have my maternal ego massaged. Feet, yes - ego, no.