Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Breaking Fast of Champions

Learning to read the tea leaves of my various children’s inclinations and interests has often left me struggling between the desire to raise each child individually and the functional ease of running an army in which choices and options are extremely limited.

As a mom, it’s just simpler to say “Okay dogfaces, make your beds and get dressed or there’s no breakfast.” And “Drop and give me 20 minutes of cleaning before you get a minute of computer time.” than it is to accommodate the fact that on any given Saturday, three got up at six to watch cartoons, two more awakened at six-thirty, didn’t like the shows that were on and went back to sleep after fixing themselves waffles, and three play the Wii system downstairs until noon when their fingers give out and they notice...they're starving.

If I wait until everyone is up to cook, I’ll be here until eleven thirty and have blown the morning. If I feed people on demand, I’ll be a short order chef all day. The trick in a large family, is learning when to switch into the mode of raising nine only children, and when it’s time to raise only nine, and when it is time to raise Cain.

On the subject of sons and daughters also rising, I have come to the following hard and fast rule. “If you are old enough to read, you are old enough to feed yourself on Saturday morning.”

My daughters rejoiced at this new found freedom and promptly got out the griddle and made pancakes. My oldest son fired up the microwave to make himself some bacon. Having started the project, they now needed supervision to usher the breakfast through to safety. I got to cook pancakes. I got to cook bacon and show how to clean out the oven. I even had the luxury of making eggs for the two toddlers that saw the eggs used for pancakes and began caterwauling for a scrambled breakfast. It was 11:30 am and I had a pile of dishes and only six of nine children fed. I had snitched a piece of burnt bacon and a pancake sopped in syrup. It would have been grossly unfair to deny my middle son his modest request for oatmeal with raisins and cut up apple but I can’t say I didn’t feel tempted.

After cleaning up, I created the supplemental rule. The corollary to this parental guideline is, “If you make a mess, you will be cleaning it up.” Suddenly, the kid that said “Food taste better on real plates.” preferred paper. Suddenly, my daughter liked microwaved scrambled eggs. Suddenly, stuff coming out of a toaster tasted “really good.” However, meals were still being drifted into like high tide, and the menu ran the gamut from sausage and grits to hot chocolate and apples.

To minimize traffic congestion and mess, I set hours for the kitchen when the cafeteria is closed. It may seem a bit petty but I firmly hold that there is no way the kids can be more fatigued than me, and as such, if I can’t sleep until ten, why should they? The first time I instituted kitchen closing hours, there were howls of protests from the older children.

“I’m sorry, but the Board of Health requires that we suspend food preparation for the next ninety minutes pending clean up from the first meal of the day.”

“But I didn’t eat.” My son protested.

Now lest anyone think I am heartless, I will stipulate that I had seen this same teen scarf down three pieces of cold pizza as soon as he opened the refrigerator.
“You just had…” I pointed to the plastic bag containing the last humble piece of pepperoni from Friday night.
“That was just a snack.”

Looking at the individualized choices that ranged from peanut butter on toast to hot chocolate and an apple to microwave pancakes to baked cinnamon rolls, I have come up with one more rule for managing the kitchen on weekends.

Bring Mom breakfast in bed and don’t tell me what you’re eating. Just clean up afterwards.


Anonymous said...

Hey there,

Love the blog. As a mother of seven fewer than nine, I can tell you that the kitchen scenario you write about is NO different in our houehold! Yep, that's right. One up early, one up later; kitchen gets cleaned up and then it's time for lunch! Seems like it is one big eating, tidying and putting away fest 'til at least noon - sometimes later. Oh the joys of being a mom! Truly...

Happy Mother's Day to all moms!

MightyMom said...


too funny.

My grandmother would always pronounce (usually right after she'd finished cleaning the kitchen) "The Kitchen is CLOSED!"

I see she isn't alone.

Lisa said...

Oh, my gosh! You are living my life! I can't decide whether to feel comforted or dismayed ~ but I think I've landed on "comforted" because I know I can use the word "dismayed" and you'll understand and not think about calling social services or a psychiatrist for me.

It's very nice to meet you! Sara, at Mighty Mom sent me over. (She's such a sweety!) I'm the mom of ten children and can totally relate. I love your sense of humor! I'll be dropping around your porch often, I think... &:o)

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!