It had such a promising start. For the first time in… let’s be honest, ever… I sent my daughter to school with a thermos full of delicious, homemade vegetable soup. Homemade – by me, and not just the kind where you open a packet and add a few things to feel like you’re somehow contributing to the process. I cut all these vegetables with my own two hands. Eat your heart out Betty Crocker!
I’m afraid the day didn’t live up to its potential. According to my nine-year-old, it will forever be remembered as one of the worst days in the entire history of bad days. It wasn’t the math quiz or even the science test she forgot to study for. It wasn’t post-Halloween letdown or friend drama. It was the soup.
It’s not what you are thinking, really! I know I have repeatedly decried my ability as a cook, but this is ridiculously yummy soup. I’m eating some right now.
The problem was a SLIGHTLY loose lid on the thermos. Just loose enough to let the liquid seep out and pool in her bag, soaking books, gym strip and a collection of Very Important Things that she apparently carts back and forth to school each day: a mirror, a pencil sharpener shaped as a bear, a clip from the chip bag, an old paintset, an umbrella, a special bag of kleenex, a single glove and several broken pieces of pencil lead (which she diligently collects and counts; she is now up to 2,382). At this point my little hoarder-in-training began to notice a certain stickiness down her back and legs. When she opened her backpack – soup everywhere.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, gym class that day consisted of a run around the field. Wearing her everyday shoes instead of runners, she slipped and ended up face down in the mud. So much for that new hoodie. I’m not quite sure why she chose not to call home for a change of clothes (and some more soup), but I’m proud that she tried to make the best of it.
Some kids are quite resilient to this sort of thing; it just isn’t that big a deal. But my little C is not one of those types of people. Spending an entire day sticky, muddy and smelling like vegetable soup was quite the dark night (day) of the soul for her. And it was entirely my fault… mea culpa, mea culpa.
And I know just why I did it. You see, last year I had a bit of thermos problem. Since my girls don’t really like sandwiches, we tend to use them a lot, and I’ve always been kind of paranoid about potential spillage. So I put those lids on with extreme prejudice. Unfortunately, the whole point of the thermos is that it can also be opened – by tiny, little hungry hands. More often than not, they would have to get a class moniter or teacher, and occasionally even trot down to the office to find someone to open it. As if that isn’t embarassing enough, there were times NO ONE could open it. By the third time one brought home an unopened, uneaten thermos of lunch, I knew I had to change my ways.
So this year I bought new thermos’ and vowed to use a light touch. I wish I could say the soup incident was the first of its kind. This year my kids are bringing home soggy lunchbags and damp backpacks. In trying to fix the problem, I over-corrected.
Last month we spent a weekend in the mountains with my in-laws. The timeshare had a games room in the basement; all kinds of arcade games, free and unlimited. I became obsessed with “Long Haul Trucker”. I can’t blame the kids either, since I snuck down there without them one night in my pajamas.
I am bad at it – really, truly terrible. By the end of the weekend, I had made it to the first checkpoint only once. I would watch my brother-in-law calmly drive down the middle of the road and blow past checkpoint after checkpoint. When my turn came, I couldn’t seem to maintain balance. As I drifted too far on one side of the road, I would swerve to the other and before I knew it I was all over the road – veering first one way and then the next. Once again, I seem to constantly over-correct.
I do this in life too. When faced with a problem I often react by veering to the extreme. Sometimes it is a reaction to my upbringing. My parents are very easy-going and take life as it comes, but I feel the need to schedule and plan everything I possibly can (and some things I can’t). Other times I am trying to replace a bad habit with it’s polar opposite. This is why, all too often, my diet attempts end in a sugary blaze of shame, then back to a week of rice cakes and cabbage soup, and so on and so on.
Take a deep breath. Release that white-knuckled grip on the wheel (or thermos). And remember that most of the time, the best path to where I’m going is the middle of the road.
So here’s me, packing sandwiches from now on.
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