I am learning to cook some modest amount of French cuisine (and loving it, I might add). Today for breakfast, on a lark: oeuf en cocotte; eggs baked in ramekins – with cream and butter and a wee bit of fresh parmesan. At 10:30 my son thundered down the stairs, “What smells so good?!” he shouted. The kids set the table, scrambled up. Their faith in and love of my cooking is truly an inspiration and quite heartening for me.
It took longer to get the food on the table than I’d expect; I need my egg whites at a medium finish. Peeking in and out of the oven, edgy and bored, and the kids’ rowdiness in our small kitchen grated on my last nerve. As I finally brought the hot morsels to the table some clumsy or abrupt movement of a child climbing around set me off. “Stop it. STOP IT!” (they are literally unable to hear me when they are all revved-up. “This isn’t playtime, this is fucking food!” I fumed as I whacked down a ramekin.
The kids were silent; Sophie slid her plate away from me. I turned to the oven, brought the rest over. Moved back to the table with the salt and pepper, contrite: “Would you like some orange juice?” I asked. My children softened. They are more or less used to my temper, or more specifically, they know that it doesn’t last. I mixed up the juice in their pitcher, sat down, and deliberately apologized for my outburst. We enjoyed a surprisingly delicious breakfast; I felt giddy at yet another delicious dish learned.
I think one of the pleasures of life is serving a meal to your loved ones and watching them tear into it, pausing only to repeatedly praise the repast.
Later, after groceries and errands, I fiddled about in the kitchen cooking beouf bourgingnon while the kids entertained themselves, including drafting up a garage sale, cracking a child’s schoolbook on study habits (purchased last Friday at a church rummage sale for ten cents), and drawing then cutting out ferocious kitten masks decorated brightly and ferociously like luchadores. Both their spelling and worksmanship impressed me; my son’s writing is improving enough that I can’t always tell it from his older sister’s.
Although I am fiddling with the temptation to place my children in a private school next year (with a generous scholarship this is just financially feasable for us), it sometimes seems obvious that our current track of unschooling is what works best for our family.
I have a few problems with this. First, I sometimes feel I am only just able to handle having my kids around me near 24/7. I feel the fault is my own; I am simply not a groovy-enough Mama to accept without protest or miniature breakdown the infringements on my daily freedom. To be fair, I know that if I worked all day and came home to the wee ones I’d have about the same amount of miniature breakdowns. I guess I am just a colossal ass. I am not sure what to do with this aspect of my persona, something that has given me a lot of personal emotonal pain.
Secondly, the same part of me that longs for freedom knows on some level she would not allow much more of it to herself. The prospect of school for my children gives me the illusion I’d have more time for myself, and that I’d actually spend that time – on myself. Sometimes I fantasize about having more time to do yoga or work on the home-sewn lovelies I so love to create; yet God Knows what I tend to prioritize is cooking and housecleaning and doing things with the kids when I have a choice of where to put my efforts. I know from Sophie’s first and only year in public school that I would likely find myself to and fro the schoolhouse anyway, volunteering my time and staying up making flyers or binding little project books.
I might think I long for more time for myself and my exploits, more space (what does that mean?), but my genuine joy and interest in my kids’ day-to-day life – and a personal ambition, as well as some sense of obligation I can’t quite put my finger on – keep me away from these such that at present I might be getting the most of this “me time” I’d allow myself in any case. At the end of the day the laundry is done and the counter wiped clean and maybe I haven’t gotten quite as far on the silk shirt as I’d hoped; yet most days I’ve acheived at least an hour of sewing.
I call this a victory, for now.