Unfit Father

Published on October 7th, 2015 | by Richard Black

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Where Does the Time Go? On the Subject of Meals (Part II of IV)

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If you know this guy please ask him why my kitchen defies the laws of space and time.

The last time I checked I devoted about 27 hours each day to the planning and preparation of meals. I realize that a normal day consists of only 24 but the laws of time and space take a vacation when it comes to my kitchen. It’s a conundrum and one I’m trying to enlist Stephen Hawking’s help in solving. If you happen to know him please give him my number. for some reason my site hasn’t made it into those circles.

When I’m not planning meals my family won’t eat or shopping for food that will ultimately be declared “gross” I’m usually preparing them. The activity should only take an hour or two at most but somehow manages to usurp my entire afternoon. It really doesn’t matter how much time I devote to the task or the quality of the ingredients. Unless it’s yogurt, ice cream or a doughnut the odds of my daughter eating anything I’ve prepared are on par with those of a second dick sprouting out of my forehead .

I used to take it personally. These days it’s just the cost of doing business. My wife has a fairly advanced palette and it’s taken me a good decade to be able to provide her with a meal that doesn’t actively engage her gag reflex. My brother in law’s palate was even more limited as a child. Until the age of 17 Stan survived on plain hamburgers unadorned by  ketchup, mustard, or even a little slice of pickle. Around the time he hit college Laura’s brother branched out to cheese pizza and pasta. Darcy appears to be following in her uncle’s footsteps in this regard and by my most optimistic estimates won’t be able to stomach anything more exotic than a French Fry until she’s in her mid forties. Fortunately by that time she’ll be someone else’s problem and if she isn’t then it’s likely she’ll be preparing me meals and the shoe will be on the other foot of the skinned cat or something like that.

Before I became a parent I always thought the act of eating a meal was relatively straightforward process. A meal is prepared, a meal is served and a meal is eaten. Unless of course it isn’t in which case it would show up for breakfast, lunch and then dinner the next day. Negotiation was never part of the process. The idea never even crossed my mind and I’m sure it never entered my father’s either. The mere thought would have probably caused his head to pop off shortly after tattooing my ass with his hand.

It is a brave new world and one in which beating a child for asking if she can eat something else for the four hundred seventeenth time is, apparently, frowned upon. Every morning I spend about thirty minutes convincing my daughter to eat breakfast. Yes breakfast. The meal that every child across the planet universally likes is one I have to coerce my daughter into eating and that’s the easiest part of my day.

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Moby Dick ate a ship. My daughter won’t eat a cheese pizza. I’m not sure what I’m saying here but apparently a whale is more likely to eat a man’s leg and a boat than my daughter will eat a cheese pizza.

My real challenge, my white whale, when it comes to meals is lunch. Lunch used to be a much simpler affair. I’d make a few suggestions, my daughter would refuse them all and I’d serve her a plain tortilla with a few raspberries around two in the afternoon when her blood sugar ran dangerously low. Now that she’s in school I don’t have the benefit of letting my daughter get to the point of starvation before making suggestions. It makes packing a lunch somewhat difficult even though Darcy has previously approved any foodstuff I pack. Five year olds, it turns out, are remarkably fickle.

“Would you eat some cherry tomatoes for lunch?” I ask during our bi-diurnal trip to the grocery store.

“I LOVE CHERRY TOMATOES!!!”

During the same trip my daughter might say the same thing about CheezIts, Brandston Pickle, a can of chili, a jar of cocktail onions and a copy of US News and World Report. Darcy’s enthusiasm at the grocery store is only surpassed by her vehement refusal to eat the same food we’ve selected for lunch the next day.

To complicate matters my daughter is also convinced that she wants to eat the school lunch. Granted school lunches have come a long way since I was a young lad back in the 1980s. Grisly salisbury steak, box mashed potatoes and green beans harvested when the cotton gin came into vogue are no longer staples but neither are the four things my daughter chooses to eat.

Most Fridays the cafeteria serves cheese pizza and a cherry slurpy. It sounds like a slam dunk. My daughter has been known to eat cheese pizza from time to time and by “time to time” I mean for a period of two months when she was four. The problem is that Darcy really believes that she likes pizza at least I assume as much. Five year olds aren’t that great at communication and when I ask her if she likes cheese pizza she might think “cheese pizza” really means “chocolate” or “puppies” or a time when she had a piece of chocolate and saw a puppy.

When the pizza arrives it’s inevitably “too” something. Too well cooked, too cheesy, too saucy. There’s always something “too” wrong with a foodstuff most kids love shortly after being weaned from breast milk. Most of the time Darcy’s outrage is limited to the experience of actually being served a piece of pizza at which point she goes everything short of a full Khrushchev sans shoe.

Occasionally she reserves her reaction for a more public setting when I’m walking her to class. Instead of sending her on her way and letting the teacher deal with the inevitable outburst I will ask her, for the seventeenth time, if she’s sure she wants to order cheese pizza for lunch and that is because I am a moron. A concerned moron. A moron who wants to be certain that his daughter is happy but a moron nonetheless.

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Two other people who didn’t like cheese pizza.

Upon hearing the question my daughter begins to frantically paw through her backpack and, upon finding it sans lunchbox approaches the perceived change in plans with a quiet sort of dignity. I’m kidding of course. Darcy usually howls like a dying cat and I spend the next five minutes trying to convince her that she does, in fact, like plain cheese pizza in front of her teacher, her classmates, their parents and anyone else with the misfortune to walk by.

By the time dinner rolls around I usually just give Darcy whatever she wants to eat regardless of what I’ve cooked. It might be bad parenting but by the end of the day and after nagging my daughter to finish her homework for three hours I don’t care. I give the healthy meal thing a token effort but after three rounds of begging her to have “just one bite”  I SIMPLY WANT MY DAUGHTER TO EAT SOMETHING AND STOP WHINING!!!

Ice cream? Why not. A block of cheddar cheese with a side of Gouda? Go for it. Here have some hard boiled eggs and a ribeye steak. Feel free to wash it down with a quart of whole milk and a few bananas. You might not have a bowel movement for the next four years but at least, for this evening, you’ll be happy.

Good night and may God help us all.

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