Mothering brings with it a long set of rules. Not because anyone is forcing me to keep the rules or even telling me I should. Just because I want to do my best, run our household efficiently, keep my children safe, and teach them the many things they need to know about life. Plus, there's the whole sanity issue to consider.
For example- RULE: Do not touch the stove. HOT! NO! NO. I don't care that the stove isn't on- we still don't use it as a ramp for our trucks to park because we DO NOT TOUCH THE STOVE.
Or Perhaps- RULE: We do NOT go fill the bathtub with water, climb in fully clothed, and splash each other silly during that one unguarded moment inbetween Mommy dressing you and walking out the door to take Addison to school. Repeat: we do NOT.
Or even- RULE: You spill it- you clean it up. I don't care that you have the cutest pouty face, the most tired set of arms, and a cry to melt a heart of stone. You pulled that galloon of milk down onto the floor from the counter, causing the plastic to break and milk to flood the kitchen? You are grabbing a rag and helping mop up this mess. (even though your help honestly makes it take longer to clean up!)
Many of my rules involves table manners. Although to even say the words "table manners" in the same sentences as "toddlers" seems ludicrous somehow. As if it is a goal so unattainable it's like chipping away at an iceberg with a soggy toothbrush. (Which reminds me of another rule: STOP using mommy's toothbrush as 1. your own 2. a weapon 3. a cleaning device)
Maybe I'm the only one- but getting both kids to sit, feed themselves neatly, drink out of a cup without dumping the entire thing on the floor and to NOT THROW FOOD three meals a day, seven days a week is more difficult to achieve than Nirvana.
My dining room table has a pending lawsuit against me, the floor under the table has lost the will to live, and 90% of my glass bowls have been brutally murdered (after being thoroughly tortured). No matter how patient I am throughout a day, meal time reduces me to either 1. a sobbing mess 2. insanity 3. mean, mean mommy who does horrible things like yell and turn red in the face when that bowl of beautifully crafted fried rice sails across the room like it somehow magically sprouted wings and decided to take an upside down spin around the room.
Mealtime is a battle around here. (Auto correct changed that to "Meantime". Wise, wise computer.)
But the thing is- this morning as I ate breakfast with Miss Addison, I realized that sometimes these rules are meant to be broken. You see, Addison has this burning desire to eat while sitting ON the table.
Big rule no no.
She bends her flexible self right out of her booster seat straps, climbs on up, holds her bowl in the cutest of ways, and feeds herself quite neatly (all things considered) IF she can sit on the table...with a standing ovation in front of the mirror hanging over the table with some singing and dancing.
This morning Carter was still sleeping; Addison and I sat across from each other at the table with our bowls of cereal; and she started to climb up on the table. And...I'm not even sure why, but I let her. She came over right next to me, fed herself like a pro each piece of Crispy Rice Hexagons doused in milk, and smiled shyly at me between each bite. I tucked her hair behind her ear, let go of my rule, and just enjoyed the moment with my girl. We chatted, we listened to some music on my phone, we enjoyed each other's company. It was delightful. And you know the best part? After her cereal was gone, she said "All done."
I said "All done?" or "More?"
She said "All done" quite decisively and then looked at me earnestly and said "Oatmeal"
A NEW WORD!!! AND REQUEST!!! Nothing makes me happier than Addison communicating what she wants.
I jumped up, made her some oatmeal (she waited quite patiently on the table...admiring herself in the mirror the whole time). I brought it back and it was hot, so we blew on it together (she kept laughing and smiling between each puff of air). But then it was still pretty hot, so she let me feed her bite by bite, blowing on each bite before letting her put it in her mouth. SHE LET ME HELP HER!
Miss Eat-One-Bite-And-Then-Throw-It had now consumed ONE bowl of cereal and ONE bowl of oatmeal. The entire thing.
When she reached for my coffee saying "MINE!", I went to get her a cup of milk and said "THIS is Addison's"
Granted, she then took a sip of milk and spilled the rest....but when I gave her a paper towel she cleaned up the ENTIRE puddle of milk on the table. And wiped her hands (with the same paper towel...lol)
Around here- these are all pretty big victories. And it all started when I let go of my DO NOT SIT ON THE TABLE WHILE YOU EAT rule.
Motherhood doesn't always look like the picture in my head thinks it should. Sometimes an awesome morning in motherhood involves letting my toddler sit on the table, eating oatmeal, laughing with my mouth full, feeding every other bite to Addison, and leaning in close to my sweet girl to let her know that a bowl of cereal has never tasted better than the one shared with her. On the table.
Hmmmmm....perhaps some rules are made to be broken? Not always. Not forever. Just when something else is more important. I don't even know how to define this or even how its supposed to look. I just know I felt it this morning during an amazing breakfast with my daughter. It didn't look like a neat and tidy breakfast, and it certainly broke many Emily Post rules...but it was amazing.
This is actually pretty good timing because my Dining Room chairs just resigned today....coated in Greek yogurt and creaking like unloved antiques...they just walked out the front door saying something about having had "ENOUGH"...slamming the door behind them and disappearing down the street. Enough? Whatever that means.
I have extremely limited energy. I have to pick my battles. And my moments. And goodness knows I need more moments than battles right now. The connection with my kids is what gets me through each day. Safety rules? Non negotiable. Some of the others? I don't think it's as black and white as the TODDLER MOTHER HANDBOOK would have you believe. Sometimes different children need to learn different things different ways. Addison teaches me that daily. Today she learned 1. how to eat a BIG breakfast before school 2. How to ask for what she wanted 3. How to cool down her oatmeal 4. how much her mommy loves her. Success. Sacrificing the "on the table rule"? Worth it.
Dear future Deanna,
If an occasional meal ON the table is necessary for your sanity? Do it. Or else you and your handbook will soon be all alone in the loony bin...(although...does the loony bin have unlimited Netflix streaming? Because maybe we could work out a deal...)