No Two Ways About It, That’s Strange. (Part 4)

The following facts about me are important pre-requisite knowledge for reading this particular blog. Most of you will know at least two out of three, so don’t get excited.

I was a vegetarian from birth until I was 18 years old.
I have always been strictly Kosher.
I am an infuriatingly and nonsensically bad eater.

So you can probably see where I am going with this. My attitudes to food are not exactly adventurous. I generally don’t order things in restaurants unless I know every ingredient inside it, and can see as few of them as possible. Even then, I bother waiters all around north west london on a regular basis with orders such as, “I’ll have the pesto and olive pasta, without the pesto, and with lots of cheese. And y’know what? No olives.”

Generally, my tastes haven’t changed since I was a kid, with a few notable exceptions. I now force myself to try new things once in a while, I now eat salad as long as it hasn’t seen a cut up tomato, (how hard is it to leave the cherry tomatoes whole?!) and I’m an unashamed carnivore, much to my mothers dismay.

But (and here comes my point) in absolutely no world, no matter how adventurous an eater I was, or however irreligious I became, or however little I thought of the animal kingdom, could I ever fathom people who trek to a specialist candy store to purchase the below.

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Sour cream and onion Crickets. For those intrigued rather than repulsed, they also offer Chilli, and Sea Salt flavours.

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These are basically the dare-devils answer to a bag of Revels. My advice is the same for both. I would recommend not munching through a box at the cinema. Nothing worse than chomping down on an orange treat and discovering its a sneaky coffee flavoured horror. I would imagine its similar when you think you’re getting a delicious beetle and accidentally begin chewing a centipede. Imagine how terrible that would be.

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This one is by far the oddest. After all, I obviously don’t know what insects taste like, and for all I know they’re delicious. (But if you’re gonna tell me they’re ‘just like chicken’ my advice would be, eat chicken, it’s not nearly £4 a bite.)
But this isn’t even really eating an insect! It’s just a worm, inside an ordinary lollipop. So you basically are eating an extortionately expensive chupa chup, with a bug in the middle. Do you crunch down on the worm when u get near the end? Is the idea to try and keep it whole?

I don’t get it. I don’t even mean from a disgusting point of view, because I’m in the ‘animals are animals’ camp. There really is no difference in my mind between eating a cow or eating a ‘cute little rabbit’ if kosher wasn’t a factor for me. I was more shocked by the deceit than the ingredients of Tesco’s horse burgers for example.

I just don’t understand why anyone would spend a fortune to eat a bug. They can’t be filling, I don’t really believe that you can taste anything under all the chocolate or seasoning they apparently need to be palatable, and they cost about ten times the price of a regular, delicious, non creepy crawling twix bar.

So I suppose it must be a status thing. Much in the same way that men swig beer, or teenagers down tequila shots, if you have enough wasps maybe they go from horrible to bearable to quite nice really, with the added benefit that you can pat yourself on the back for being part of an elite few, part of the latest fad, part of the new sensation.

Must make you feel bad when you’re watching Pinocchio though. “Always let your conscience be your snack” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, after all.

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Grow up, or don’t show up.

There are people in my life who exhibit unbelievably childish behaviour. One of those people is my two year old son. The other ones, are unfortunately significantly older. Here’s a list of what I feel is just unacceptable behaviour after the age of 6. All of which I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing this very week.

Hanging up the phone mid sentence.

Oh, I’m sorry. Do you not like what I’m saying? Have I upset you in some way? You have two options. One of them is to tell me what’s on your mind and let us have a conversation about it. The other is to say “To be honest I don’t think this is going anywhere constructive, can we pick this up again later?” On no planet is it normal to just hang up with no warning, especially when you preface it with “You’re being ridiculous.” The dial tone begs to differ on who the ridiculous one is.

Giving the silent treatment. 

We all need space from time to time, especially after a difference of opinion or an argument. You can even be forgiven for screening calls when you just aren’t ready to talk to someone yet. But please don’t show up at my house if you’re not going to answer a direct question. Similarly, the Muttering Treatment may be even ruder. Especially when I say “Sorry, what was that?” and you revert back to silence. Either the argument is over, (in which case, get over it) or it isn’t (in which case-let’s talk about it).

Walking away mid sentence. 

I’m well versed in this one, as my toddler loves doing it. I’m trying to explain something, or ask him a question and suddenly, “Hey, where’d you go?” It can be quite endearing in a 2 year old. But I would imagine your concentration levels are greater than 4 seconds, so please give me the respect of letting me finish a sentence.

Overreactions, or tantrums in response to absolutely nothing.

We’ve all been there with our kids. a 45 minute screaming fit over the sausages touching the peas on the plate. Or a variety of toys thrown at our heads because they wanted their socks put on before trousers today. Really R? If this is how upset you get now, what will your response be when I’m forbidding you a party on a school night, or making you get a job to help afford a car? Anyway, again-understandable (but no less frustrating)  in a two year old or even a teenager, but please grow out of it by middle age. Thanks.

Calling names

The old adage ‘sticks and stones,’ has never rung particularly true to me. And most adults will agree that while cuts and bruises heal, there is really no way to take back abusive and angry words. Whatever you think of someone, especially if they are family, you might want to refrain from labelling them too harshly (to their face anyway-we all need to vent from time to time). You cant honestly believe you’re going to be angry forever, and however much I may laugh and smile with you when it’s all over, and even though forgive and forget has to be the name of the game in any even semi-functioning family, I can’t un-hear you calling me a selfish spoilt cow.

Genuinely, I’m not sure what to suggest in response to the treatment I’ve had this week. Immature behaviour deserves the same response I would give a child. I can’t exactly put you in the naughty corner for a time-out, and anyway I don’t have the rest of my life free to wait for you to say sorry. I could take access to your favourite things away, and not let you see us, in the same way I might take away R’s Winnie The Pooh at bedtime if he didn’t touch supper, but I’m really not interested in stooping to your own childish level of playing games. I’ve pretty much been trying positive reinforcement ever since our relationship started, and short of actually making you a star chart, I’m not sure I could make you feel a more wanted part of our life than we already do.

So grow up. Because you’re in a privileged position that one of us has decided to be an adult for the time being. But there’s nothing like immaturity to make everyone around you regress themselves. And if I decide to start walking away as well, you might not find it so easy to get me to come back.

Holocaust Memorial Day 2013.

We will never forget.

These words have been everywhere the last few days, commemorating Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day.

Amongst the six million Jewish souls who were brutally extinguished by the Nazi’s, were 1.5 million Jewish children, only one of whom I know the name of.

Edith, my namesake, was just a young child when her life was taken away from her, along with her mother Sabina, (my grandmothers sister) and my great-grandparents Chaim and Malka. And of course, countless others.

Edith was my mothers first cousin, the only one she would ever have, and yet her death came before my mother was even born. The easy family rapport that spans oceans and forgives absences and long silences was therefore never my mothers to experience. The large family gatherings of shared memories and relatives and marking anniversaries and birthdays together was just a fantasy to stand on the outside of, looking in.

Edith would have one day had favourite foods, books and games. She would have had teen romance and best friend quarrels and anxieties. Perhaps at her batmitzvah, in the forties, my grandmother would have been holding my aunt in her arms just a baby herself, dancing with her sister, Edith’s mother, and sharing the closeness that she would in reality only see secondhand in her own girls. Maybe my own mother and her sister would have been bridesmaids at Edith’s wedding, all dressed up in meringue dresses with giant bows in the dated style of the sixties. Maybe they would have been too old to be flower girls, instead dressing in modern gowns that my granddad wouldn’t have approved of but never would have said for embarrassment and fear of female confrontation. The cousins would have danced together excitedly, maybe best friends or maybe not, but family nonetheless.

My brothers and my cousins were born in the seventies, and never had second or third cousins to play with or visit. I have spent Jewish festivals since i was 8 years old, and many a happy memory, with my second cousins on my fathers side of the family, and I assure you, the words may sound distant, ‘removed’ or ‘third’ but they couldn’t be more kin to me than my own siblings.

Our walls are covered with the ghosts of photos which could have been. The unborn children who should have played and fought together, the hastily snatched dinners of her generation all together when babysitters or favours could be taken advantage of. Me, a little girl in the late eighties, celebrating Edith’s 60th birthday, perhaps covered in cake and smiles I would never remember. The six of us, our mothers children, surrounded by more blurred faces, our second cousins, maybe Edith’s own nephews and nieces had they been allowed a chance at life. As the decades go on, more colourful digital snaps, less spontaneous because we can now try as many times as we need to get it right. Edith, standing with her arms around our mothers at our wedding, me dancing dutifully with her and her children; aching to finish so I can grab my own friends. A shiny image of her holding our own R, her great great nephew a few days after his birth. She would be in her eighties now, vibrant and strong, unscarred by tragedy.

Every memory I’ve listed had the potential to exist. They aren’t fantasy, they should have been our history. They were stolen from her, and stolen from us as well. We will never know the make up of our family had Hitler not decided to murder her innocent soul, before she even took her first steps or said her first words. She was one child, one person, one story. In our own family we have half a dozen more stolen lives, and in our community countless more. As a nation, six million stories and lifetimes were brutally snatched from those of us left behind. Never forget? The true tragedy is that we were never given the opportunity to remember the memories which were rightfully ours.

May God ensure that their perfect souls are resting in everlasting peace.

On Bribery and Bargaining

We’ve all been there.

A frustrating meal time with a lovingly prepared plate being turned down to the tune of angry cries and unnecessary screams of apparent torture.

A public showdown with an angry toddler in a supermarket who won’t move from the inside of a chest freezer.

Two exhausted parents battling to get a child into bed for longer than forty five seconds at a time.

And we’ve all done it, reached for the biscuit tin, or the chocolate buttons. It’s so easy to manage the situation that way, without raised voices or threats or wasting hours of your time. Aside from that, it’s such a relief to finally have an old enough child that can be reasoned with enough to make a compromise. Eat five more bites of lunch and u can have a chocolate button. If you stay in your bed, I’ll go get you a biscuit. What a pleasure to not have a baby, to not have to reiterate your expectation seventeen different ways, speaking slower and louder as if your child is a Japanese tourist, with large expansive gestures. and at the end of the exchange you’re no better off, with the same comprehension success rate as you would have with the tourist. It’s just so tempting to save yourself the hassle, especially considering the extent of your compromise. It’s one piece of choc. It’s one animal biscuit, it’s a tiny bit of juice. What’s the harm really?

(I would add at this point its not just food, it’s also DVDs, iPad games, etc. basically any ‘treats’ which the kid doesn’t have on tap. In our house unsurprisingly, unhealthy food holds the most allure.)

But at what point does making your life easier simply become spoiling your child?

Lately, I’m beginning to think its much less about how large the treat is, and more about the power play.

To emphasise, let me share a story from this week. R and I were sitting at his table, enjoying a (delicious, not that it matters) lunch of pasta and sauce. I’m aware my son likes his pasta exactly the way I did until I was 16-entirely plain and not touching any other foods. And it makes me want to scream. (Yes, I’m aware of the irony, and yes, I should probably apologise to my own mum.) but I’m trying really hard to break R’s habit at a younger age to my own. After fifteen mins of unsuccessful yum yum noises and many coaxing attempts at telling him what a big boy he is, reading stories and the like, I was ready to scream into a pillow. I turned to him and reached for my hidden Ace. “R? If you eat your pasta, you can have TWO choc buttons. Wowww” I stressed, emphasising the excitement of doubling the usual bribe.
My son sat down in his seat, and picked up his spoon with one hand. Pausing before he began eating, he turned to face me. Using all his new mathematical skills, he spread his other hand in my face, fingers outstretched.

“No.” He smiled through his tearstained face. “Five.”

As momentarily shocked as I was at my two year old playing hardball, I managed to remember my policy of not negotiating with terrorists, and he went to bed without any lunch at all.

But the episode has stayed with me. If I’d given him the five choc buttons, he would have happily munched down the entire plate of food, and it would still have been less choc than I would offer as a special treat in other circumstances. We brush his teeth regularly, he eats healthily and has sugar in moderation, it wouldn’t have done him any damage physically. But what’s stopping him asking for ten next time? Or a snickers bar for that matter? And how can I say no when I’m the one who has given him the expectation that eating his meals = chocolate. Or staying in bed = biscuits? And even more so, that its up to him to set the boundaries?

For me it’s a hard one. I don’t want to give up the ability to fix a problem 123, and sometimes when the food is new or the sleep is urgent I really don’t mind the normal rules dropping by the wayside. But I suppose I’ve noticed how easy it is for them to get lost altogether, and for the ‘one offs’ to become everyday practices. And with what amounts to a tiny little sponge learning from everything we do and say, creating his own world of right and wrong behaviour around our actions, I hope I can try and find some healthier methods of coercion at the next macaroni cheese slinging event or 2am wake up call.

bribing mealtime

Unexplained absence ( = 1 order mark.)

“You haven’t blogged in a really long time.”

I keep being told this lately. I’m not sure what the multiple speakers intent are, but I hope it isn’t to enlighten me to this obvious fact. It’s not like I’ve been typing numerous blogs all of which have somehow not made it from the publish button onto the home page, hovering somewhere in semi space, and I’ve been sitting at home wondering where all my likes are at.

Equally it would be impossible to simply ‘forget’ about my blog, as selfishly therapeutic and mind cleansing as it has become. In fact I would say there was a point where I was almost too reliant on the smile inducing magic of a new follower, or the mood elevation which correlated with my visitor stats.

Maybe you’ve missed me, (she injects hopefully.) and have been fruitlessly searching for a witty way to discuss late winter colds and coughs in toddlers, or feel better about your own babies fractious sleep by logging it against our non-existent rest. Maybe you also have parental strife, and take some kind of sadistic pleasure in comparing notes. Maybe you just know me outside of this endless scroll of screen and are just purely nosy. Either way, I suppose I owe you an explanation of sorts, for setting up the expectation that I would be around, and then disappearing without a word. If you know me well enough to know that’s actually pretty in character for me, then I suppose no explanation is necessary.

Sometimes, you just need a break. Sometimes, the very act of talking about the same things constantly can make them self fulfilling prophecies. Sometimes it just makes them tedious, even to the writer.

I don’t have any new gripes, I’m sorry to tell you. A couple things have changed, I’m now in solo-counselling instead of duo, my son talks (mostly rubbish but hey, he’s a man) and I’m finding some direction in my career aspirations. I still hate lateness and inattentive parenting and struggle with whether any woman really has a work/life balance to speak of. I still find jokes about grammar hilarious and I still worry that I’ll always let parental relationships define my own adulthood in a negative way.

Don’t think that means I haven’t had things to talk about. I’ve just had to discuss them with a combination of my unsympathetic son and the flattering hallway mirror I intend to pilfer when we leave our rental appt. I’m excited to hear what you think of their insights. Topics (and possible blog titles) to come, include:

  • The woman who told me I enjoy being horrible to toddlers.
  • Gluten free potato hater.
  • Interviewing a hand puppet book.
  • If you can’t make my son sleep then I will punish you by obsessively writing about it.

(and my personal favourite at the moment)

  • “I’m not trying to be rude, but don’t you agree your degree was a colossal waste of time?” Subtitle-now get back in the kitchen.

If that doesn’t make you hit the follow button, then nothing will. Either way, you can breathe a sigh of relief that I wasn’t abducted by aliens with all our planets secrets. I’d make a terrible ally under duress.

On the other hand, you may empathise more with the sentiment below.

Amusing cartoons, just one more thing that hasn’t changed around here.

Did You Miss Me