There’s a story I like to tell—a little
too often, according to my daughters—about one of their elementary school
classmates. Matty lived with his dad a few blocks away from the school, and one
day when we were giving him a ride home he told us about all the different
things he knew how to cook—mac and cheese, tuna sandwiches, quesadillas—because his dad usually didn’t get home in time for dinner.
At the time my girls barely knew how to cut
open a bag of Cheetos, so I told Matty how impressed I was, and that it was
great he could find his way around a kitchen.
“You think so?” he answered innocently.
“Don’t you think it’s wrong that a 10-year-old has to cook all of these things
My heart broke a little right then for Matty.
I knew what he meant; even though it was true that he could make his own dinner, he didn’t always want to and wished someone would prepare that mac and cheese for
him. I wanted to invite him over for dinner every night and feed him a hot
meal, but my girls assured me that would be creepy.
I wish I could say that this incident is
what spurned my overreaching love and need to feed my kids, but sadly my
obsession goes way back. First there were the hours of preparing and freezing
homemade baby food (I would spend hours looking for the best way to make puréed
carrots the most palatable to my 6-month-old’s taste buds), and later there
were those ridiculous sandwiches cut into the shapes of hearts, flowers and
animals that I would stay up late making for their school lunches. Once I even
made eyes for a duck-shaped PB&J out of a dab of cream cheese and a snip of
raisin, just to take the crazy to a whole other level.
They’re in high school now, and even though
their skills have moved beyond Cheetos to include ramen, eggs, grilled cheese
and coffee, I still feed them dinner every night and make their lunches every
single day. Let me show you what this kind of insanity looks like:
Sure, I get accused of coddling my kids.
Last year I made what I thought was an innocent comment on Facebook about being
too tired to cook and how the kids could just make their own dinner. I got
berated by more than a few people who asked why I was still cooking for my
teens anyway, and even a couple of helpful people who pretty much said I was a
bad mom and an enabler and to show my lazy girls how to use a can opener
already. To which I replied, “JUST LET ME TELL YOU THE STORY ABOUT MATTY.”
The truth is I love feeding my kids. It
brings me joy, and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it. I’ll be the one
sending huge care packages to them at college, and preparing elaborate meals
for them when they come home. I’ll insist they bring their boyfriends over for
dinner, and guilt them into regular Sunday dinners when they’ve got their own
families. Eventually, I’ll be the grandma who says, “You should all spend Thanksgiving
here, it may be my last one,” every single year. And if they refuse? I just
might have a 20-year-old duck-shaped sandwich tucked away in my freezer to remind
them who they’re dealing with.