Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Home alone, food trials, and spiritual lessons

E left on Sunday to spend this whole week at a rural indigenous community in Port Augusta, near Adelaide, as part of the med school course.

That means that I have the whole house and the toddler to myself this week. Normally, if this happened in Singapore there would be no reason for anyone to bat their eyelids at this.

But over here, I'm suddenly struck by how we're completely left to ourselves here, and if anything should happen to either Dylan or I, our nearest relative is 2 hours' drive away in Melbourne.

It doesn't help that E is in some one-horse town in the rural outback with no mobile network reception. The last time I heard from him was Monday evening when he arrived at the camp, and even then he had spent 30 minutes climbing a rather steep hill to get a just single bar on his mobile phone.

In other words, beside the landline number under the words "Pitchie Richie" he wrote on a post-it stuck on our refrigerator door, my husband is practically uncontactable.


Still, when he left I told E that I'm fairly comfortable here, and confident that we'll get by O.K. this week until he returns this Sunday evening.

You see, I'm a real optimist that way. Always have been. And that's probably the cause of this mommy's downfall.

2 days have passed, and I'm now in a rather different frame of mind.

In the 2 days without E around, the boy has thrown up twice. Once yesterday after throwing a tantrum when we got home from his MMR and meningoccal shots (poor thing had two needles simultaneously enter each arm... :0), and tonight.

Tonight, I tried guilting him into eating his dinner by losing my cool and crying my eyes out right in front of him, only to see him reciprocate by crying himself into a fit, and promptly throwing up the rest of the little bit of dinner he had ingested.

It all started when I foolishly believed that if I tried hard enough to make a yummy meal fun, it would work and the boy would eat more than his routine four spoonfuls. It's all part of my natural optimism, you see.

This was my bait - meatballs in tasty tomato sauce, an Annabel Karmel recipe I slogged three hours yesterday over, and chicken rice balls inspired by Little Gastronomy:

Chix Rice Balls c Beef meatballs

In case you didn't see it, the plate was arranged to look like a face. I used some leftover chicken rice from yesterday, heating it with milk until it boiled into a porridge-like texture and added instant potato mash to make it gooey enough to fashion into rice balls. It took 10 minutes.

The boy really enjoyed using his fingers to gobble down the rice balls, but he left the meatballs untouched and wanted to leave his seat.

After many futile attempts to get him to tackle the meat, I suddenly lost it.

I was overcome with a tsunami-sized wave of self-pity. Hang on, I spent 3 hours yesterday on these Annabel Karmel meatballs, and you prefer my lousy leftover 10-minute rice balls to this?!

So I raised my voice at him, and said have you any idea how much time mommy spent making this just for you?! I have another 20 meatballs left in the casserole dish you know! Now what am I going to do with them?

Of course, you know the rest of the story. As though it wasn't cruel enough that my frustrations stem from him eating so little, this mommy had to witness the heart-rending sight of her little boy promptly throwing up even those lousy riceballs she disdained so much.

I'm shaking my head and smiling as I write this now, but at that moment, I honestly wondered if this would be the longest week of my life without the calm intervention of another adult in this home.

So, to conclude, I'm beginning to think that I need a lot more strength to face up to when my efforts don't render the results I desire. Parenting is one way this comes through so powerfully!!!

In a devotional passage last week from Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest, I read about how disillusionment can be a good thing.

Based on John 2:24-25 ("Jesus did not commit Himself to them . . . , for He knew what was in man"), the passage notes that "Disillusionment means having no more misconceptions, false impressions, and false judgments in life; it means being free from these deceptions."

All my life, I've prided myself on one thing: being optimistic - about everything, choosing to believe in the best that people can offer including myself. That just through believing hard enough, things will happen the way I want them to. Of course the lesson from the devotion here was about our disillusionment in other people mainly, and more generally in our own human nature. But I do wonder how it applies to our illusions about ourselves, our abilities.

I'm starting to think that there is thin line between optimism and delusion.

Parenting powerfully forces me come to terms with my limitations, in this case through wrestling with the will of a toddler. At bedtime, I looked at this boy's face smiling up back at mine, and I just felt so bad.

I told him, I'm sorry son. Mommy shouldn't have allowed her bruised ego to be the excuse for raising her voice at you just now. I love you so very much, it just hurts when you don't eat.

He looked kind of blankly back at me, and yawned.

I said, ok you're tired. Goodnight. Turned the lights off and he fell straight asleep.

Oh, I guess that's a blessing I should thank God for. He's now sleeping through the night in his own big boy's bed!


  1. Oh my goodness, poor girl! How you must have felt when he threw up the meatballs... although I never could imagine the sight of you crying your eyes out in front of dylan and trying to guilt him. Parenthood realy tests your sanity and rationality, doesn't it? I'm so glad you shared this though. Even though I found it really hillarious and a little sad at the same time, I can't help but feel I would probably have handled it a lot worse... with a lot less bravado. Hang in there.. you'll get through it and be assured that whatever you're going through now, you'll be able to use it to minister to me when I do go through it later! So there is a reason for this.

  2. Hi there. just reading your entry, I was feeling so sad for you. Indeed, I so totally understand how you feel when you try to cook something special for them, and they tell you they don't like it...I've kinda given up. I give them what I like to eat now. It works better! At least I will be able to eat up the leftovers! Anyway I also had to survive a week alone on my own here last week till the in-laws arrived, and the hubby was not even in the same country! good thing I've found a network of friends in my netball team and the partners of my husband's coursemates. Maybe you need to do something like that with your playgroup mums too, get their contact etc. you never know when u need it. Like I did last week when the battery went flat on our car cos the car doors where left not tightly shut leaving the lights in the car on overnight! there's always a first time for a girl like me to use jump cables to jump-start my own car!!!

  3. hey brave girl! optimism is a good virtue to have. it was that that gae E the confidence to leave for his posting without worries. so you are doing a good job at holding the fort at home!

    can sympathise fully about the food part. my boys are so like that too. i've given up spending too long on preparing their food, since they seem to like eating the plain rice much more. grrrr. i tell myself, one day, they'll appreciate it.

    yup, get some contacts, and also your neighbors will def help if you have an emergency. bank on that!

    pat on your back that you can self-reflect so well (liked what yo wrote in your post). you always solve your own problems, great job!