This was printed in The Cedar Rapids Gazette as part of my Pants-free Parenting Column. It was printed in February right after a particularly brutal snowstorm. But imagining sweet, sweet, revenge, that’s still a thing.
I wasn’t adequately prepared for the snow storm. The Midwest has been my home for 16 years now and I rarely get worried about warnings of a blizzard. Blizzard predictions are usually all sound and no flurries. Except last Sunday when 10 inches of snow dumped on us and I was trapped in the house with two children and my husband, all demanding food. Also, the dishwasher was broken.
Feeling generous and bored, I spent the whole day baking. I made cinnamon rolls for breakfast, hot ham sandwiches for lunch and for dinner, I roasted a chicken, made garlic mashed potatoes, cranberry-walnut salad and biscuits. The meal was delicious, except I couldn’t enjoy it from all the shrieking.
My children took one look at the food and began wailing as if I had served them the severed limbs of their grandparents. My husband and I chewed in silence while my daughter sobbed into her hands: “I hate this food ten much!” and the baby kicked the table, tears streaming down his face.
This has happened before. And by before, I mean this scene is repeated five week nights out of seven. In fact, a few nights prior when my husband was working late, I had burned dinner while breaking up a fight over who could play with the remote-controlled train. Out of desperation, I feed them garbage—crackers, apple sauce, Jello, cheese sticks. My daughter had declared it “The best night ever.” So, their response shouldn’t have shocked me. But for some reason, this hurt. Maybe it was my raw hands from all the dishwashing. Maybe it was all the time I could have spent reading a book about blood spatter forensics instead of roasting a chicken. I was angry.
Instead of taking my anger out on my children or by taking the chocolate cake I had made for dessert and throwing it into a snow bank, I began to meditate on revenge.
I do this meditating practice often. When my children throw fits because they can’t have popsicles for dinner or ice cream at three am, I imagine them as adults sneaking into their house at two in the morning and screaming in their ears for a sandwich. When they make me that sandwich, I’ll throw it on the floor and declare it, “too yucky!”
When my baby yells “cookie” and tries to kamikaze out of the grocery cart while we are in the checkout aisle. I envision him as a teenager on a date and me walking up to him and yelling “cookie” over and over.
Mostly, these meditation practices are just fiction. I have no real intention of exacting revenge on them for the pain they caused me as children. That’s what grandchildren are for, sweet little, chubby balls of karma. But I remember when I was 15, my mom telling me a story about her friend who disguised herself as an old woman and followed her sons at a 4-H dance, sitting on the sidelines, spying on them. Then, when they came home, she questioned them about their behavior, which had been not up to her standards. The story seemed creepy then and is still creepy now. But I understand the smile my mom had when she told me about it. The story flirts with the idea of revenge. The justice all of us parents imagine as we sit at the table, while bits of our carefully prepared food is chucked at our heads.
That night, as I chewed my savory mashed potatoes, I imagined them coming home from college begging me to make them food. I imagined picking up a box of macaroni and cheese and tossing it at their feet. “Make your own food,” I would yell. “I’m going out with my friends!”
That image kept me sane as I put away the food and gave them a bath and put them to bed. Then, I stopped meditating and ate three pieces of chocolate cake.