Written by Jen Brister

Lifestyle

Tales from the other mother

Jen Brister is a mum. No, not that one. The other one. This month, she’s thinking of shoving a biscuit where the sun don’t shine.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

Illustration by Louise Boulter.

I’m not saying I’m a great cook. In fact no one’s saying that. But I can cook; I can make the basics and sometimes something more than basic and people (my girlfriend) seem to enjoy it. Hell, I’m going to go all out and say that even I like my cooking. My kids? Not so much.

I have made them a variety of meals over the last 12 months, anything from a fish pie, chicken and apple balls and spaghetti bolognese, to vegetable soups and even a Thai curry. Each time they have looked at me like I’m offering them a coughed up hair ball I’ve just pulled out of the vacuum cleaner.

It’s disheartening when you’ve slaved away over a hot stove, or even a lukewarm one, only to have your kids look you directly in the eye and shout, “NO MAMA!”

“What do you mean no? Mama’s cooked you a lovely dinner and if you eat it all up Mama will give you a yoghurt.” (I don’t know if speaking in the third person helps, but I’ve seen other parents do it and I’m committed to it now.)

To anyone who has tried to negotiate with a two-year-old, I would just say this: save your breath – they’re not interested. And if you’re trying to negotiate anything, make sure you have more than yoghurt up your sleeve, because as far as bribes go, it’s pretty poor.

Suffice to say my son looks at me with a face that clearly says, “I’m not eating that muck.” And in case there is any ambiguity as to how he feels, I watch the plate fly off the table and land face down on the floor.

“Making sure your kids eat is a bare minimum requirement as far as parenting goes. And yet I’m convinced it would be easier to explain quadratic equations to a squirrel than get my boys to finish their dinner.”

Dinner that I have literally just cooked, dinner that I have lovingly prepared, dinner that I have made sure has the right amount of protein, carbohydrates and vegetables to offer my son a balanced diet. A dinner that will hopefully help his bones and brain grow because he’s small, he’s a small lad and I want him to grow so he has to EAT. WHY WON’T HE EAT MY DINNER?

I shouldn’t take it personally; after all they’re two and two year-olds can be fussy eaters. They like something one minute and hate it the next. Or in my case they don’t like my food one minute and they still don’t like my food a year later. It’s OK, I’m over it. I mean it’s not about ME and it’s not like they don’t eat, they do eat, they just don’t eat MY BLOODY FOOD!

Apparently I’m not allowed to get annoyed or upset when my children refuse to eat, even though it’s one of the few ways I can reassure myself that I’m doing something right. Making sure your kids eat is a bare minimum requirement as far as parenting goes. And yet I’m convinced it would be easier to explain quadratic equations to a squirrel than get my boys to finish their dinner.

I try not to take it personally, but it’s hard. Imagine you’ve cooked a meal, maybe invited some friends over and as you bring the dinner to the table one of your friends says, “Euuuuurgh! No! I don’t want it!”

And then grabs a spoon and throws it at your head. Maybe you hand the spoon back to your friend and not unreasonably say, “Don’t throw your spoon please.”

And your friend looks at you directly in the eye and throws the spoon again, this time hitting the wall behind you. You don’t react; instead you pick up the spoon and say, “Now, are you hungry?”

“Nooooooooo!” your friend screams.

“OK, so why don’t you just eat a bit of it?”

You watch your friend swipe the dinner you have lovingly prepared on to the floor. You both stare at the plate now resting upside down and your friend looks at you, smiles and shouts, “BISCUIT!”

We all know where that biscuit would end up.

It’s hard to reason with a two-year-old; they’re just not up for it. Reason isn’t something they’ve got to grips with. In fact, most two-year-olds haven’t got to grips with remorse, boredom, impulse control or basic empathy. My girlfriend and I are basically living with two psychopaths.

“I have made them a variety of meals over the last 12 months; each time they have looked at me like I’m offering them a coughed up hair ball I’ve just pulled out of the vacuum cleaner.”

I look forward to the day I develop ‘The Look’. My mum has it; she could just give us one The Look and we knew that if we didn’t stop whatever we were doing there would be big trouble.

I can give my boys The Look for hours… and they just laugh in my face, usually as they’re chewing on a laptop cable or trying to push my mobile phone through the floorboards. I have all the authority of a bewildered supply teacher at a borstal. No one’s listening.

Fortunately my girlfriend and I are always on the same page and incredibly supportive of one another.

“Are you giving him a biscuit?”

“It’s just one biscuit.”

“I just told him he couldn’t have a biscuit, so if you give him a biscuit you’re undermining my authority.”

“What authority?”

She’s got a point.

The good news is they’re only two, so there’s still time to claw back some control and dignity and I feel confident that once we can reason with our boys, life will get that bit easier. Or so I’m told by friends who don’t have children and right now I prefer to listen to them than my friends who do:

“Oh my god, it was a nightmare; Charlie only ate bananas until he was five.”

“My kids have never listened to a word I say, it’s so depressing.”

“Kids are bastards – I wish I’d never had mine.”

Thanks for the support guys.

Still, I do love my little psychos, even if they hate my cooking and have no real idea about ‘feelings’. The good news is that as a soon-to-be perimenopausal woman, there’ll be plenty of time for them to catch up on that front.

Let’s just say it’s going to be a steep learning curve for them.

Read all of Jen’s other mother adventures here.

@JenBrister

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Written by Jen Brister

Jen Brister is a stand-up comic, writer and comedy actor. A regular performer on the UK and international circuit, she has also written for BBC Scotland and presented for BBC 6Music.