‘I can’t do this any more,’ I tell myself as I stare at the knife.
I wipe the sweat from my brow and fight back the tears. There isn’t much time. I need to do this now. I hear them approaching me from behind.
‘Please’ I beg. ‘Please leave me alone. Don’t do this.’
Someone grabs at my legs while someone else attacks me with a small blunt object.
I pick up the knife.
‘MUMMY, IS DINNER READY YET?’ My children scream at me for the tenth time since I entered the kitchen THREE minutes ago.
I give them a biscuit and they retreat to the lounge to watch CBeebies. I know I don’t have much time so I hastily begin to peel the potatoes.
You heard me right. Potatoes. Not Waffles or Smiley Faces but actual real life potatoes. You see, I have decided to make a Delicious Homemade Family Dinner but five minutes in and my stress levels are already teetering on ABOUT TO SWEAR.
I try to be a good mum.
I remain relatively calm when the kids wake me up at 3am to ask me really important stuff like ‘what is my chin for?’
I don’t get too angry when we are running late for school and they refuse to get dressed.
I even manage not to swear when the toddler throws my phone down the toilet.
I count to ten, take deep breaths and smile through many of the daily frustrations and challenges of parenthood.
But at dinnertime (aka witching hour ) I really struggle not to lose my shit. Not only because my beloved offspring turn into dicks at this time of the day but also because I have been taking care of little people all day on barely any sleep and I am on my last legs. Last legs that now have to stand up and prepare something vaguely edible while being screamed at, nagged, climbed up and bombarded with requests for drinks, bum wipes, biscuits and Peppa Pigging Pig.
I try to ignore them and continue to peel the potatoes.
‘MUMMY, MUMMY, MUMMY!” My time is up. They. Are. Here.
Maybe I could take my potatoes and hide. I could peel them in the bathroom. I could lock the door and do it in the bath. Take wine. Make an night of it.
The toddler shouts the baby cries. Louder now.
‘Can I have a potato? I want a potato. Can I have one NOW MUMMY PLEASE?’
I take a deep breath and try to count to ten.
‘I need a wee. I want the blue cup. Tell her I had it first, Mummy. TELL HER!’
‘More Peppa Pig please? PEPPA PEPPA. Can I have a biscuit?’
Three, four, five…
‘I NEED A POTATO!!’ ‘CAN I HAVE A POTATO MUMMY?’
‘Mummy, carry me! Want a carry.’
Small hands grab at the potatoes, even smaller hands clutch my ankles.
The kitchen is filled with noise and chaos. Screaming, crying, shouting.. They are pulling at me, climbing up me, moaning at me…
Breathe, breathe… I must go to my happy place. Think about wine…think about wine…
‘I don’t like mashed potatoes!’ whines my daughter. The same daughter who specifically asked me to make her mashed potatoes. The daughter who I have seen eating mashed potatoes on several occasions with a big sodding smile on her face! Why would she say this to me now IF NOT TO MESS WITH MY MIND? This is the last straw.
I throw them out of the window. THE POTATOES (not the kids). One by one. My shit is officially lost.
Then I put the knife in the sink and leave the room. I need to breathe. I need to calm down. But most of all, I need to MOTHER F*CKING SWEAR.
I go into the bathroom, close the door, flush the chain to mask the swears and go over my options.
I could just make potato waffles and fish fingers. They never let me down. What I fool I was to stray from my little frozen friends. Who do I think I am attempting to mash potatoes and cook non-breaded fish? Nigella bloody Lawson? I even bought a lemon for goodness sake.
NO! I am doing this. If I don’t cook the Delicious Homemade Family Dinner I’ll be playing right into their tiny hands. That is what they want. They want to break me so I’ll give them food they actually like.
Well, tough tits tots, this dinner is happening.
I leave the bathroom and retrieve my potatoes from the front garden. I CAN DO THIS, I think to myself (as I pour a glass of wine). Captain Birdseye can go to hell.
Three Octonauts, two biscuits and six tantrums later, my home cooked feast is complete.
I am NIGELLA. I am Supermum. I am…maybe a teeny, tiny bit tipsy.
‘Girls! Dinner’s ready!’ I shout cheerfully, admiring my fine cuisine.
‘GIRLS! Can you come for dinner please?’
‘GIRLS. IT IS DINNERTIME!!’
‘I SAID. DINNER IS READY! DINNER. DINNER. whispers For fuck’s sake, DINNER!’
Twenty minutes later we are finally at the table. Hot steaming plates of Homemade Nutritious Deliciousness in front of us.
‘I need a wee mummy!” Says the toddler. Of course she does. Every time.
We are back at the table.
“Just going for a wee.’ The four-year-old runs off.
“I want wee wee too mummy!” The toddler yells.
“You have JUST had one! Now please, please let’s eat our dinner.”
Four-year-old returns to the table and notices she has the ‘wrong’ fork. I replace it. The toddler decides she wants her sister’s fork. Cue arguments and tears. FOR FORK’S SAKE!
“RIGHT!” I am feeling desperate. “If you eat all your dinner you can have ice-cream.”
They do not eat.
“Two ice creams and a biscuit?”
Still they do not eat.
“You can have all the ice cream in the freezer and 200 biscuits and I’ll take you to the soft play centre tomorrow. You can have anything you want JUST PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD EAT YOUR DINNER!”
STILL they do not bloody eat.
‘Ok, just eat half of your dinner and then you can leave the table…No. Ok, three spoonfuls? Just three little spoonfuls for mummy?’
“Alright, just one spoonful?’
They poke at their mash.
‘One pea? I will settle for one single pea. ONE…..No? Half a pea? How about you just lick the pea? For mummy. You can do that, right? JUST LICK THE STUPID PEA AND THIS WILL ALL BE OVER.’
I angrily lick my peas to illustrate my point. The kids are apparently not the only ones who turn into dicks at dinner time.
This is no longer about getting them to eat a nutritious meal – this is about the principle! I must stand firm on this. I am the grown up and they should do as I say.
But I am exhausted. Grown up-ing is a lot of effort.
‘Fine, leave it.’ I sigh, defeated.
I leave the table and don’t look back (at least until I hear the familiar sound of toddler wee trickling down the highchair).
So there you have it. Dinner time turns me into a dick. I am not proud of it. I wish I could be one of those Aprony Annabel Karmel types who blend stuff and use fresh herbs. But the thing is, when you become a mum you don’t suddenly turn into Nigella Lawson. If you were great in the kitchen before you had children then chances are you excel at dinner time! But if you weren’t, well, you probably turn into a dick.
As much as we want to be perfect parents to our offspring 24 hours a day we just can’t. We get tired, stressed, overwhelmed and irritated. We all have our weaknesses because we are only human and humans are not perfect. But we also have our strengths. Dinner time may be my achilles heel but night wakings do not phase me (much). Who knows, maybe Nigella loses her shit at bed time? Or, Karmel gets a bit sweary on the school run.
When it comes to parenting, we are all just one step away from losing our shit. But that is ok. We don’t have to be the best. We just have to try our best. And if at first we don’t succeed..sack it off and have a glass of wine.