Send your children outside. Take a deep breath and remember that this portion of the evening means that you are on the downward slide towards bed. Or, if your children do not sleep, remember that you are on the downward slide towards them moving out.
Find the pot that was previously being used as a hat. Give it a rinse in the sink. Remember that heats kills germs. Place on element. Put cup of rice in pot. Put cup and a half of boling water over rice. Or cold water that has sat in the jug for 10 minutes because you were too tired to notice it wasn’t boiling.
Check outside to see if the children are playing nicely with something dangerous or playing dangerously with something nice. Remember what I said about them moving out.
Dice your onion small enough that it cannot be discernable from the rice and therefore cannot be complained about. It’s inclusion in this meal gives the old ‘but you do like it. darling. You eat it in ____’ argument, legs. Throw that in whatever pan is clean enough to not make you think briefly about food poisoning with a little oil and cook until onion softens. Stir the rice because your ability to cook it and pay your bills almost on time are pretty much the only things discerning you from your teenage self.
Find the least limp carrot in the bottom of your fridge and slice lengthways. Now do that again. Is your carrot in four long strips? Good. You may have only slept for 4 hours last night, but you are still able to follow the most simple of instructions. This is a good day. Now slice your carrot sticks in to teeny tiny pieces. Because they will cook faster and you are very tired. Throw those and a ‘yeah, nah, that looks about right’ of frozen peas in with the onions and absent-mindedly stir everything you are currently cooking. Remember when you had the time and money to actually Make Dinner. Think briefly about that restaurant in Paris you went to 10 years ago and how the Chef came out of the kitchen to kiss you. Break up whatever cracker-related argument the children are currently involved in.
Now at this stage all the water over your rice should have vanished via a magical process called You’re Doing It Right. Take off the heat. Have a rummage in the pantry and crumble whichever flavour Oxo cube you unearth over the rice. I use the Vegetable one. No Oxo cube? Any powdered instant packet sodium mix will no doubt suffice. Results may vary. Stir in and leave to stand with a lid on the pot. No pot lid? A plate will do; but that sucker will get hot, so mind your mits. You do not want the children to learn anymore profanity than they already know.
How is that other shit looking? Pretty good? Yeah, I reckon. Turn down the heat and clear the lunch dishes off the table. Find whichever very specific dishware the children are currently favouring. Shut all pets out of doors, lest the dinner you have just spent 15 minutes slaving over become theirs. Remember to let children in to actually eat the bloody thing. Make them wash. I certianly will not judge you for excluding this portion of the excercise, but mine live in the garden, so scrubbing is necessary. Sling your rice in with the cooked vegetables and fry while the children make a sodden mess of your bathroom.
Get everyone to sit down nicely, sit down nicely, darling. Yes, you both have the same amount. Yes, I will get you a glass of water. No, I don’t know where that very specific cup is. Sit down, darling. Sit down and eat your dinner please. BLOODY SIT DOWN, WILL YOU? And serve.
Theo: “I need to grow you into a plant!”
Theo: “You’d be lovely as a plant.”
Mabel: “No! Mae-Mae’s a girl!”
Theo: “Yes, you have a vagina…Mama, do plants have fannies?”
It is an invariable truth of life that when someone arrives at your house unannounced you will not be at your best.
Parenthood adds variables. Someone will always be in the middle of a poo. Someone will have always just woken up and be furious about it. Someone will be in a state of undress. It will probably be you.
Depending on whether you actually permit them past the threshold (‘Oh, so nice to see you! I’m terribly sorry; we were just on our way out the door!’) there will then be the various degrees of apologising and trying to best avoid the veritable explosion you live in. You will lie to people you love; ‘Oh, excuse the mess! It’s not usually like this! You just caught us on a busy day!’. There will be no where to sit that is not covered in unfolded washing. You will try to remember how to be hospitable. Tea? Coffee? When are you leaving? I mean, welcome! Welcome! So nice to see you.
“Mae-Mae stomp the Bee’s?”
“Mae-Mae give Mama a bash?”
“Mae-Mae smash the window with this?”
“I’d like a box of beer, pwease.”
Mabel has egg shell stuck to her bottom. (You know how it is.)
Mabel: “I’ve got a poo egg!”
Theo: “I will help you!”
Mabel: “No! Don’t touch my bottom egg! Mama! Do it!”
Alice: “Certianly, darling. It’s the role I was born to play”.
Sometimes, all will grow very Quiet.
So quiet you notice it. This Quiet does not feel like the quiet you notice when you have the house to yourself for an hour. This Quiet makes you suspicious. The very thing you have spent your parenthood wishing for, you will grow to fear. For so rarely does this Quiet lead you to discover anything you do not have to steel yourself against. It will not lead you to find your children playing sweetly, like English storybook characters with unfortunately anatomical names; sharing and laughing and clean.
It will lead you to the back deck where you will find the roasting dish full with this mornings mop water; your children nude and taking turns washing each other with a filthy dishcloth while eating the eggs you had hard-bolied for their lunches. There will be eggshell in places you could not imagine, but will not surprise you. Because you are a parent, and you have seen it all.
Or atleast you will.