What’s done is done and it’s time to admit my mistake. I’ve failed as a parent. Not a blown my top and feel guilty for doing so kind of failure, but a dropping of standards, lowering of the bar, total give up kind of failure.
Is there any recourse, any way back up the mountain I’ve slid, out of the mess I’ve created? I don’t know. Maybe.
Is there any hope? Eh, it looks bleak.
I cannot blame anyone other than myself. When my son’s future wife and children wonder what went wrong, fingers will be pointed at me, and rightly so. If I have the strength to say anything, if I can offer any defense, it is that my intentions were noble.
Well, that’s not true. I was selfish.
I don’t know what age he was, two or maybe three, but I convinced my son that ketchup was evil, gross, and disgusting. A condiment to be avoided at all costs. Mustard was a much better alternative.
And thus, whenever we’ve been to Chick-Fil-A or some other place where he might find himself eating chicken nuggets and french fries, I’ve swelled ever so slightly with pride when he has asked for mustard. With a twinkle in my eye, nary a sigh from my mouth, I have opened five or six packets of mustard for him. In these moments, I am happy.
Or at least, I was.
Because it’s what he wants, right?
Oh, if I understood then the door that I had opened.
When he asked for a peanut butter and mustard sandwich, I let him try it. Of course, I insisted he make it himself, which he did, which was my first surprise. My hope was that he would realize he’d taken this mustard thing too far, that he would be grossed out, perhaps even sickened by the combination of the two. Mustard was and is good, preferred to mayo and especially ketchup, but it wasn’t for everything. But then I encountered my second surprise, he loved his peanut butter and mustard sandwich. His desire, his love, of mustard grew.
When he asked to put mustard on a flour tortilla, I relented. I suggested butter, even offered to prepare it for him, but he wanted a tortilla with mustard. “Okay,” I sighed.
When he asked for mustard with his white rice, I hesitated before allowing him to do so. Seeing him hold that yellow bottle over a pile of white rice was debilitating to my own enjoyment of mustard. I haven’t been able to look at rice the same ever since.
Mustard became our go-to helpmate at dinner, the thing that enabled us to get him to eat whatever meal had been prepared that he didn’t like. “Why don’t you try it with mustard?”
As any parent can attest, the eating habits of their offspring, particularly at a young age, can be nefarious- challenging- irritating- maddening. Deciding on a place to eat out becomes a “discussion” and the options are reduced to the same four places where the child will eat without complaint. Meals at home are not prepared as to what sounds appealing but as to what will lead to the fewest battles and still be somewhat healthy.
But there was always mustard, my friend, my warrior, my helpmate, that slippery slope.
I awoke one day with a craving and a yearning for pulled pork, a dish I knew he didn’t like. I considered making something else, but the more I thought about the meal the more the cravings intensified. It was time to have what I wanted.
To heck with what he wanted.
I turned on the crockpot and lowered the pork inside, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, paprika, a spot of olive oil, and a dash of worcestershire sauce. Over the next six hours, the aroma of slow cooking pork filled the house. As the meat began to fall apart, I stopped and bent over the crockpot, my glasses filling with steam as I inhaled the scents as they escaped through the edges. This was going to be a
great phenomenal meal. A warm flour tortilla, chunks of pulled pork, a drizzle of cheese, a few shreds of lettuce, a bit of tomato, and a spoonful of guacamole. The question was, would I be able to stop at two?
While I stood over the crockpot, drooling over the prospect of dinner, the wife walked by. “Your son thinks you’re making his favorite shredded chicken tacos.”
“I know that.”
“Did you tell him?”
“Oh no, that’s your battle.”
How was I going to maneuver my way through dinner? I’d tried twice before to get him to eat these pulled pork tacos and he’d spit out the meat, the texture not agreeing with his taste buds. “It’s yucky, too slimy, disgusting.”
How was I going to enjoy these delicous pulled pork tacos while arguing with him to eat his dinner?
I had a thought, an idea, one that sent me careening over the edge into parental failure.
“Hey buddy,” I said to him, approaching him in the living room, “how would you like a taco with pulled pork, rice, and mustard?”
There, I did it. I caved. I didn’t offer him guacamole, because he detests that as well. I didn’t offer him salsa either, even though he does like that. No, I offered my child a pulled pork taco with mustard and rice (the rice being there to hide the meat’s texture).
“Sure,” he answered.
How could my child- my child- want mustard in his taco? Worse yet, how could I even offer such a thing? I was born and raised in San Antonio and mustard is not something we put on tacos. Tacos were made for cilantro and onions and pico de gallo and salsa and cheese and guacamole, but not mustard. Never ever does one put mustard on a taco. It’s unthinkable.
But I did it and I failed as a parent.
Because he loved it. He wolfed down two mustard and pork tacos in four bites each.
And the next night, he requested them again.
On the bright side, if there can be a bright side, maybe he’ll become the first/best mustard chef and this catastrophic failure can somehow be redeemed.