Broccoli, Baked Mayo, and the Breaking Points of Parenthood
In the 50s, how were no more moms wandering down the street, naked with a stained apron on, sporting terrible helmet-like hairdos, and talking to themselves? How were those women capable of rearing children with very little support from their husbands?
They didn’t even have TV — not in the way we have it now — to entertain those kids or at least the husbands so they would have fewer of those kids.
Now, fathers like me are more involved in rearing our children, but even with how active and involved my wife and I are, it seems like you really do need a village inside your house to raise kids. There is always so much to do, and for some reason, so little of it ever gets done.
If you are the father of girls like me, then you end up doing tasks that you have not been trained all your life to do, like brushing long hair and dressing like a woman, and all because of a technicality — I can’t breastfeed my youngest daughter.
It must be nice for my wife to get bonding time on a rocking chair while I wonder if being a father is a preexisting condition to blowing out your back forever.
When I’m done brushing my oldest daughter Jovie’s hair, her do is the epitome of the maxim, “We are all doing what we can.”
The hair-brushing sessions start with a quick chase around the living room, the only cardio I am getting these days. Once I catch my daughter, I explain to her that if she cuts her hair like me, all she has to do before leaving for school is comb her hair once with her own hand.
She wants to have her hair like a Disney princess.
Every movie in Hollywood that centers around a heroine protagonist has a scene where the protagonist realizes her long hair is what is keeping her from being a badass, so she steps into the bathroom, looks at herself in the mirror, wondering if she can do it, she chops off her hair and becomes unstoppable, a haircut known as the reverse Samson.
No Hollywood movie with a strong female character can be greenlighted without this scene.
Instead of having the Hollywood haircut scene, Disney illustrators have princesses’ hair that is not even realistic. And then your daughters are convinced that is what they should do, too. Disney is where all your enemies go to work, so they shape your kids’ mind and make your morning routine very intricate — which is another word for ‘fucking bananas!’
Then you have the getting-dress part.
I don’t get into power struggles when Jovie tells me what she wants to wear. My only concern is that her clothing is functional for school, so often, she goes with flowy dresses, jeans, shorts over her jeans and sometimes under them, and sneakers.
She then chooses a sweater or hoodie that does not match her outfit and is typically not warm enough for the weather, but she swears she “LOVES cold!!!”
This morning, I finished helping her get dressed and found an extra pair of underwear on her reading table. It makes so much sense; I grab multiples of everything to help move things along.
Later that day, when my wife was helping her prepare for a bath, she discovered I had sent my daughter commando to school.
As a father, it doesn’t get much worse than that.
I have never gone commando myself. It just seems uncomfortable to sweat into a zipper.
I have a habit of wearing my underwear backward, not by choice but because I get dressed in the dark. I don’t turn any lights on so my kids won’t wake up because when I turn on any light, they smell it. They can’t see it because they have light blockers at their doors’ threshold, so they must smell it, or hear it, or sense it. I don’t know how; I don’t know how those creatures work.
There you have it. A flipping, flailing, failing father.
If you are the kind of person who excels at everything they do, try parenting. It comes with servings for life of humble pie.
The end of the day was near, and I decided to cook a casserole.
Don’t think I sit in my kitchen, contemplating how my brain feels like chia pudding, and think, “Hmmm, I wonder how I can feel more like a 1950s housewife. Oh, I know, casserole!”
On Nochebuena or Christmas Eve, the night Hispanics celebrate Christmas, I cook a traditional Colombian meal for my daughters. It is not completely traditional; I also bake a broccoli casserole. Apparently, no vegetables grow in my region of the country, or if they do, they can only be deep-fried or cooked with a bunch of sugar. So, I make an exception on one dish to incorporate a vegetable, which is not a vegetable as much as a serving of fat with a vegetable garnish.
I finished cooking the casserole and dug into it; it looked very moist, and my wife asked me, “Is that done cooking?”
“Yeah!” I said — which is my response for when I’m sure of things or not sure of things.
“Does it have eggs?”
“Yes, and mayo!”
“Yes, a metric ton of it!!! Weird, right?”
“How did you find the recipe?”
“It was the first recipe that Google spat out. It must have the best SEO so that makes it the best. Right?”
Wrong!!! Like the entire favored body of work on the internet.
I make all my domestic decisions in a hurry. I don’t have the luxury of going to the second website. I need to make decisions at the speed of fright. So, I chose the very first recipe I got without thinking about the ingredients or reading any comments or 2,000-word explanation about how the author decided to make this recipe.
After thinking of how I found the recipe, I realized what I meant to cook was a Broccoli-au-Gratin.
Since I’m a casserole-half-full kinda of a guy, at the very least, I learned that even close to losing my mind raising my kids, baked Mayo still tastes disgusting.
Sometimes, it is just the little things we can hang our sanity on.