Tuesday, April 19. The year is 2011. The writer is a woman just beginning her battle. She is slowly realizing that the only war she needs to win is the ongoing war within her own brain.
Its 9:20 in the morning and I’m attempting to work in the hours that I’m most creative, but with the distraction of three children at home. Ominous music from level two of Super Mario Brothers pours from the television in the kitchen and mixes with a deeply philosophical conversation about the origins of Mario’s villains. Gwen wonders if the one wearing pink is named Lady Gaga.
In the family room, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse isn’t entertaining enough, so Kate has crumbled bits of Irish soda bread into the sisal rug and the tufting of the leather ottoman. She put the finishing touches on her mess with a series of milk sprinkles and smears across the leather. I know this because she entered the kitchen bearing a proud smile and wet hair…hair washed in milk that caused me to sprint through the house to investigate the damage.
Yesterday morning I felt guilt. Guilt induced by the Facebook statuses of people who are currently enjoying beaches and Disney World with their children. Those people who, as I began to tell myself, were better parents than me. The photographs of their smiling children continuously tell me so. Those people didn’t sacrifice family vacations for stints in graduate school. Those people are no longer saddled with student loan debt from the family’s last stint with graduate school. Those people started their careers as grown-ups in a manner more timely than David and I did.
Yes, I was feeling guilty yesterday morning so I suggested a ride to pick up some new crayons and craft supplies.
I’m a stupid idiot.
On the way, I suggested that maybe we could all get some lunch. Immediately, Gwen assumed that we’d be dining at MacDonald’s. As a parent, I’ve grown to abhor McDonald’s. My overly-dramatic mind has spun the Golden Arches into a den of fat-laden death and Ronald McDonald has come to resemble the clown from Stephen King’s It. Pennywise has nothing on the evil corporate giant backing Ronald McDonald.
They don’t even like the food. It’s the toys they’re after and for some reason, McDonald’s suddenly made me see red yesterday afternoon. I inwardly sighed and said, “You know…there isn’t much that I’d like to eat at McDonald’s, maybe we can try a different restaurant.”
From the rear of the minivan Gwen vehemently shouted, “NO! I WANT McDONALD’S!”
Joe met my gaze in the rear view mirror. “Maybe we could go get pizza, right Mom?”
“That’s a great idea! We all like pizza, right?”
“NO! I WANT McDONALD’S!”
“Gwen, McDonald’s isn’t good for us. Besides you don’t even eat the food…”
“I. WANT. McDONALD’S!”
My hands gripped the steering wheel a bit tighter and my teeth clenched. “Why don’t we try to agree on food that we all like?”
Joe’s eyes told me that he wanted McDonald’s too, but was struggling with compromise. At six-years-old, he is developing reason and consideration. I love him. “I know, Mom…why don’t you get something that you want first and then we’ll go to McDonald’s and get what we want?”
“That’s really nice of you, Joe…” I am interrupted by Gwen’s screaming voice.
“I’M HUNGRY! I WANT TO GO TO McDONALD’S RIGHT NOW!”
At that moment a woman stepped in front of the car without looking and the wheels of the minivan brushed against the curb as I turned the corner of the crowded mall parking lot to avoid her.
“Gwen, do you care at all that Mommy doesn’t want McDonalds? Do you care at all about anyone but yourself?
I sat at the traffic light, inwardly seething. My eyes shot daggers across the road at the tacky red and yellow building that has placed my children under its nasty spell. I could smell it from there. The cloying grease of those french fries coats the air and, I imagine, leaves film of tacky grease on anything that comes to rest for too long in the vicinity.
I hate you.
I pulled into the parking lot and threw the van into park. When I grabbed my wallet, I saw that my bank card was missing. My thoughts went back to Sunday when I swiped my card to buy expensive gasoline and placed it in my coat pocket – the coat that was now neatly hanging in the closet at home.
Do I need to describe the chaos, crying and yelling that ensued when Gwen and I experienced our dueling meltdowns?
David took a 1/2 day after my psychotic phone call. You know the one. It’s filled with things like “I hate my life” and “selfish kids” and “spoiled brats” and other filthy expletives.
Before I knew that he was coming home, I made the kids egg salad sandwiches. David entered to find those spoiled children polishing off their cupcakes. The ones we baked on Saturday.