noun: identity crisis; plural noun: identity crises
- a period of uncertainty and confusion in which a person’s sense of identity becomes insecure, typically due to a change in their expected aims or role in society.
Parents might not have the exclusive rights to this definition but I do feel we qualify as an ‘at risk’ population.
The majority of my time is spent creating an optimal environment for brain development in order to raise self-sufficient, fully functioning, contributing members of society. On paper, this job description sounds meaningful; impressive; noble even. The reality unfortunately, is less so.
On any particular day, I get home from working a busy lunch shift at around the same time as my daughter returns from a busy day at school. I get the highlight reel of a day in the life of a 15 year old as I let out dogs and gather the laundry off the line that I hung before rushing out the door that morning. I pull weeds from any flower beds I pass as my oldest follows, complaining about her upcoming exam schedule, before moving inside to greet the younger 2 as they arrive home from elementary school. Middle daughter has a friend over so they disappear into the backyard allowing me to concentrate on only 2 conversations at the same time and as I cut apples for snack I’m interrupted by the Shih-Tzu who has walked into the kitchen with something in her mouth. I rush to grab her because I don’t have any room to add a choking dog to my schedule and I’m relieved and confused to pull a social tea cookie from her mouth.
Now, part of my job description is planning and purchasing the nutritional requirements of the household and this particular item was not something I remembered authorizing. My cookie choices are normally iced with chocolate, stuffed with fudge or filled with chocolate chips so after quickly checking with the 2 at the table, I conclude that it must have been stolen from the backpack of our visitor so I rush to the foyer and safely tuck it up out of reach, ignoring my son who is complaining about the dog getting cookies for a snack, while all he got was this stinkin’ apple.
I check on the girls, and distribute the folded laundry, grabbing misplaced items on route and returning them to their rightful rooms. I start on my, er, my son’s grade 5 homework assignment and lie through my teeth that yes, knowing how to categorize the responsibilities of the three levels of government is an important life skill, like if you’re ever stuck on a desert island without wifi and want to complain about Canada Post’s disappointing service in your current area and need to know where to direct your message in a bottle. (it’s the Federal Government people, just in case you were wondering)
I pack everyone in the car to run the friend home before rushing back to get started on supper. As middle child fills me in on her daily activities, I check the fridge trying to decide what to make with what’s left after the children have raided it, and the Shih-Tzu wanders into the kitchen with something in her mouth. “What the heck!” I yell, interrupting the developing saga of possible rifts between important alliances if I don’t allow 10 people to be invited to her upcoming birthday party instead of the agreed upon 8. I pull out a social cookie and ask middle child if she happened to bring any treats home or if she recognizes the soggy half eaten specimen that I’m waving under her nose. The blank stares persuade me to do a quick perusal of the perimeter but I see nothing amiss. I call a family meeting and again begin a debriefing of everyone’s day to see if I can spot the possible entry point of a wayward cookie but when the youngest mentions a soccer game at lunch with a friend, I’m reminded that this friend’s Dad is the coach of the Rugby team and the season starts tonight and I haven’t even started cooking. We put a pin in the investigation to get moving on a meal and manage to pull together a surprisingly appetizing collaboration including contributions from all of the major food groups in less than 20 minutes (pasta for the win!). Husband gets home and we recap his day before rushing him out the door with the boy for rugby, while the girls stay home and clean the kitchen. A new load of laundry is collected and deposited in the washing machine and while they shower, I tidy bathrooms before collapsing on the couch to french braid hair in order to achieve beachy waves for tomorrow’s “Fun in the Sun” day. We turn on the TV and have just started to relax into our favourite program when the Shih-Tzu strolls into the room munching on a #@!&# social cookie!
A little less calmly, I interrogate the girls but they refuse to admit liability and I hear a lot of, “I have never seen that cookie before in my life” type answers and I decide the only course of action is to follow the dog back to her cache. As we all turn to stare at the Shih-Tzu she bats her eye lashes before rolling on her back in an act of submission. We are obviously in need of a new plan. I hand books to each of the girls and we casually pretend to read while furtively watching the dog over the covers.
I shush them as one whines that this is boring and the other complains that she wants to pretend-read a different book because she’s already read this one but luckily the dog starts to move before I blow a gasket and we stealthily follow her down the hall. As I slither on my belly and peak around corners trying to outwit a clueless Shih-Tzu, I begin to question my choices in life until I start imagining the consequences and vet bills of a 100 pound lap dog struggling with obesity to remind me of the importance of the task at hand. As she makes her way towards the basement I slap my hand to my forehead (alerting the dog to my presence) as I remember buying a box of social cookies to keep in the pantry because I was sick and tired of having nothing to serve surprise guests. Due to my family continually foraging for food and leaving empty containers in the cupboard I am constantly fooled into thinking we’re prepared in case of emergency only to be caught empty handed. Storing extra rations felt like promotion inspiring problem solving IF this was the type of job you could get promoted out of. As I bat at the dog trying to lick my face, I recall asking one of them to take the cookies to the basement but I couldn’t for the life of me remember which one I asked, so as my husband returns from practice with the last child in tow and I drag everyone into the kitchen to re-enact the moment in hope of igniting some sort of memory in anyone that might assist me in figuring out which child put the cookies away and what their version of away was, because the box (or any remnant of it) was nowhere to be found.
I reassure everyone that no one is in trouble.
I offer immunity to any one with relevant information.
I beg, plead and then firmly request that someone explain how a Shih-Tzu who has been known to walk into walls is able to find the cookies while we can’t.
I finally give up and send all the kids to bed. I stomp around the basement for a little longer before admitting defeat and throwing myself onto the sofa only to find a half-eaten box of social cookies stashed under the pillows with a seal that has clearly been opened with fingers and not paws.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I lost it. It had been a long day. Part of it was spent lying on the floor spying on a Shih –Tzu and seriously wondering what I was doing with my life. I was not in a great place as I marched upstairs, roused sleepy children and shoved the offending box in their faces demanding answers. LOUDLY
As I threatened to dust for fingerprints, the oldest hung her head and confessed. I ranted that between eating everything in the kitchen, and stealing the contents of the pantry she was “out of control” and that I was “so disappointed”. The fact that she was able to lie in the trenches with me, side by side and yet not admit that she knew all along where the cookies were, was a “betrayal”. I informed her that she had “lost my trust” and I sent her to bed with the promise of future consequences. As she ran up the stairs with tears in her eye’s my brain caught up with what my mouth was saying and I felt sick to my stomach. My teenager was crying in her bedroom not for abusing alcohol or drug use, but over social cookies and suddenly a bad day somehow got a lot worse.
Now I have a wonderful friend who I went to University with who was recently promoted to the president of a company. The PRESIDENT! Of a COMPANY!
I on the other hand spent the day disciplining a minor for sneaking cookies (And not even the good kind) and then called her integrity into question for not admitting it during the consequent cloak and dagger mission that I forced her to participate in. Now I know cookies are not a gateway drug or the first step in a life of crime and prostitution but in parenting the lines in the sand tend to get lost under the clutter and chaos of everyday life. I know lying is bad, and I know cookies are good, but the truth lies somewhere in the middle and this time I definitely missed the mark. Instead of sleeping that night I worried that someone was going to find out that I lied on my resume and realize I was under qualified until I recollected that I didn’t actually apply for this job unless you count the 20 minutes with my husband on the casting couch as an interview (but he’s not a very good judge of character…especially when the character is me…especially when I’m naked).
So I comfort myself with a box of cookies I have stashed in the very top of my closet (the good kind) convinced that I’m a horrible mother that has no business being in the business of raising children into adults when I am so clearly a hypocritical failure. Unfortunately parenting is like the mob; no one gets out alive. While the day had clearly been a disappointment it’s wasn’t going to be the death of me, so I put the cookies away and re-evaluated where I went wrong. Making decisions in the middle of an identity crisis leads to over reacting and poor judgment but because parenting is 24 hours, 7 days a week, the key is to not find yourself in the middle of one. While I have had no luck in clearing up any uncertainty and confusion, I might be able to tackle insecurity in the role by eliminating my expectations. There might be wonderful moments which enrich the lives of my children, but there will also be times where I unfairly berate them in an attempt to teach honesty, healthy eating habits and solid Shih-Tzu stalking skills. All I can do is the best I can do and while I have excelled in the ‘love more than you ever thought possible’ department, all the rest is a work in progress. So for anyone keeping track, love your kids, and keep eating cookies, but never lie about it and don’t leave them where the Shih-Tzu can find them and that’s pretty much all I’ve got. So if you’re looking for advice, I’m fresh out, but as always, if you’re looking for T and cookies, the Shih-Tzu and I share.
Like all parents, my husband and I just do the best we can, and hold our breath, and hope we’ve set aside enough money to pay for our kids’ therapy ~ Michelle Pfeiffer