London & Broccoli
"I could do a better job than this."
I was six when I said that and we were running through Heathrow Airport to catch a flight to the United States. The exact circumstances, whether we were late or had headed off in the wrong direction, don't really matter. What I remember is my mom getting us from Jerez Spain to a visit with extended family on a Kansas farm in one piece with a few days in London in the middle. My dad was in Rota, doing important Navy things, and my mom thought braving a strange city armed with a six and two year old was a good idea.
We ate expensive Happy Meals because my brother and I wouldn't eat anything else. I got in trouble for standing on the fence at Buckingham Palace while watching the changing of the guard. There were jeweled crowns and ravens at the Tower of London, Mind the Gap signs and the multicolored map of the underground, red double-decker busses and black cabs. My mom stood in lines with us and made sure we had souvenirs. I still have my London keychain somewhere.
I was thinking about this adventure my mom had taken us on when Graham, my four year old, made himself throw up eating broccoli at dinner the other night. He’s eaten broccoli before. I’m almost positive he’ll eat it again. It wasn’t even exotic broccoli. It was lightly steamed with the tiniest dash of pepper. This was not throw up worthy broccoli. And yet we sat across the table from each other, tears pouring down his face, his hands full of chewed up dinner.
I'd just finished asking him not to do the thing he'd done with the green beans a few months ago. He'd thrown those up too. He'd take a few bites of the offending vegetable, gag a little bit, and put it down. I asked him to try it again, in it went, and up came dinner. I feel like I failed a little bit as a parent there. And I thought about all the times I told my mom I could do it better.
My comment in the airport has become family history and it's laughed about now. Along with the song my brother made up about our dog and sang incessantly on a cross country trip one year and the time I broke my arm and my dad took me to the emergency room in his boxers. My kid gagging over the idea of eating broccoli is getting added to the stories shared whenever we get together. And it makes me appreciate my mom all over again.
She took a six and two year old to London by herself. I don’t even take my kids to the grocery store alone if I can help it. I honestly don’t know how she did it. And I never fully understood the strength it took to accomplish it. Not until I had one baby on my hip and another on the way, until I was cleaning throw up off a crying toddler, and praying my kids would finally fall asleep after putting them back to bed for the tenth time at two am. I struggle every day to keep things running smoothly. And this amazing woman took vacations and crossed oceans with us, drove thousands of miles, and at the end of each night she hugged me and kissed me and never made me feel like I was anything less than her whole world.
I didn't get upset when he made himself throw up. I covered my eyes and took a couple deep breaths before getting him cleaned up and giving him a really big hug. It's a pretty small thing compared to what she's accomplished. But that small moment of patience? That came from her.