Before we begin this tale, I need to tell you something; I don't bake. At least, I don't bake desserts. I can make a MEAN vegetarian lasagna, but cookies, cakes and pies I leave to the professionals. There are 2 reasons: Mainly, I don't like to measure when I cook and secondly, I hate decorating. Don't get me wrong, I desperately WANT to like decorating, as I consider myself somewhat of an artist. I even have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to awesome fondant covered designs. The problem is, I have the attention span of a gnat. So, lets say I bake 2 dozen sugar cookies; I will decorate the most beautiful hand painted cookie you have ever seen, but the next 15 will just have frosting smeared across the top. The last 8 cookies I'll throw at the kids, plain, and tell them they are lucky I feed them. Frosting food is boring.
My boyfriend's daughter was turning 6. He didn't have much planned for her birthday. She had been planning for 6 months, though, since she was five and A HALF, so I KNEW we had damn well better do something. I decided I would make her The Cake of Her Dreams. Basically, I was kissing up, so he would be awed by my sexy, domestic skills and his parents would see how much I loved her. I wouldn't bake a birthday cake for MY kids. I go to the grocery store and buy cupcakes, candles and have the nice bakery employees squirt their names on top with green icing. I said I would make this cake so his little girl would know I loved her and so she would love me more than anyone else who ever made her a cake for the rest of her life. Plus, I dig a challenge. Bad parenting problem number one: self serving love.
And so, I faced the challenge of making a STRAWBERRY RAT CAKE. Like the kind every demented little girl dreams about for her 6th birthday. Yeah, no problem.
I planned the cake for weeks. Once an idea settles into my head it doesn't go away. My brain is like Miracle Gro. That idea roots in and becomes enormous; well nourished by habitual daydreaming. I plotted exactly how I wanted to go about constructing The Rat Cake. I told myself it was completely possible. I told everyone I knew I was baking it, thus, making it impossible to back out. They all eagerly awaiting pictures of the cake. I pretended to know what I was doing and set my plans in motion.
Step one: make the cake batter. I mixed strawberry cake mix (from a box, I'm not a masochist) into two loaf pans. When they were done baking I placed them on the counter to cool. I was amazed. The little pink mounds actually looked like they were made of cake. So far so good. I turned to my kids and said "NOBODY is to touch these cakes. They need to cool." Which I assumed they did. I wasn't really sure if cakes are supposed to cool, but I think I read about cooling cakes in a book, so it sounded legit. "DO NOT touch the cakes!" I warned. Being that my kids had heard me talking nothing but Rat Cake for weeks, I knew they knew how important this was. So I retreated to my room, with my computer, to stare at pictures of rats, still determining the appropriate fur pattern.
About an hour and a half later (I admit, I might have drifted into Sleepytown for a few), I emerged to frost the cake. I walked into the kitchen and saw it; bite sized chunks taken from the sides of the cake, from head to tail. Some little mouse had been nibbling on my rat. Following the crumb trail it became quickly apparent who the culprit was. After all, it was cake. And I have a fat kid. One who doesn't listen. My eyes kept widening. I felt that wave come over me, my rational brain said, 'Stop. Breathe. You are going to freak out in a completely inappropriate way.' But my other brain (temporary disassociation?) said, 'Fuck you brain. I HAVE to freak out, so they get it. I'm going to go overboard, ON PURPOSE and I don't care.' I herded the children into their room where I unleashed it; my Very Bad Parenting Moment. Just understand, I had really put A LOT (of thought) into the stupid cake! Bad parenting problem number two: great expectations.
"HOW DARE YOU!? How could you? Why would you do this to ME? You knew! You knew! I can't do this! There's no more time! There will be no cake, no birthday, no birthdays forever! WHY?" (Incoherent sobbing) "I just wanted to make a cake! I can't get anything I want! You ruin everything! I'm running away! I'm not just running away, I'm running away to another country. FOREVER!" (Run into my room and slam my door) "I am done! I can't do this anymore! I hate you people! I hate my life! I can't!" And I sobbed myself into a pity pile. "I'm never talking to you AGAIN!" I screamed through the closed door. I called my boyfriend. No answer. So, I texted him, "Don't come up. The weekend is canceled. There will be no birthdays for anyone, ever, again." I sent it. And I sobbed. "I'm running away, forever, to another country, without the kids." I texted him a second time. No answer. So I screamed at the door. Not anything in particular. I just screamed from the core of my emotions. From my desperation. From the complete and utter sense of overwhelming that sometimes engulfs me as a mother. I heard my son crying, "mommy doesn't love me" over and over.
As I screamed I told myself to stop it. I told myself I was being abusive. I told myself I was acting like a child. But, I could not stop. And, the fact that I could not stop, the fact that I hated my utter loss of control made me sink even lower. I collapsed into a pile of unfolded laundry and cried.
And then about 30 minutes later, I got up. And went into the kitchen. I got out a knife…
And I began carving the cake into the shape of a smaller rat.
And I frosted it.
I apologized to my children for my words. "We know, mom" my daughter told me. "You are always fine if we just leave you alone for a while. You never run away." She told me. I knew no mother should ever make their child even consider these things, but I appreciated the understanding. It's not easy maintaining sanity when the going gets tough. Or when silly micro-problems break the stressed out camel's back. Especially, for single parents. We have to learn to ask for help. We have to learn to say "Oh RATS" and move on. The only people who will ever think we are perfect anyways are right there in front of us: Our kids. As to what anyone else thinks… let them eat cake.
|We continue to forgive each other. <3 JK|