Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wednesday Dinner

(Two posts in one day.  That hasn't happened in ages!)

On Wednesdays, it's Katherine's evening with her dad.  He only takes her for two hours, from after work until bedtime....because he doesn't want her overnight at his place, because then he'd have to do the did-you-finish-your-homework-brush-your-teeth-put-on-your-pajamas-read-for-thirty-minutes-and-is-your-hair-clean-or-do-you-need-a-shower routine, which he simply does not do.  (Don't get me started.  I have chosen to be smug about the fact that I can do all that, no problem, rather than focusing on his ineptitude.)

This year, Wednesday's also Katherine's gymnastics night, so Bryan picks her up right after work and takes her there, watches her, and then delivers her home.  Since I'm not working, I have taken to feeding Katherine before he comes in order to make it all fit together, and since I'm home (panic! wait, that's the subject of the last post...) I can manage it.

But I've also taken to feeding Bryan.

For over a month now, every Wednesday, our family, such as it is, eats at my kitchen table.  I'm the sort that makes a real dinner most nights, and we sit at the table and eat it off real plates, with cloth napkins.  It's not fancy and it's not a grand affair, but it symbolizes stability to me, and I work hard to make that little moment happen.  Katherine and I listen to music (her music, 95% of the time), and Katherine is in charge of setting the table and getting the drinks out, and it all feels very homey and "family."  I've read all of the research about families who eat together and how that impacts kids, and I grew up where at 6pm we all sat around the table eating food my mother prepared, and so in that sense it comes easily to me - it's what I've always done.

In my marriage, I cooked every meal, unless we ate out.  It was a major point of contention: if I was sick (and God knows I was sick!), if I was volunteering at Katherine's school all day, if it was the weekend or a holiday when Bryan was home....I cooked, and he did not (and when I was really sick with the cancer stuff, my friends delivered meals to me, for which I am eternally grateful).  I didn't mind the 'regular' days since I was at home and he was working, but for the life of me I could not figure out why on the weekends he was lounging and I was cooking, serving, and then cleaning up meals three times a day.

One of the joys of being divorced is that I no longer feel like a kitchen slave.  Katherine helps me, or does her homework while I cook, and I feel the burden of bitterness lifted from my shoulders, and I feel so much lighter.  I don't feel as if I'm being treated as "less than" in the kitchen, and life is altogether more pleasant.

Today, being Wednesday, I again prepared a meal for Katherine and I, and made extras for Bryan.  Bryan walked in the door just as I was plating the food, and for a rare change, we were having his favorite: steak.  I'd marinated the steak all day and I cooked it on the outdoor grill; additionally I had rosemary oven roasted potatoes, roasted green beans, and sautéed mushrooms.  When Bryan walked in the door, the table was set, there was wine poured, and a candle lit.  (This is no sign of romance, and he knows it.  In the fall/winter/spring, I always have a pillar candle on the table, and I light it every dinner.  It's my thing.  And he drinks wine with every meal, and I had a bottle open.  Trust me, there was no sending of the wrong signals here.)

He sat down.  He ate.  He gave me some jabs - he told me that I talked too much, he made fun of my running schedule, etc. - and ate.  He ate all of his meat and said, "Is that all there is?"  (Yes.  Steak is expensive and not that great for us.  There were tons of veggies and potatoes.)  He pushed his green beans to the side, nearly scornfully, refusing to let them pass his lips.  He rolled his eyes at me - literally - when I told Katherine that she needed to eat all of her veggies if she wanted dessert.  He encouraged Katherine to feed the dog from the table after I said it wasn't okay.

When he was done, he got up, pushed his chair aside, and said brusquely to Katherine, "It's time to go."

If Katherine behaved this rudely in anyone's house, including Bryan's, I would think that I'd failed as a parent.  I know Bryan's mother, and she is a delightful woman, so I can't blame her for Bryan's behavior.....but I found it appalling.

Rude rude rude.

I think that Katherine sees it for what it is, but I will not point it out to her, or discuss it with her.  If her dad wants to be an oaf - a boorish, rude oaf at that - then it's his prerogative, and certainly I have no control over him.

But I'm going to continue having him for these dinners, and continue not saying anything.  I wish it just rolled off my shoulders without a thought - let alone a blog post dedicated to it - but I'm satisfied for now that I'm not rising to the bait, and that I'm letting Katherine see me modeling taking the high road.

I'll let him come back.  I will buy, prepare, serve, and clean up this one meal per week as long as it remains practical to do so.  When I watch them walk out the door, I notice our daughter's smile.  She likes it when Dad comes to dinner, and she gets a "normal" family for a bit; she likes that I play nice.  She doesn't need to be nervous that I'm going to respond to the jibes - because I simply no longer do.  (When we were married, I did protest, and he always denied that he'd been rude.  Side note: mutual friends of ours visited this weekend, and he jibed me in front of them.  Our friend turned to him and said, "Bryan!  Don't be an asshole!" and when he denied it, she firmly looked at him and said, "No question, that was an asshole statement," and it was all I could do not to chortle.  She's more "his" friend than "mine" and so it was all the sweeter!)

Let him gobble up giant steaks and potatoes and refuse to eat green veggies - he's clearly having to shop in specialty stores at this point to find large enough sizes, and at 5'7" I'm wearing a size 4 thanks to all my running, so let our daughter see those choices.  Let him teach his daughter to sneer, but I will model kindness and cheerfulness.  Let him believe he's taking advantage of me by getting these free meals, if that's what he likes.  Let him feel the smallness in his behavior, because at a gut level, he's got to understand that his sniping at me when I'm offering a kindness doesn't make him look that good, whether I point it out or not.

One day, maybe he'll say "Thank you," or "That was delicious," or even "It's very kind of you to do this when you don't need to," or "Thanks - you making dinner really makes my time with Katherine more pleasant because we're not rushed."  Or maybe he won't.

But every time he's that rude, I get my own reward.  A very happy but slightly evil voice in my head repeats, over and over, "Smart girl!  This is why you got divorced, and you made the right decision.  Way to go!"  And that, I'm afraid, is priceless.

1 comment:

  1. I think it is wonderful you do that for Katherine to have the family dinner once a week. Does he deserve it? NO. Like me washing Stanley's dinner dishes 3x per week. Does he deserve it? NO. I swallow back the bile and try not to rake his ass across the coals in front of the kids, because they enjoy him cooking. He's better at it than I am, although when you aren't worried about cleaning up the mess you make it is fun to cook. Assholes. I'm going to try harder with dinners now since reading.