I sense I might have been played.
“I feel like shit,” Tracey told me when I arrived home from work. “I didn’t feel like cooking tonight.”
I looked at the table. Given what I could make out of the leftovers and knowing how my wife’s mind works I could completely understand her mother’s guilt. But, honestly, some nights a tin of spaghetti and some toast is dinner, yes?
I think I’d be safe to assume most of us have done the same sort of thing at one time or another. Your tin of ‘night off cooking’ might be cheese toasties or party pies, but at some point or other you just give a two finger salute to healthy eating, and the people on MKR who make your mightiest dinner party efforts look like a sausage sizzle at the local Bunnings, and go with what’s easy.
“They’ve been eating carrots and mandarins all day,” I reassured her, safe in the knowledge that they would indeed have been raiding the fruit and vege crispers every time her back was turned. As per usual. “Don’t beat yourself up.”
“Yeah, but someone showed up,” said Tracey.
Ah, now I understood. She got caught. Feeding your family a meal from a tin is sort of the parenting equivalent to someone barging into their flatmate’s bedroom and finding the occupant messing with his eyesight.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “I’m sure they’ve done the same sort of thing. I don’t think we need to be concerned about family services banging down our door.”
But I hadn’t quite got to the heart of the problem yet.
“I met her at the door-” Tracey assured me.
“Surely, that’s fine then,” I interrupted her. When my wife doesn’t want someone to come into the house it’s like she’s trained in crowd control with the riot police.
“The kids were all sitting at the table eating and I thought I could distract her,” continued Tracey. She shook her head at her own stupidity. “Actually I thought I’d gotten away with it.”
But she hadn’t allowed for our kids’ ability to dumb, because after the lady had left my wife turned around and…
…there was spaghetti everywhere. It looked like Miss5 was attempting to read the future in and around her bowl, while Miss3 had apparently been running around to Miss8’s side of the table and stealing tablespoons full of spaghetti whenever her older sister’s back was turned (which it was a lot because Miss8 was feeding hers and everybody else’s toast to the dog) and then arriving back at her own bowl with less than a teaspoon’s worth of contraband.
The floor was boat ramp slippery with noodles and sauce – although the cats were trying to rectify that.
Let it be known, I said all the right things.
“Seriously, it doesn’t matter,” I reassured my wife, laughing and giving her a hug. “So what if the kids were misbehaving and the table – or the house – was a mess? That’s life. That’s especially life with five kids. And no-one cares if you occasionally make dinner from a tin. I know I don’t and I think I’m the only one who really matters.”
“Thanks,” she said, suddenly brightening up. “I’m glad you said that.”
And then she went to the cupboard to pull out a tin of baked beans for my evening meal.