Now that my children are both practically teenagers (well, one has always been a teenager by temperament), I sometimes feel like they don’t want me around as much. Everything about me mortifies them: the way I dress, the way I laugh, the way I chew my food—heck, they don’t even like the way I call their friends morons (especially if those friends happen to be standing right next to them at the time). However, as mortifying as I might be, every time I think they’ve gotten to the point where they don’t need me any more they turn around and actively seek me out just so they can say those three little words that every mother longs to hear.
“There’s no food.”
Wait, did I say “longs”? I meant “dreads.” And the reason I dread these three little words so much is that I never quite know when I am going to hear them next. I know what you’re thinking: don’t you usually hear them when you run out of food? Well, yes, that would be the logical time to hear them, but the fact is I usually hear them the day after I’ve gone to the grocery store, when both the cabinets and the fridge are so full that getting something out of them is like playing a game of food Jenga. “Okay, let’s see, I can pull out this can of soup—no, it’s supporting the refried beans and pasta. Wait a minute—I think the tower of tuna will support it all. Let’s give it a try… oh no! Foodalanche!”
The incongruity of having a mountain of food falling on you while there is someone standing behind you saying, “there’s no food” is not lost on me, however much it might be lost on my children. Suddenly I can emphasize with the crowds who objected so strenuously to Magritte’s famous painting “The Treachery of Images,” which, if you’ll remember from that long ago art appreciation class (or else from all the time you spent hanging out at the poster shop at the mall) was a painting of a pipe with the words, “ceci n’est pas une pipe” (this is not a pipe) painted directly underneath.
Luckily for me, however, unlike the crowds at Magritte’s art opening, (who were, perhaps, not quite prepared for his style), living with my perpetual teen taught me years ago that there are certain phrases that come out of their mouths to which a few pertinent words must be added by the listener. Those words are, “that I like.” Thus, “I have no shoes” becomes “I have no shoes that I like;” “There’s nothing to do,” becomes “There’s nothing to do that I like;” and, of course, “There’s no food,” becomes, “There’s no food that I like.” (Does that mean Magritte’s painting should have been entitled “ceci n’est pas une pipe que j’aime”—this is not a pipe that I like? Only his mother could tell us for sure.)
At this point, you’re probably thinking, okay, why not just buy them the food that they like then? While that sounds reasonable, there are more than a few problems with that plan (not the least of which being that my recycling bin only holds 24 pizza boxes at a time.) There is also the fact that, since their tastes seem to change on a daily basis, other than pizza I really have no idea what they’re going like. I suppose I could always take them with me when I go to to the store, and let them point and grunt at the items they want, but there’s a problem with that as well.
I think it has something to do with the fact that I’m so, well, mortifying. And apparently, not in a way that they like.