Dinner Table Battlefield: Mom’s Waterloo.
Damn. I have other things to do, other things to think about but it seems Frank shoved us in to food week. Used to be I was the pushy one. Is the following the strength you mean when you say how strong I am to have survived it all?
It was liver for me too. I can’t think about the stuff without getting sick to my stomach. God forbid I catch a whiff. Sometimes even smelling beef frying in onions evokes a memory of the smell and I am drawn back. A Counseling & Human Services professor I had in college once told me that he saw forcing a child to eat something they despised was on the same level of sexual abuse. Forcing anyone to put something inside their body that they didn’t want is equally wrong he said. I don’t know about that, I don’t think it is quite the same and argued the point back then but reading Frank and Mary’s tales of our dinner table nightmares had me thinking about that debate. Perhaps my teacher was more right than I was.
Sitting down together as a family is one of the top things parenting experts tout as being essential to raising happy well bonded children. I have been a mother for 16 years now and I’ve really tried to make this part of family life work. But I just can’t do it. I’ve noticed, living with my brother now that he can’t seem to sit and eat “en famille” either. He most often grabs a plate and wonders off to anther part of the house. I manage to stay in the room but rarely at the table.
The dinner table was the major battle field in my childhood. Dinner was regularly taken away for poor behavior during the day, “off to bed without supper” became the replacement for the wooden spoons. I was a stubborn kid though. I tried, I really did, and there were times when I would choke down my liver (mom was sure we needed liver once a month or so, there were a lot of these nights). I’d slice a small piece and bury it in a forkful of mashed potatoes trying to figure out how to swallow it so I wouldn’t taste any of it. One night, I can’t remember why or when exactly, I just couldn’t bring myself to eat it. Dinner was over for everyone else and I sat, not allowed to leave the table without finishing my dinner, staring at the cold hated slab of liver. I was not going to eat it, somehow my line had drawn itself in the sand and I was going to win this battle, just this once.
I sat at the table until bedtime. Probably two hours from start to finish. Finally my mother released me and sent me to bed. Hungry again. But I didn’t care, I felt triumphant. Until I came downstairs, ravenous for breakfast the next morning. The liver trauma shoved aside in my ADD haze. No thought to anything but the cereal I’d have for breakfast. I climbed up on the kitchen stool. Is at down to ready my bowl when mom swooped in and grabbed the cereal away from me. Stunned, I watched as she opened the refrigerator door. She pulled out my plate from the night before and set it in front of me.
Cold liver for breakfast. I did not cry. I sat. It must have been a summer or weekend day because there was not a rush, no imperative to get anywhere. I sat. My mother eventually left the room. I crept over to the trash can, tilted my plate in and watched the liver slide in to a pile of coffee grounds. I pulled some other garbage on top of it to hide it. I guess I moved too fast. I didn’t think about how obvious it would be. After being so stubborn for so long there was no way my mother would buy that in the five minutes she was out of the room I’d gobbled up that piece of liver.
The first place she looked was the trash. She dug that liver out of the garbage. Brushed a few of the grounds off and put it back on the plate back in front of me. I did not eat it. I sat for hours that morning, hungry, uncomfortable, miserable but unbroken. I don’t know how the story ended. I can’t remember the details. I don’t know if she verbally relented or just let it go. I know by this time she was getting a lot of flack from her parents about me possibly being anorexic. She may have felt compelled to ease off. All I know for certain is, on that day, I won. I have never, and will never eat liver again.
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