His words shocked me to the core and I stood trying to process what I just heard. How can something so trivial have such a piercing effect on me? I heard his verdict and I simply refused to believe it. I knew deep down he didn't mean any harm but I took serious offense and felt unsure if it was something I could recover from.
"I think you put too much chicken meat in this. It's overpowering", my father spoke after he tasted the chicken soup straight from the boiling pot.
Too much?! How can it be too much? I've made this a million times and everyone always says how much they love it! Don't you enjoy how much flavor it has?
Before I saw what happens next, I woke up with a lingering feeling of self-doubt and wondered if it was more than just about the soup. It's never just about the soup is it?
Original Image from Wikimedia Commons
I know its strange that I can feel this way about a soup dream but let me further explain. My dream involved my 'Sopas', the Filipino Chicken Macaroni Soup, which I'm known to be an expert on. I pride myself in making really good sopas and have always done my best to replicate my grandmother's version (which to me is the best, of course!). This is one comfort food that I know I cook damn well and, considering how I consistently work so hard to perfect it every time I make it, you can pretty much expect that any criticism of my soup will crush me one way or the other.
Once I narrated it that way it became clear that my dream simply translated for me remnants of the hurt I felt when my husband 'critiqued' my parenting style the previous night. I took offense in what I 'heard' him say—that I'm too intense, that I expect too much from our 8-year old and seem to forget that he's just a child, that I'm always angry and might just be driving our son away, that I never seem to know when to just walk away to cool down and let things go.
I knew he made sense but no one enjoys being criticized or corrected on something that you swear you're an expert on. As a matter of fact, my first thought bubble was "How dare you?! I'm more of the expert between the two of us and you can't judge me on the basis of what you witness for only a few minutes!" After occupying the same job position for years and having a huge chunk of your identity be defined by it, surely it would hurt to be told that what you're doing is not working. Most of all, for someone who just has a natural tendency to believe that going all out and taking things most seriously are the only routes to achieving success and then be told that her performance is less than stellar and is clearly not producing the desired results, is a painful blow to the ego. My ego. My mommy heart.
But I can't and won't resign from this job. Motherhood doesn't work that way. I know I'm very good at this, just as I know excellent sopas when I taste it. I just have to stop over-complicating things and go back to the basics. Just as is true for my soup, I have to focus on parenting as a source of comfort, a no-fail source of a sense of home, a warm embrace of love.
So yes, I'm learning that sometimes less is better and knowing when to stop might actually create a better experience and produce something more palatable. It's not going to be easy for me to step away, relax and know when to stop giving and expecting too much. But I have to remind myself that there is wisdom in restraint and that the real end goal to parenting is not perfection but simply unconditional love.
Highly skilled and seasoned cooks are those who are not constrained by set recipes. The great ones are those who can improvise, adapt to the conditions and ingredients available to them and still come up with something remarkable yet wonderfully balanced. I'm humble enough to admit that I'm not there yet as a parent but being open to critique and swallowing bitter reviews are always good first steps. I'll never quit and I know I won't ever tire of trying because there's an undying certainty within me that this is where my heart resides. This is what I'm meant to be.