Friday, August 28, 2015

My Parenting Recipe Disaster

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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 saythat 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.











10 comments:

  1. You're doing a great job, Joy! (Both with your parenting and your cooking!) Often times hurtful things are blurted out with the best intentions. Sometimes there is no kind way to provide constructive criticism. Thank the men in your life (or your dreams) for their feedback, consider what they said, then either implement or disregard. Try to remember that neither of the comments were intended to be malicious, hurtful, personal attacks, so they should not be taken as such. :) Hugs from Chicago!

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    1. Thanks for your kind words and the wisdom, Elaine! You're right though that constructive criticism isn't always easy to take. I need thicker skin. Hope all's well with you and the fam! They're growing too fast aren't they? Just saw S & S's pics and I can't believe they look so grown up now! Hugs back from TN! xoxox

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  2. What a sweet and honest post Joy. No parent goes into the job having all the answers just like no two kids are the same. You have to decide what is right for your family and so far it seems you've done fantastic job. I was the same way I was impatient, grouchy and sometimes downright pissed at my son about not taking his schoolwork as seriously as I did. I had to learn that we all get there, its just some of us take different routes. I had to learn that it was my job to let him go down that road, but to travel with him so he didn't get lost. It's a hard thing for a perfectionist to do, but it's something that I had to learn none the less.

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    1. It wasn't easy to write, Rena. At some point, it felt like rubbing salt on the wound. But thank you, thank you for your thoughts. I feel so much less alone with what you said and feel comforted. Hugs to you, my friend! THANK YOU!

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  3. I'm not a parent, Joy, but I would think that parenting must be like my cooking - follow your instincts and be flexible. I think it works with all significant relationships!

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    1. So true, Corinne! It's really a case to case basis and we can't be limited by rules even though so called 'experts' are our sources. In the end, we're all just winging it! Thanks so much and hope you have a great weekend ahead! :-))

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  4. Oh I can relate Joy. I am a different person now I am a mum. My husband regularly comments on my grouchiness, moodiness, the fact I seem to 'hate everything' (which isn't true!) and he thinks I am too mean and strict with the kids, too short tempered....the list goes on. You know what though, he isn't there for every moment of good stuff. It is hard to take the criticism, but there is no doubt you are the person who goes above and beyond to be the very best you can be for your family. Be gentle with yourself. Being a mum is hard because it uses up every kind of emotion you have, most hours of each day. It is exhausting, relentless and often thankless. I bet your soup is awesome, just like you are.

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    1. Awww, thanks SO MUCH, Sarah. It's really comforting to know I'm not alone and that you get the predicament I'm in. Thanks for your support! It means a lot. xoxo

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  5. None of us are "there" as a parent yet, because the learning curve...well it never stops curving. No one is good at taking criticism, we just do the best we can!

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    1. Yes, criticism sucks! This is why moms need a lot of wine. Right, Marie? ;-) Thanks for stopping by!

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