The Japanese are just brilliant, aren’t they? Besides hatching the ingenious idea of restaurants where no one cooks anything (sushi, anyone?), they also subscribe to a lovely, aesthetic world view called “wabi-sabi. As a rough translation (really rough, because I don’t speak Japanese), wabi-sabi means finding beauty in that which is imperfect, impermanent, or incomplete.
It was this thought that crossed my mind while I was ransacking the kitchen cupboards late one evening, gathering ingredients to pack the next-day’s lunches for my children, and I realized that unless some, miraculous supermarket fairy was going to do my grocery shopping for me overnight, my kids were going to be eating lunches consisting of cocktail onions, croutons, and off-date white cheddar. Sarah McLachlan is probably just days away from releasing a heart-wrenching commercial about the state of my household.
It didn’t used to be this way. I wasn’t brought up like this. My mother raised my three brothers and me, worked full-time, had a spotless house, and prepared nutritious meals adequately representing all the food groups, every night, without fail. She would like me to add that she also baked. She baked, you guys. My mother is the sort of resourceful person that can peer into a refrigerator that contains only Franz yellow mustard and a roll of camera film from the late eighties and somehow prepare a delicious meal for a party of six that is arriving in roughly 12 minutes. And the guests would talk about the party for years to come. “Do you remember that party? I’ll never forget those camera film canapés!”
It’s possible that, to be perfectly honest, I’m just not the woman my mother is. I definitely do not have it all together. I own a business. I have a husband, a house, and five kids. Yes, five. And before you ask, yes, it is an awful lot of children, and yes, I’m fully aware that I’m crazy. These five kids have social lives that rival the Kardashians and seem to have a lot of commitments for people who don’t know how to drive themselves anywhere. I have so much laundry in so many baskets that I’ve considered just throwing away all the clothes and starting over. The number of socks without mates in my hamper has grown to the point that I’m convinced a one-legged man must live here and I just haven’t discovered him yet. I fully admit to feeding my children dinner from paper plates—often—and yet the kitchen doesn’t stay any cleaner.
It all makes me wonder if we are just less capable than the generations of mothers who came before us… or maybe we’re busier? Or our lives are more complicated? I’ve spent many hours and several glasses of wine pondering this point, and I actually think it’s none of those things. It could be the cabernet talking, but I think what has changed are our expectations.
I went to a birthday party at my friend Heather’s house when I was nine-years old. We unrolled sleeping bags on the floor and ate pizza and way too much ice cream. We played the latest New Kids On The Block album, talked about boys, painted our nails, talked about boys, styled each other’s hair, and stayed up extremely late… talking about boys. The next morning at ten o’clock, after eating bowls of sugary breakfast cereal, our parents picked us up. We were exhausted but had never known a finer time in all our lives.
Fast forward to today and the era of Pinterest. I actually planned and executed an “old fashioned candy shoppe” party for one of my children, complete with vintage apothecary jars and hand-lettered invitations. It cost a fortune of my time and money, and nobody even got to listen to New Kids On The Block.
All this to say, that we expect so much from ourselves. We are so hard on ourselves. We need wabi-sabi… to remember that it’s okay not to be perfect, and that there’s beauty in our willingness to fail. It’s okay sometimes to give your kids cocktail onions for lunch (kidding!).
It is definitely okay to give them sushi, though. Is anyone else craving it, or is just me?