When we lived in Monterey, my husband and my son had a weekly pizza date. They would go on Thursdays after school while I was working at the wine place. They loved the time they spent together. They loved the pizza they got to eat.
It was an ideal situation for us all: they got some bonding time while I worked, and I avoided having to eat pizza.
It’s not that I hate pizza. In theory, it has all the things I love: warm, soft dough; cheese; veggies; tomatoes; and room to really get creative. But somehow these elements don’t add up to a culinary whole for me. I just don’t really like pizza. I mean, if there were nothing else to eat, I could choke it down. And I have. But . . . why should I when there are so many food choices out there?
In San Diego, the tradition continued. Thursdays were pizza days. Again, ideal for everyone. They got to eat even better pizza because, as we all know, Bronx Pizza is pretty much the best there is. And I got some time to myself to write.
But then dad leaves for a six-month vacation we like to call “Afghanistan” and now I have to step up with the tradition. It’s not that I can replace my son’s father. But pizza date is a sacred space for my son, so I want to honor it.
Again, I strongly dislike pizza. I once cried in the bathroom of a pizza place in New York City because I had to eat pizza. There are so many other ways I’d like to put 500 Calories into my body [coughwinecough]. However, I started “honoring” my son’s sacred space by doing it the only way I know how: passive aggressive with a bad attitude.
“Are you sure you want pizza? We could get Thai food.”
“Yes, I want pizza, but we can do pizza every other week and do Thai food the other time.”
“Are you sure you want Bronx? We could go somewhere else that has more of a selection.”
“Yes, I want Bronx, but sometimes we can go to Luigi’s.”
“Mom, why aren’t you eating with me?”
“Oh, you know, I’m not very hungry. But I’m sitting here. Isn’t this fun?”
“I guess so.”
And so it’s gone for two months. My son is getting his pizza, but he’s not getting what the pizza date is really about. I am not building with him that sacred space of breaking bread together as we talk about our days and discuss life in general. I am not honoring the tradition at all. I am merely going through some rote motions with a bad attitude so that I can say, “you got your pizza. What more do you want, you insatiable cavern of want? What about my needs? MY NEEDS?” [and then I grab a bottle of wine and run into the bedroom sobbing]
The thing is, my son doesn’t want pizza (well, he does, but that’s not only what he wants). He wants that connection time. He wants camaraderie. Which is why (and you probably could see right way from those snippets of conversations above what took me two months to see) he is being super gracious and compromising his pizza date. He wants me to interact with him in this. To meet him in it. He knows I don’t like pizza, and he is willing, eight-year-old boy that he is, to meet me halfway.
One of the things I want to do with my son is to honor his individual humanness. To show him that he is valued for what he is. By making him feel as if his pizza date is an inconvenience to me, I do the exact opposite. I make him feel even more bereft of connection that he is already missing because his father is gone.
I can’t replace my son’s father. But I can honor my son’s sacred space.
So today, when we get pizza, I will eat a slice of spinach and ricotta white pizza. I won’t think about it as Calories I am wasting but as Calories of love.
And I will be thankful for the gracious love my son shows me when we get Thai food next week.