House & HomeMom's LifeThe KitchenWork and Passions

of soggy French toast and starving anger.

by Meagan Francis on June 30, 2009

Last week we went on a five-day family road trip to Door County, WI. On the last day of our vacation, just before we left town, we planned to have a nice breakfast together, and I put a lot of effort into finding a restaurant we’d enjoy. I decided on a small family-owned bakery/cafe with a Sunday morning brunch and good reviews, called and made the reservations, and got us all out the door on time. (Almost.)

When we got there, my husband had a moment of frugal conscience and suggested we order off the menu rather than get the buffet. I love me some buffet, but it’s unlikely I’d actually consume $11 worth of breakfast food. And our little kids aren’t big enough eaters to justify $7 worth of pancakes and bacon, either. I saw his logic, so I reluctantly agreed and found something on the menu that I wanted to eat.

Then, at the last moment, my husband and two older sons changed their minds again and decided they wanted the buffet after all. I went ahead and ordered the french toast for myself, and eggs and pancakes for the little guys to split.

As my older sons and husband returned from the buffet again and again with delicious-looking stuff–and I sat with two whiny little boys who couldn’t understand why everyone else was getting to eat, but they had to wait–I found myself getting annoyed. The buffet was my idea. The whole restaurant was my idea. Why wasn’t I eating that homemade mac and cheese and a pastry and fresh fruit? Where were my sausage links?

Finally, the food arrived for Owen, William and myself. After getting the little guys situated with their pancakes and eggs, I eagerly cut up my French toast, reached for the syrup, and…

instead, poured the hot water meant for my tea all over my food.

Now I went, for an instant, from annoyed to enraged. Ruined! All ruined! The French toast, soggy! The bacon, damp! And because I didn’t get the buffet, I couldn’t even go right up and trade it in for a new plate of food! RUINED!

I don’t freak out often, but food can be a big trigger for me. For one thing, when I get hungry–particularly in the early part of the day–my blood sugar drops and I get extremely cranky. And sometimes, when I really look forward to a particular meal it is hard to deal with disappointment when it doesn’t work out quite the way I’d envisioned.

So you can imagine my frame of mind at that moment. All around me, my family gobbled up pancakes and sausage and bacon and eggs and mac and cheese and breakfast casseroles and who-knows-what-else. And I sat in my seat, seething, staring at a plate of watery, ruined food. For a moment, I actually thought I might cry. Or throw a fork.

Of course, the most natural target for my rage was my husband. He’d been the one who suggested we eat off the menu, after all, and then changed his mind. All. His. Fault. And isn’t this just a perfect metaphor for motherhood, my mind went on. Everyone else gets exactly what they want, and Mom’s left holding the plate of soggy bread.

I sat there entertaining these self-pitying thoughts for a minute or two. I’m not sure what my face looked like, but the rest of my family started looking worried and talking to me v-e-r-y carefully, as though they thought I might do something rash with the breakfast meats. And then, I’m sure you can guess what happened: the initial anger wore off, I realized that I was actually close to tears over a plate of fried bread, and I started to feel silly.

Here’s where the choice presented itself to me: I could either decide that no, dammit, being angry about getting screwed out of my French toast was not silly at all and hunker down into that anger even more–hold on to it, roll around in it, get really deep into it, and let it color my reactions to my kids, my interactions with my husband, for the rest of the trip–

OR, I could recognize the choices I made that led to that plate of soggy food and not-satisfied belly, and the choices I was still continuing to make:

  • I could have changed our orders when I realized that I really did want the buffet.
  • I could have taken more care while prepping my food instead of using my mental energy worrying about what other people were eating.
  • I could have asked for a new plate of food after I wrecked the first one. I’d have felt like a dummy, but I’m guessing they’d have brought me more.

And once I realized my control over the situation, I could decide to make a choice I could live with. By this point, I decided it was too late for me to ask for a new plate of food: everyone else was done, and it wouldn’t have been very much fun eating a whole new breakfast while four kids grew restless in their seats and the baby squirmed.

But I could walk over to the bakery and order myself a cherry turnover to eat in the car. And I could give my husband and kids a break and realize that nobody set out to ruin my breakfast. And I could even laugh about the water-mistaken-for-syrup.

And I did. And it was good.

Throughout my marriage and life as a mom, I have often found myself at that crossroads where you have to choose to either stay angry or let it go. Moments of disappointment, anger, annoyance and even rage are inevitable, and certainly there are certain behaviors that justify big and lasting feelings (like, say, infidelity). But silly little things also have a way of getting fat and large on all the energy we feed them when it would have been just as easy to starve them away.

There comes that pivotal moment where the initial event–whether it’s a soggy plate of food or a child’s misbehavior or the spouse who forgot your anniversary–isn’t enough to fuel the anger anymore. At that moment you have to make a conscious, intelligent decision to feed the negativity. And I am convinced that a huge percentage of marital discord and parental bitterness comes from people making a choice to stay angry or disappointed or disgusted or resentful. I know because I’ve made that choice myself, many many times, especially early in my life as a mom and wife. And it has never, not once, made my day better, improved a relationship, or given me any real, lasting satisfaction. Now I go out of my way to make the other decision: the decision not to nurture the annoyance or resentment, to forget about the self-pity. Like anything else, bad feelings need to be fed in order to thrive. If you starve them of attention or focus, they have a way of shriveling up and going away.

Imagine how much happier we’d all be if we let moments of anger be just that: moments. And then went on to embrace the humor in the unexpected, the love of our families, and the freshly-baked cherry turnover.

Have you ever made a conscious choice to either feed or starve bad feelings toward your kids or spouse? What happened?

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris June 30, 2009 at 9:44 am

I try to practice arguing with myself before I freak out at anyone else. If my husband does something that annoys me I rant and rave inside my head until the anger burns down to something I can ask for from him or change for myself.

A few weeks ago I was driving The Boy to taekwondo and I encountered a series of minor but highly annoying frustrations (we were late already, we needed gas, the guy ahead of me was driving waaaaaay below the speed limit, and there was road construction on a Saturday) and I was fuming, really being a jerk and ranting all while I drove. My kids were doing that audible silence thing that lets you know you are going over the edge. I decided to talk it through out loud

“Boy am I frustrated! What a bunch of annoying things to happen all at once! I guess I can keep being angry, which is no fun and makes me all scary and maybe a dangerous driver, or I can choose to calm the heck down. I’m going to take three deep breaths as a start, guys will you take deep breaths with me? (we did) Okay, my chest is not as tight now and my brain is clearer, that feels a lot better. Now I am going to choose to feel better – I am in my car with my sweet boys on a sunny day, and we’re going to tkd which is always fun and since we are definitely going to be late, there’s no point in stressing about it now.”

I’m sure I sounded like a bit of a tool, but the kids got the benefit of the process and I did indeed calm down.

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Meagan Francis June 30, 2009 at 10:12 am

Chris, I LOVE that you talked through it with your kids. I think it’s so important to let them know that 1) yes, adults get angry and frustrated too, 2) Mom might be being ranty and ravy but it doesn’t necessarily mean she’s mad at YOU and 3) There are things Mom can do to make herself feel better, and you can try it too.

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Frelle June 30, 2009 at 11:54 am

I love this entry. It sounds like a situation I might find myself in, and it sounds like the way I would react. I would NOT be the bigger person and think through it like you did. I would wallow in it, and snap at at least one of my children if not my husband.. and maybe I could rescue my hunger some other way. But you did an awesome job. I will try to remember your post next time I am in an “am I really about to cry and knock heads together over wet french toast? Seriously, get something else and get over yourself!”. I might have the forethought to have my buffet-having husband go snag me a plate of food now that you mention it.

Thanks for posting to twitter and directing me over here!

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Meagan Francis June 30, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Frelle, I certainly don’t come by it naturally. When certain things set me off, I have to try very hard not to sulk, wallow and snap. But taking the ‘happier road’ gets easier with practice, especially when you see how much better it makes you feel.

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Petula June 30, 2009 at 1:19 pm

I don’t know that I can think of an example right now in regards to that. Hmmm? I don’t know if that means I have a bad memory or I haven’t done that anytime recently. Ut oh. :)

You have a very positive outlook and that’s great. It’s always great to take a moment to acknowledge and recognize your feelings then think before you react. Great writing too!

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Meagan Francis July 1, 2009 at 8:11 am

Thanks for dropping by, Petula!

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Linda July 1, 2009 at 10:38 am

Wow Meagan – that was great. I don’t know what else to say! I really liked this

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cindyfey July 1, 2009 at 11:18 am

So much sacrifice here, Meagan! You had a cherry turnover in the car? You’re the friggin mom! Grab a plate and load it up!

I know, Big Picture, you kept your temper and good for you for that. But please, get yourself a decent breakfast.

cindyfey’s last blog post..Rock And Roll!

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Meagan Francis July 1, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Good point, Cindy! But it didn’t feel like a sacrifice at that point. I’d have had to pay for my breakfast AND the buffet if I’d just grabbed a plate and loaded up. Or I’d have had to wait for them to make me a new breakfast if I asked them to replace the French toast, with a bunch of restless kids in a public place…It just stopped feeling like a big deal and didn’t seem worth all the hassle. Plus, that was one BIG cherry turnover.

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Amanda July 1, 2009 at 1:35 pm

I am so angry on your behalf! I’m sure that says some not nice things about me, but WTF!?

I keep deleting my comment and rewriting it because it shows my crazy. I’ll just leave it at that!

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Meagan Francis July 1, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Amanda, if you don’t mind sharing (and can figure out how to say what you’re thinking) I’d love to hear why you’re angry on my behalf. Specifically, who would you be angry with?

I’m genuinely curious. I think my original feelings of anger stemmed from my realizing I didn’t make the choice I really wanted to (and plus I was starving which colors everything in “rage” for me). But once I really considered it, I didn’t have anywhere logical to direct my anger. Nobody MADE me do anything. You know? And even if I was, hmm..coerced? into my choice, it would have seemed way disproportionate to be angry about it all day.

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Alyssa July 1, 2009 at 1:49 pm

I can’t tell you how many times in my marriage i have felt the very same way you did at that meal. Especially since having kids. I feel that I “GIve” alot more than I take. But, I realize that this is what I should do and that I sound pretty selfish sometimes when I allow myself to. Great article!

Alyssa’s last blog post..Precious Girls Club Giveaway Winner

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angie July 1, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Meagan, you are so mature! I love your reaction here. I think I would have gone ahead and cried before I got it together!

And your solution? priceless. And are you still nursing? So your composure would be harder to come by in the face of that ravenousness. I’m sure I would have enjoyed the turnover more than the french toast, even before the sogginess, but that’s just me.

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Amanda July 1, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Well, my point was kinda that you’re rational and I am not. :P

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ParentopiaDevra July 1, 2009 at 6:39 pm

Everyone is just very lucky there wasn’t any cold pats of butter. Just sayin’

ParentopiaDevra’s last blog post..The Jon & Kate Effect

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ParentopiaDevra July 1, 2009 at 6:41 pm

Of course I am seething at my own hideous grammar. But that’s totally a different thing.

Why can’t comments have an “edit” button for those that need them? *sigh*

ParentopiaDevra’s last blog post..The Jon & Kate Effect

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Meagan Francis July 1, 2009 at 9:41 pm

Amanda–hilarious! For the record, I think you are very rational. I admit, the idea of hot water drenching a plate full of French toast does conjure up some strong emotions.

Devra. If there had been cold pats of butter? Let’s just say I wouldn’t have been able to take the higher road. I do have my limits.

Angie, I’m still nursing, and I know you know that FEED ME, FEED ME NOW! feeling. The turnover was very satisfying, though :)

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Margie July 2, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Oh man. I wonder if I’d read something like this when I was married, if it would have made a difference.

Maybe not, because I DO tend to try for the best. But maybe…maybe it would have helped with that other 15% of the time when I just kind of WANT to be mad.

Great commentary.

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Patti July 3, 2009 at 4:32 pm

I have to admit, reading the story I feel a tinge of anger at your husband for turning you away from your original course of action and then going right ahead and doing the same for himself. It is extremely rational of you to realize that ultimately you made the choices that led to your soggy breakfast. However, in my mind he welshed on a deal of his own making and that comes across as a tad … well, disappointing. Especially since his original argument was based on “wasting money” and that’s exactly what happened.

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FamilyNature July 4, 2009 at 9:30 am

Great, great post. What a fantastic reminder.

My SIL is the most patient person I know. She’s cool, calm and always so gentle with her kids at times when I might lose my cool. People are always telling her, “Oh, you’re so patient!” She told me once, “I hate it when people tell me that. Patience does not come naturally to me, it is a choice.”

How right she is. Everybody loses their cool sometimes, but keeping calm is often an conscious effort: you count to ten, you breathe deeply, close your eyes, or you do whatever it is you need to do, but you choose to do it.

FamilyNature’s last blog post..My Baby, My C-Sections. Random Ramblings about Babies, Growing Up and Letting Go.

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Marilyn July 8, 2009 at 4:56 pm

I love this post Meagan.

I’ve written my response to it on my own blog, and added a link to this page. I’m new to blogging and I don’t really get this trackbacking business. I’m shaky on blog etiquette too, so I hope I’ve done the right thing.

Marilyn’s last blog post..I Choose Happiness

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Angela July 18, 2009 at 10:22 am

You’re a better person than I am, Meagan…I wouldn’t have stayed angry, but I probably WOULD have cried over the soggy fried bread. LOL. Great post!

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Sarah G February 11, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Good for you! I loved what you said at the end: getting angry, feeding that frustration, has never led to any lasting satisfaction. That’s what I have to tell myself quite often. B/c even if the rest of the vacation was great, that one morning of getting angry would forever color/cloud the memories. And who wants that? To always look back on a memory and say, it was great, except for…. Sometimes, I think it just takes practice, and enough bad experiences to finally realize that it’s just not worth it. As my Dad often says, one day we’ll look back on this and laugh, but right now, we’re not at the funny part yet. And you know what, even when he’s said that at times when I have been really angry, he’s always right…eventually.

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white ceramic watches May 29, 2010 at 10:39 am

Great post, thanks! Maybe you could do a follow up article about this?

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Tanya October 29, 2010 at 12:27 pm

This post was expressed so wonderfully. I was mad that your breakfast was ruined! And I would have felt the same way toward my husband for coercing me to order from the menu then deciding to have the buffet for himself! But you’re right in pointing out that it was no one’s fault. I think we all have moments where we fly off the handle due to something that makes no sense. It’s having the presence of mind to realize (even when your sugar has dropped and you are really looking forward to eating in that specific place) that you should stop and consider where you are directing your anger – or whether you should be angry at all – that is impressive. I know I strive to do that everyday but it’s not easy. I find it especially impressive coming from a mother of 5 – you must be the epitomy of patience. Thank you for sharing this story, it reminded me that every emotion is a choice.

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Emmalina November 2, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Thanks for this great post, just what I needed today. We are in the middle of moving house and this post helped me to get in the right frame of mind to support my partner through a tough day, what a difference it makes when we both feel like we are on the same side not digging at each other. Being happy is definitely a choice and one I aim to make much more frequently. Love your blog!

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ned serious January 22, 2011 at 7:00 pm

But did you get to see the goats grazing on the roof, in Door County?

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sari February 10, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Advice please, how to stay calm,and cool, to someone who says something very irritating to me in front of many people?? Help please, help…

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Treasure February 17, 2011 at 1:05 pm

This made me smile! I’ve gone through the last five years telling myself “it’s just cake” to all the small stuff. Before we were married, my husband took me out for a nice birthday dinner, to the kind of retaurant that has you order your desert before the meal because of the prep time required. I enjoyed my dinner very much, and really looked forward to the hot lava cake to come.
As we both pressed our forks into the cake, hot chocolate poored out. He then pushed the ice cream up to the chocolate lava to stop the flow.
I should point out, this was my 31st birthday, and my -then- new boyfriend was 20. He wasn’t even old enough to order a glass of wine, so how could I expect him to know that the ice cream would melt? I was seething mad that he ruined my night by turning my birthday desert into soup and proceeded to eat it with a spoon. I was so embarrased. He had no idea I was mad. I wasn’t about to let him know I was deciding to break up with him over cake, but I spent the entire ride home doing just that… fighting in my head that he wasn’t old enough to know better and I didn’t have the patience to teach him. Obviously, I had deeper issues concerning our age difference, and the desert was a silly thing to break up over.
I can laugh about it now. And after five years of being with this younger man, I brag about how much more mature he is than the older men I had been dating. And now, when we have obsticals in our relationship, I’m able to take a step back in time, and say “It’s just cake”.

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Treasure February 17, 2011 at 1:22 pm

I thought of something else!
This is my first time reading a blog, I may just enjoy this! :)

I was home sick with the baby when my husband left for work. I asked him to call to check on me before going to his after work function, to see if I needed him to come home instead.
I ended up feeling much better, but he never called. I actually sat on my couch and thought about my choice. I could get mad, or let him have this one since I really didn’t need him after all. I DECIDED to get mad! Now, I wasn’t really mad, I just wanted him to think I was because he was selfish not to call. I put a pillow and blanket on the couch, and locked myself in our bedroom with the baby. Not to much later, I heard him walking through the house, so I had to put my mad face on. He then tried to open the bedroom door. He found the key, unlocked it and asked “Did you mean to lock the door?”,
Here we go….
“yes, you never called.”
“sure I did” he said as he reached for my phone.
“no you didn’t, how could y–”
“you mean, this missed call right here?” He said pointing it out to me.
There it was right in my face- Crow never tasted so good! Luckily, we were able to laugh at it. But even though we have the self control to choose, it doesn’t mean we always choose right. I love that man of mine!

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Darius Hickman August 26, 2011 at 4:22 am

What a fantastic post, can I set it up so I receive an email sent to me whenever there is a fresh update?

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Rory Astry September 21, 2011 at 8:03 am

Heya just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the pictures aren’t loading properly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same results. Kudos!

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faith/emuna October 3, 2011 at 3:51 pm

soggy french toast. my new mantra. this post resonates so. kind of want to share it with everyone i know. thank you.

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Marianne October 30, 2011 at 4:24 pm

That was a great post. I really love how you broke down your thought process – kind of slow motion. :) Will have to try that out myself!

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Sara March 7, 2012 at 3:25 pm

I am currently in this battle of feeding the anger and resentment. I am a new mom AND new wife and I must say it is HARD work to maintain sanity & happiness for all. I find my biggest challenge is getting over the anger from a situation. I get mad over something large, small, or insignificant and then I just stay mad until a few hours pass or a day or the night, what have you. I yearn for the ability to just let it pass, laugh it off, delete the annoyance but I am struggling.

Reading your blog today helped and I am thankful for that. I am going to make a conscious effort today and every day moving forward to stop & realize why I’m mad and if I truly want to be mad to waste no more than five minutes feeling that way then move on. In my eyes I have to feel the emotion then let it pass or else I feel like I am bottling up emotions.

So thank you, thank you for allowing me to see a positive way to be within my 24/7 job as a wife and mother.

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Meagan Francis March 10, 2012 at 1:45 pm

You’re so welcome, Sara! I’m glad the post helped you. I have struggled with this too – the desire to dig down into the anger. It feels horribly good to hold on to it, somehow. I think I need to write about this again.

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Kelly April 27, 2012 at 9:38 pm

I know you wrote this a while ago now but I feel like its very relevant for me at the moment. Like Sara I’m a relatively new mum and wife, and sometimes it feels like our marriage is some kind of foreign dance and I haven’t quite had all the tuition I need to pull it off. It really feels like a skill set that I don’t have yet, and I’m so impressed by the wealth of writing you have here.
I think my problem with this particular issue is not making the decision itself, but to actually bite my tongue long enough to really process what the outcome of my actions will be. In my head/heart I don’t feel angry at all, but all too often my tone fails me.

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