I’m not sure I could tell you the number of times I have called my mother for life advice, but the highest percentage of my questions have been related to food expiration. I’ve never actually suffered from food poisoning, but live in fear of it, and of the crippling guilt I’d inevitably experience if my children suffered it at my irresponsible hands.
So I call my mom. Has this cheese been sitting out too long? Should we eat lettuce with brown edges? Is spaghetti from dinner on Monday going to kill my children at lunch on Thursday? My mother’s response is most often exactly the same, a less-than-reassuring: “It should be fine,” so most times I still Google, to be sure.
My own daughter is especially curious and asks questions that challenge me daily. Unlike generations of mothers before me, I have the option of hiding in the bathroom asking the internet what a wombat habitat might look like, but why pretend? I’m already quite busy re-learning algebra and signing overdue permission slips. I can’t feel badly for not knowing every color rabbits can be, or who invented Leap Years. So some days I open my laptop and say, “Let’s look it up,” and some days I shout, “I CAN’T KNOW EVERYTHING!” and shove an iPad at her while I stir dinner with one hand and practice spelling words with her brother.
But, as with my own calls to my mother, knowing I don’t have all the answers doesn’t stop them from asking. It hasn’t shaken their confidence in me. On the good days, we learn it together. On the crazy days, I pay them a dollar to brush my hair after dinner and they tell me what they learned.
And when I accidentally left my produce delivery on the porch for two days, I called my mom.
She said it should be fine.