You know that awkward moment when you realize you’ve been completely played by one of your kids? Yeah, that. Turns out, if you want to know who’s in charge in my household, you need to look down. Nope, not at the four year old. Farther down. Just follow the trail of cracker crumbs on the floor. To Emma. The one-and-a-half-year-old. Sure, she looks innocent. Don’t be fooled. (Or she will play you too.) I’m pretty sure I saw a copy of Lean In stashed under her crib mattress.
My husband Dan and I don’t stand a chance.
Example #1. Crackers. One of the words in Emma’s vocabulary is “cracker”. She may slur the syllables in “apple” or “bottle” but “cracker” is said loud and clear. At the end of each meal. And snack. And whenever she suddenly needs a carb fix. “Cracker!” (Waiting, waiting.) “CRACKER!” (People, don’t you hear the sound of my blood sugar plummeting?!?) Thing is, Emma will not settle for just any cracker. It. Must. Be. Whole. Don’t even THINK about giving this girl a broken cracker. Or even a mostly-whole cracker with a tiny chip missing. She will immediately throw it on the ground in disgust. And demand another. Which is completely reasonable. Because, as far as she is concerned, you have not given her a cracker yet. Just a lame impostor. The cracker equivalent of carob chips.
I came to the horrifying realization the other day that the (almost full) box of crackers that we had just opened contained only a few pristine, unbroken crackers. What a waste, I thought to myself, as I tossed the box back onto the counter top. (I. Have. Been. Brainwashed.) There was a moment when I actually considered returning it to the store. And envisioned this:
Clerk: Ma’am, what’s wrong with this box of crackers?
Me: Isn’t it obvious??
Clerk: I’m sorry. I’m not following . . .
Me: These crackers ARE ALL BROKEN.
Clerk (annoyed): And?
Me: This is not acceptable.
Clerk: Ma’am, we can’t control what happens during the shipping process. But, I’m sure the broken ones taste just fine. They’re the same as the others.
Me: Maybe they are to YOU. And maybe they are to ME. But not to HER. (At which point I would gesture toward Emma sitting in the grocery store cart with her little arms folded across her chest and her face scrunched up like Popeye.)
I haven’t actually returned the box. Yet.
On a more positive note, if given a whole cracker, Emma is thrilled. For a good, solid two minutes. This is not the amount of time it takes her to eat the cracker. This is the amount of time it takes her to forget that she is holding the cracker. Yeah. That. When Emma finally gets an acceptable cracker, she licks it for a while like an ice cream cone. (Mmmmm. Salt.) Then toddles off. And forgets she is holding it. This annoys me. So, I remind her. And, she is once again thrilled. (A cracker just appeared in my hand: woohoo!) She nibbles on the cracker for a bit. And then forgets about it again. GAH.
But the food drama doesn’t end there.
Example #2. The Feast. On Saturday afternoon, Emma refused to nap until far too late. Which meant that I had to wake her up only an hour or so into her nap. (So that she would sleep that night.) I think she was in the middle of one of those seductive world domination dreams. Because she did not take kindly to being woken up. It took a while to pry her out of her crib. When I finally did, it was well past her usual snack time. So, she was no doubt both sleepy and hungry. Not a good combination. I presented her with a bowl of mandarin oranges. (Usually a favorite.) Emma looked at it. And then at me and Dan. Then burst into tears. Dan scooped her up and spent the next twenty minutes trying to comfort her. Without much luck. I tried offering her a cracker. She accepted it. But would not eat it. And burst into tears again. Then the light bulb went off. APPLES! Her new favorite snack. So I began chopping an apple into pea sized pieces. No skin. Dan held Emma so she could look over my shoulder and supervise. After cutting up half the apple, we had this conversation.
Me: Here you go, Emma. Why don’t you get started on this?
So I chopped up the rest of the apple. And put it in the bowl. Dan sat down at the table with Emma. In front of her was a bowl of mandarin oranges and a bowl of apple pieces. She was still clutching the cracker in her right hand. Dan and I held our breath. Would our little sweetie manage to soothe her hunger with a bite or two of something? Emma looked at the options in front of her. And began shoveling food into her mouth.
She. Ate. Everything.
(We. Are. Fools.)
So that’s food. And beverage?
Example #3. The Sippy. Last week I had this conversation with Emma’s teacher at daycare.
Teacher: Do you want to take Emma’s bottles home?
Me (confused): Take them home?
Teacher: Since she doesn’t use them anymore.
I am still confused.
Teacher: Because she drinks from a sippy cup.
REALLY? I mean, OF COURSE, Emma uses a sippy cup at home too. She loves strutting around the room with a sippy cup in her hand. Which she uses to water the plants. Only problem is: WE DON’T OWN ANY PLANTS. (Just lots of water stained hardwood floors.) But drink from a sippy cup? Are you referring to that tentative sip or two she takes from the sippy before she upends it? Or when she rotates the sippy cup upside down so that the water all spills out the air hole and drenches her shirt?
Me: She drinks from a sippy cup? A whole cup of milk?
Teacher: Yes. Isn’t she drinking from a sippy cup at home?
Once again, we’ve been had.
Incidentally, I had this conversation a week ago. Emma is still refusing to drink from a sippy cup at home. We can’t stand the thought of her not drinking for hours at a stretch. So we cave. And give her a bottle. Go ahead and say it, Emma: SUCKERS.