We are at dinner. The Princess and I are eating a wonderful orange-red cabbage-and-rice dish. Don’t clutch your stomachs and make gagging sounds—in fact, it is a great dish, and I have fond memories of it (one which involves marijuana, no less, cool credential of the day) with which I may amuse you, gentle reader, another time. For now, back to the dinner table and parenting skills.
The Golden Boy is having a hamburger, the existence of cabbage and rice being an insult to his manhood.
He opens his hamburger. “Where is the red sauce?” he announces.
“It’s there—below the hamburger.” For some reason, for no reason, I had put ketchup on the bottom bun, and placed the hamburger over it.
The Golden Boy frowns. “Why is it there? I want sauce on the top of the hamburger! Not on the bottom!”
I had started eating, or rather, shoveling, the fragrant, well-spiced cabbage and rice in my mouth, and I was not about to get up. “Look, the ketchup bottle is on the counter. Go and get it, and put some on the top.”
The Princess jumps in, as usual ready with further instruction: “Yeah, Golden Boy! You should learn to do your own stuff!”
The Golden Boy pokes at his weird hamburger with its saucy bottom. “No, you get it for me. I don’t want my hamburger.”
Crisis parenting moment. My mind spins off.
I know what everyone is thinking. I have heard this from both childless people and parents. The Princess is right. He should do his stuff for himself. He is perfectly capable of picking up the ketchup bottle from the counter, and putting some on his hamburger. I should stop babying him. If he doesn’t want to do it, fine.
But oh, gentle reader, you do not understand. The reason I get up, bits of cabbage hanging from my lips, is not that I am babying or that I get some weird psycho maternal kick from putting ketchup on his hamburger. It’s because if I don’t do that, he really won’t eat. He won’t get the ketchup, and he won’t eat the hamburger either. He’ll go without his dinner. Fine, I can hear you say. He’ll learn. I can even hear some of you mutter how I am ruining his future relationships— because his mom always fetched and carried, he’ll expect his wife to fetch and carry, and when she doesn’t, they’ll get divorced and/or be miserable like everyone else in our family, and it will all be my fault. Like it’s all my mom’s fault now.
My mind whirs back to the dinner table. A hungry child is a sulky, difficult child. If I don’t get the ketchup, or make him do it (which I can’t anyway—have you ever tried making a 6-year-old do something he doesn’t want to do?), our dinner time will become a war zone, instead of a quite peaceful moment concentrated on eating fresh, good food. The only lesson he will take from it is that mommy is evil.
I refuse to fight over food. It takes me less than two minutes to get up, get the ketchup, put it on the top of his hamburger, and re-attack my plate. And with this graceful, elegant movement, I flush his future relationships down the toilet.