25 January 2010

Eating, The Toddler Way

"This is not a restaurant!" I remember my dad thundering at me as I picked at my plate. No doubt my mother had served up one of her typical inedible meals of swollen spaghetti and limp, army green vegetables. She probably also had the nerve to add tomato sauce to the noodles. Gross.

"I'll never make anyone eat anything they don't want to," I grumbled to myself. My future dining room table would abound in all my favorite foods: salami, mint chip ice cream, chicken nuggets, butter, white bread, and Mama Celeste frozen cheese pizza. There would be no extraneous sauces like gravy or au jus. No milk in my Captain Crunch cereal. Food would always be served in those fabulous school lunch trays that prevented cross contamination.

Twenty some odd years later, I am bellowing the same edict to Zora. And, like me, she is not listening.

She tells me: "I want an egg. Not two eggs. One egg." So, I scramble her one egg and set it down in front of her along with her spoon. (She doesn't like forks or their cousins, the sporks). Then I step away to make my own lunch.

"I want up," she tells me.

"Baby Girl, don't you want to eat?" I say sweetly.

"No," she says, "I want up. I'm agonna help you."

While I'm making my lunch, she spots the yogurt and points. "I want this."

"You have an egg. Zora want yogurt and egg?" She nods and Mama, the sucker, complies. Of course, she needs a separate spoon for the yogurt because yogurt and eggs can't touch. Now we have eggs and yogurt and my lunch. We sit down. She takes a bite of yogurt. "I want water," she announces.

"I want water?" I prompt her.

"Please," she obliges.

I stand up again and get the water and sit down. Zora looks at me.

"I want to sit your lap."

I give up and haul her over. She eats half her yogurt and leaves the egg untouched.

"I'm done," she announces and slips off my lap.

"Don't you want your egg?"

"No, I no want it."

"Zora, take one bite."

She balks.

"Zora!" I rumble. "This is not a restaurant!"

But really, it is.And I'm the owner, the server, and the chef.