Daughter: Why do I have different swimming teachers every class?
Me: You don't - it's the same woman. She wears a different bathing suit sometimes though.
Daughter: No. It's a different lady. I can tell because she has different boobs.
Me; No. They're the same. I've been checking each time I'm nearby.
Daughter: No Daddy. It's a different lady with different boobs.
A lot of parents know that feeding children can be problematic. If you don;t have a choosey child then life is pretty easy. My kids aren't choosey - but more moody. All day long they will gobble up whatever apples and berries we have available. But they can forgo food they clearly love if the mood strikes them. But they will always eat breakfast. They are less likely to eat their lunch and can decide that even though they want to claim they are desperately hungry at dinnertime, that they aren't going to eat whatever is made. Therefore breakfast is my personal favorite mealtime. Because it's relatively easy. Especially as I'm usually not eating any.
Breakfast has become odd. Basically what happens is my daughter wakes up with an insatiable appetite. At least she thinks so. As soon as she enters the living room she will immediately start asking me when it's going to be time for breakfast. Then I tell her to go to the kitchen table and I'll get it started. My son used to join her right away. But these days he now wallows on the couch by himself. Hopefully considering whether his choice to get up at 6am every day (often earlier) really is such a good idea. I'll then grab the breakfast juice (that's it's name - that way it's for breakfast) and pour a glass for both kids. Then I open the cereal cupboard and let the kids think they are choosing whatever they want. They aren't - it's either oatmeal or whatever single box of cereal is in there.
After picking out whatever they want - (lately it's been oatmeal) - I'll ask my son if he wants to join us. He always says no. I'll get myself a cup of coffee and my daughter will repeatedly instruct me to the specific way her breakfast must be delivered. It's different depending on whether it's cereal or oatmeal. If cereal (if so it's usually Cheerios) she'll tell me to first put the cereal in - then the milk - and then the honey. Don't even think about changing that order or she'll make the sulky-duck face and refuse to eat that useless bowl of slop now in front of her. Some days I'll give her a little ceramic jug filled with milk to pour herself. She hasn't had the misfortune of hitting a wonky cornflake and witnessing the milk ricocheting out of the bowl all over the place yet. And she handles the jug well. Certainly none of this silliness is happening in my home.
If it's oatmeal then I have to display all the types we have so she can "shop" for the one she wants. Then I pour the dry oatmeal and some water in a blue mixing bowl and heat it in the microwave. This is a step my wife refuses to indulge in, feeling all it does is make a bowl dirty. Both my kids find this wavering from the process to be sacrilege. Once the oatmeal is done I'll spoon it into each of the kid's bowls (although if my son is still contemplating the day on the couch his will wait) and then they'll instruct me to get the milk. By milk they really mean Half & Half. I don't recall why I put that on originally. But I did, so now it's part of the breakfast method.
I was able for the first six months or so of being a stay-at-home Dad to convince my daughter that I don't do breakfast. I tended to just stick to coffee and sit at the computer to write. Then my daughter asked me to sit with her. She conveyed such a sense of injustice and loneliness that I couldn't break her heart anymore by telling her that I just wanted to get something done while she ate. So for a year or so I've lost that twenty minutes of morning of selfish typing, but gained spending some time with my daughter as she slurps milk. My daughter may be nearly five but she still doesn't understand the idea of moving the bowl closer to her, or the chair a little further under the table. So inevitably she'll spill small puddles of cold milk down the front of her shirt and on to her lap. Some days she becomes so sodden with milk that it really does look like she's urinated milk. Honestly I expected her to look down one day and burst out with, "Daddy help!! I'm pissing milk!!" It's a testament to the remark that all kids are unique that she's so indifferent to a milky crotch (send them all to me Google - send them in their filthy perverted droves - I don't even care anymore...). Her brother - who usually ambles into the kitchen at this point - can't stand the slightest drop of anything on the table, let alone on his pajamas.Nine times out of ten he'll have the other half the oatmeal already made. But one the odd occasion the very notion of eating that sloppy-seconds crap in the bowl fills him with revulsion.
My son is on a solid oatmeal kick at the moment. This doesn't mean he wants to eat oatmeal. It means he wants me to make him oatmeal. Kids are eternally frustrating because the idea of something is infinitely more appealing than the thing itself. Which is why my daughter always asks for more cereal even if she hasn't even come close to finishing what she's already eating. Then I have to tell her repeatedly that she will only be getting more if she eats what she's already got. I know at this point that she doesn't want anymore. I've mostly convinced her of that. But if she does manage to convince me that she does want more I'll pour her another small bowl. She'll ceremoniously stir it all up until it's all wet and then declare that she's full. My son will do the same with oatmeal - but he'll want me to make more. I can fob him off by telling him I'll make him a bagel if he eats everything in his bowl.
My daughter's sense of injustice has evaporated completely at this point. No way she's hanging around for us losers. She will always ask, "can I be excused from the table?" and wait for a clear response. Once I say yes she's off. I'd say 70% of the time I can get her to take her bowl and spoon to the sink/dishwasher. Other days not having to do that is a small reward of some kind for her. Then my son will waive me off. He is more than happy to sit by himself at the kitchen table slowly munching away on his oatmeal. Actually he prefers it so he can wait for me to be as far away in the house as possible when he urgently screams my name. He isn't in danger. No - he's either spilled a tiny drop of something and is paralyzed with the responsibility of pointing it out (I just tell him to wipe it up with a napkin and he does immediately - but he needs me to know about it first). Or more likely - he wants me to come all the way into the kitchen to see the hilarious face he's making with his spoon in his mouth. Best joke in the world as far as he's concerned. And the further distance I have to travel to see his spoon-face then the funnier it is.
But as any parent of young kids knows - breakfast isn't over then. They may be up from the table. But - like this morning - my daughter will come to me begging for food. Her disposition is of such a frantic nature that you'd think she had been starved for days. She'll ask me politely at first. But no matter what I say she'll repeat the phrase, "Daddy what is there to eat?" with what has to be a forced trembling lilt in her voice. "Good Lord man - feed me immediately I'm so frail and devoid of sustenance that I literally crumble like a paper wasps' nest being poked with a stick." I'll try to delay feeding her anymore because she's already eaten a bowl of cereal, a bagel with cream cheese and some fruit. I've pointed out to her that she won't know she's full until she waits ten minutes. And I've pointed out that stuffing herself now means she's less likely to eat later even though she thinks she'll think she's hungry. But she insists. She can't actually be hungry. I used to try the, "well what do you want?" angle. But that's completely pointless because she has never once been able to think of a single item of food. Not even rhetorically - as in coming up with whatever dream food she could eat if it could be anything. Never once.
So right now I have to go buy apples. My daughter has already eaten the last one and half a granola bar. She's fixated on the idea of potato chips now at 9am. I blame her mother who carelessly asked her son (at 5.45 am this morning in bed no less) what he wanted to give me as a gift if he could pick anything. He suggested chips because there are some in the cupboard. And to make it more personal and loving he could prove how great a gift it would be by getting out of bed immediately and eating them in front of me. So now both of them are wondering when that amazing eating chips thing will happen. But more urgently when are they going to meet Mommy for lunch? So I need apples to fend them off so that they don't actualize the annoying thing of ordering a ile of food they think they want, but not actually eating any of it because they've been ramming food into themselves like a goose being brutally stuffed to make fois gras.
And I need some apples to soak up the coffee.