Cereal + milk = sadness
In a battle of wills, I will always lose. No, I exaggerate. I will lose 99 out of 100 times.
Her Daddy sat on the couch with a bowl of Frosted Flakes. (“Tie!” she would shout to the box, before she ever ate any. “Tony the Tiger,” my husband added. “Toe! Tie!” she now crows.) She came over to him, opening her mouth to him like a baby bird eagerly awaiting a worm. Arms resting on his knees in a pose of that mixed comfort with snuggling, she shared a bowl of cereal with him before he went to work. She should, I thought, have her own bowl so he could finish his cereal.
The flakes tinkled into a small bowl as I poured the box; organic whole milk, the deep, rich white of Elmer’s glue, splashed over them. “Go to your chair!” I instructed cheerily. She did. I got her seated, clicked in, and bibbed up, and I loaded a spoon with a bite, just like Daddy had.
“Hole!” she demanded, arms outstretched.
“No, you can’t hold this. Mama will hold it,” I said calmly. I offered the bite again. The deep blue bowl was awash in milk which would end up on the table, the carpet, her bib, her pajamas, maybe even the bookcase, if she splashed or pushed the bowl far enough. She didn’t open her mouth. “Here!” I said more firmly. The proffered spoon filled the space between us.
She brushed at the spoon with her hand. “Hole!” she demanded.
Suddenly, we were in it, the breakfast battle. I wanted her to eat cereal for me just like she did for her Daddy. I didn’t want to be stuck cleaning up a soggy, drippy mess. She wanted to be in charge of eating. She wanted to be her own food boss. “Hole!”
“No!” I shouted, frustrated. I held out the spoon again. She wouldn’t open her mouth; it was closed tighter than if she’d used Elmer’s – or even Gorilla – glue, and her lips began to quiver. Tears welled up and pooled in her lower eyelids, puddles after a strong rain, and some spilled over, making small sad rivulets.
Was my cereal attack worth her tears?
As a way of making peace, I put some dry flakes on her tray. She dipped her head down extra low to see the cereal. With the tears still filling her eyelids, the tears that I’d brought on, she couldn’t see otherwise. Without any fuss, she overcame her blurry vision and popped a flake in her mouth, then smiled up at me.
Then – and this was the killer thing – she dipped her head down low again, like a cow searching for the clover, and picked up another flake and fed it to me. She did this again and again, until she’d fed me all of the flakes but the first one, the only one which she’d allotted for herself.
My sweet, sweet daughter. I’d yelled at her, and she still fed me her breakfast.
After this, she ate cereal off of the spoon and finished most of the bowl.
Why don’t I learn my lesson? By changing tactics, I’m not teaching her that she always gets what she wants. I am, however, teaching myself that I don’t always have to get my way.
It doesn’t matter so much that I’d lose in a battle of wills; what matters is that I learn not to enter the fray. As the adult, I might be the bigger person, but what my daughter shows me, over and over again, is that she clearly has the bigger heart.