When the Cookie Monster visits

cookie monsterOver the past few weeks while remaining safer at home, we have all been brought quite literally closer with Daddy Longlegs working from home.  However, this temporary/ongoing arrangement has also meant that our places of work and play are currently one-in-the-same and naturally there is bound to be some conflict. 

Who knew it would come to a head over a peanut butter cookie?

Last week, Daddy Longlegs decided to make lunch for Little Legs and me.  He thoughtfully made each of our sandwiches according to our preferences, ham and cheese for me, peanut butter and jelly for Little Legs, with a handful of chips and strawberries to share between us.  I brought cookies and milk for dessert and boosted Little Legs into his special seat.  His seat clamps to the table where he likes to play with his food, swing his legs back and forth, and drop things for the cat to scarf down; sometimes he manages to eat, too.  

On this fateful day, I made the mistake of handing a cookie to Daddy Longlegs over Little Legs’ head and saying, “We can all have cookies after you finish your sandwich.”  

Little Legs watched the hand-off with a pair of eagle eyes that miss nothing and decided there would be no sandwich eating.  Only cookie eating.  Also, he wanted all of the cookies.  Now.

It started with a quiet whining and pointing at the distributed cookies with a grubby finger, first at his daddy’s and then at mine.  He turned his head away from his sandwich and knocked Daddy Longlegs’ hand away as he offered him a chip.  Then he threw a strawberry to the ground in anger, barely missing the cat that sat waiting and hoping for a meatier offering.

I moved to break off a cookie bit as a compromise when Daddy Longlegs’ intervened with a raised hand like a crossing guard to stop.  He was about to do some emotional mealtime redirecting.

“You can’t negotiate with a terrorist.” 

He turned to the boy who was red in the face and on the verge of screaming. 

He explained, “You have to eat your sandwich before you get a cookie.”   

And then back to me while still talking to the boy, “And mommy isn’t going to give in.  Right, Mommy?”

“He needs to eat something,” I said, driven by an irrational fear that he would starve starting at that instant unless he got a cookie.  Mother knows best, I thought, and assumed that he would naturally agree to eat his sandwich if he got a little bite of early dessert.  In short, I assumed we were dealing with a rational person instead of a toddler.

“You can’t just feed him cookies.  If you give in now, what’s going to happen tomorrow and the day after that?” Daddy Longlegs asked.

I took a minute to think, to allay my fear and push my maternal arrogance aside, and to consider things as an unbiased and rational adult.  Of course, I can’t just feed the boy cookies, he’s not going to starve, and I can’t give him everything he wants.  

He needs boundaries and vegetables. 

After all, we all know what happens if you give a cat a cupcake, he’s going to want some sprinkles.     

Ice Cream Tripping

icecreamTime is running out for our merry gang as soon we go from the Three Amigos to the Three Amigos plus one. We want to do some special things with the youngest of the Amigos before his world is turned upside down when a smaller, even needier version of himself moves into the house. However, with the corona virus, murder hornets, and another wicked round of bad weather on the way, it is impossibly hard to know where and what is safe.   

After settling on small, close-to-home trips and experiences to limit the danger from apparently everything, we decided to risk our lives with a quick trip for ice cream from a fast food restaurant. We ordered at the faceless speaker sign and pulled forward to meet a bouncy young cashier wearing a mask around her neck where it did her little good as a scarf. I prayed she wasn’t sick because she was definitely going to breathe on the goods.

“Hey y’all, lemme grab those cones for you. Be right back,” she drawled.

Weighing the risks with the benefits of this trip while we waited for the young woman/super-germ-spreader to return to the window did not offer reassurance that the sweet treats would be worth the cost of our lives. Fortunately, not one murder hornet was spotted and once that cold vanilla ice cream hit my lips and tongue, my reservations melted. Guiltily, I knew we would be back. I justified the risk that it was all for Little Legs, but truth-be-told, (lean in close to hear my whispered confession) the ice cream was for me.

We made the seven-minute-trip back home, carefully keeping the melting ice cream to cone ratio in check to prevent a sticky mess and gave Little Legs the rest of my cone when we unloaded from the car.

He happily slurped the ice cream and bit into the side of the cone with a confidence that came as naturally as breathing. He was meant to eat ice cream cones or perhaps this was part of an inborn survival wisdom like how ducks know how to swim as soon as they hit water. This was the sign of an all-American boy.

With a full, dripping ice cream mustache and beard combo that would make any parent proud, he smiled as he continued to slurp away at the cone.

“Is that good?” I leaned dangerously close to ask a question to which the answer was clear.

In response, he nodded and reached out to touch my face, leaving a delicious, vanilla flavored smudge on my glasses. For once, I didn’t care about his sticky prints or the growing mess around his feet. In that moment, the Three Amigos were together, happy and healthy; and in spite of everything, all was right in the world.

Yards of Yellow

dandysWe left the safety of the house for our morning exploration of the yard which usually involves tromping through the grass to check in on the garden, the status of a bird nest above Little Leg’s window and to blow on white haired dandelions to release their fluff in the breeze.  I assume our neighbors will thank us for their yards of yellow later this summer.  Of course, I didn’t expect to end the expedition with plans for a funeral, but that’s life.  And death.

Little Legs led me by the hand to inspect his stack of bricks and found the pile to be as he left it, precariously leaning to one side.  I pointed out a black dragonfly with square wings like the sails of a pirate ship that landed on a flat rock.  There were no disturbances in the garden, thanks to a regular dusting of diatomaceous earth, and the three fuzzy heads of the baby birds were all accounted for in the nest.  It was a morning in which all was remarkably well, begging for a small disaster to balance out our tiny universe in which the sun, moon and stars was contained in a pint-sized boy.

As we turned the corner and headed back towards the porch, I spotted something on the concrete pad next to an abandoned Mr. Potato Head and underneath of the window.  It was a palm-sized bird laying motionless on its side with its eyes cracked open in a sign of potential life.

Little Legs shouted, “Bur…” in delight and ran to scoop it up.

“No, baby! Something is wrong with that bird.  Let mama check it out.” 

I stepped in front of Little Legs to stop his obvious course of action and knelt down for a better look at the pile of soft brown feathers.  Ignoring the threat of bird-carrying diseases and parasites, I gently picked the bird up and its head rolled to the side without resistance; although its chest was still warm, the life was gone from its shiny, black eyes.  There was no fluttering heartbeat, quivering wings or chirping, just two tiny feathers stuck to the window where it must have made impact while we were sending dandelions seeds to destinations unknown.

Do I explain death, here and now, to Little Legs?  I promised myself before he was born that I would always try to be an honest parent and tell the truth, whatever version might be most age appropriate. 

“The bird died, buddy.  I think its neck is broken,” I explained to a face that did not comprehend. 

Little Legs threw his hands up in question and I instantly altered the narrative to one more comfortable and understandable, one that I assume my parents gave to me until I could grasp the concept of death.

“The bird is sleeping and its not going to wake up.”

Little Legs nodded his head, sleep was something he was very familiar with as he fought it every day and night.  He went to a box of gardening tools near the door and came back with a trowel.

“Chop, chop?” he asked.

“That’s good, we’ll dig a hole and bury the bird.”

He drove the shiny metal down onto the cement with a clashing sound to further explain his plan.  I hoped that he meant to dig into the soil.  I hoped for another opportunity as seemingly benign as this one to explain life and death.  Mostly, I hoped I wasn’t screwing up as a parent and that he would forgive me, if I was, someday.