Over 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.