I usually point it out three times before the inevitable fall. My daughter will plop down on my couch, a bowl of ice cream balanced in her hand, and I see the end result before it happens. I’m like a character in a science fiction film getting hazy premonitions of a dark fate.
Please be careful with that.
I say it, but I know my words are pointless. The whipped cream is already sliding down the side and coming close to the bottom. She nods her head as if she understands me. Yet, here we are. She’s oblivious to the fact that her hand is now coated in melted ice cream. I point frantically.
Look! It’s spilling. Olivia. You’re going to spill it.
She twirls her dessert in one hand until she sees the drip herself. It always makes me a little sick as she licks it off, but still, I’m glad that it hasn’t fallen to the ground…yet. That’s usually reserved for a few bites in.
I don’t know if “as carefree as a kid with ice cream” is a phrase, but if not, it should be. My daughter is as carefree as a kid with ice cream. Spooning it into her face, she inevitably drops nearly an entire scoop on the blanket – my blanket – that sits on her lap like a giant non-disposable napkin. She has no real napkin, the bowl is sitting no where near her mouth to catch it, and she has no knowledge that it even fell. Her dad has to point it out. When I do, she rubs it into the fabric with her hand. I imagine she feels she’s “cleaning” it. It’s awful.
The thing you have to remember about parenting is that kids are unlike any people you know. Normally, in life, when a person assures you, “It’s OK. I got this,” there is a chance that they at least slightly “got this”. Your trust might be unfounded, but there is at least an attempt to do what they claim they can.
For kids in white shirts, about to eat a tomato-sauced spaghetti dinner, “don’t worry, I got this” means nothing. Simply carrying the plate to the table leaves my twelve-year-old with a shirt full of marinara. She’s ruined her clothes before she’s even sat down. It’s like eating dinner with Carrie from the movie Carrie.
Both my kids share an insatiable appetite for destruction when it comes to messy meal times. During my son’s mealtimes it looks like a supermarket exploded below his chair. Full pieces of French toast and pizza line the floor. It’s hard to understand how he even does it.
Being non-verbal, Lucas can sometimes get crossed signals with me in terms of communication. He also approaches every meal like Cookie Monster on crack and is too busy double-fisting his dinner into his face to care where about the biodome of leftovers at his feet. I, like a fool, try to pull him from that and make these wild munching moments into teachable ones.
Seeing that he’s made it rain mealtime, I pull out his chair and will say to him, in a direct way:
Look. Lucas, look. You made a mess. We need to pick that up. Look.
With that, I point to the fallen slice of pre-cut pizza on the floor. I hold my hand out, implying that I want him to hand it to me so I can toss it in the trash. He looks at me with an adorable expression. I pat myself on the back for doing dad things.
With that, my boy drops to one knee, reaches out, picks up the piece from the ground…
And eats it.
He looks at me as if to say, “It’s food, Dippy. That’s what you do with it.” And, truth be told, he wouldn’t be wrong. My bad, kid. My bad.
Lucas has long been the king of wasteful eating in our home. Give him a bowl of Pirate Booty, those cheese doodle-esque snacks, and he will emerge looking like a powdered donut. Hand him a chocolate pudding cup and he’s going to turm himself in The Crow.
It all goes back to the days when they were babies. That’s where the origin stories really begin. For my son, it dates back to an afternoon in his bounce chair that I have on film, yet never could share because it requires an explanation. This is that picture and this is that explanation.
My kids always ate pouches as babies. Sometimes fruit, sometimes vegetables, these squeezable snacks were all the rage for the under three crowd. My son was a big proponent for them and could never get enough.
As I sat beside his bounce-seat on afternoon, I unscrewed the top of a pouch and, rather than feed him, I started doing my moments of dadness again.
Here you go, buddy. You do. You hold it. Ready? Here we go.
I handed the freshly opened veggie pouch to my tiny boy and he took it from me. Unexpectedly, as he did, my little fella squeezed it with a death grip unlike any I ever would have expected from a baby. A pea green geyser came shooting from the top like Mr. Wizard making Elephant Toothpaste. The purée literally jumped four feet in the air and came splashing down on his head.
I sat there stunned.
He sat there unaffected.
Yup. Lucas kicked back, tucked his hand behind his head in a lounging position, and continued to watch his show as if all was fine. The splatter of green goo matted to my son’s head gave me You Can’t Do That On Television flashbacks. Of course, also in my dadness, I opted to take a photo before cleaning him up. Can’t miss out on moments like that.
It’s the great parental paradox. Kids – can’t feed ‘em, can’t not. Give them food and they’ll wreck your house. Withhold food and the government comes to take them away. Life is about balance, like a bowl of ice cream resting on…is that my pillow?! Please, kid, be careful!