My mother has done a lot of things for me, but by far, the most important thing she did was to make me eat.
As I sit in my quiet apartment (quiet is a miracle, actually) it’s hard to imagine the millions of moms around the world that are trying to feed their kids at this very moment. I’m sure my mom spent hundreds of hours wheedling, cajoling, bribing, and threatening me and my siblings to get us to eat when we were little.
And in almost every household, this is how it’s going:
“You have to eat. Here comes the airplane.”
“Mmm, look, Mommy’s eating it! It’s so good! Your turn!”
“How about some peaches instead? You like those.”
Then of course there’s a lot of throwing food and smearing things around, and maybe enough gets in that baby’s belly to keep her alive until tomorrow, when it will start all over again.
“You have to eat.”
“I’m a dog. My name is Puppy.”
“Oh yeah? Dogs have to eat dog food, you know. Do you want that, Puppy?”
“You know what else? Dogs don’t get dessert.”
“I’ll be a girl again for dessert.”
“Yeah, I bet. But you’re not going to get any if you don’t eat this first.”
“All of it.”
“No, all, or there’s no dessert.”
“I want to eat on the floor.”
“Like a puppy!”
“You still have to eat it all.”
“I’ll eat it all on the floor.”
Then, if that kid is anything like I was, there’s a lot of barking, yipping, nipping and growling under the table. Most of the food ends up on the floor, since it’s hard to eat when all you have is paws. The real dog eats most of it.
Do we really even need to go there? In my case, any conversation ended with a lot of eye-rolling, slamming things, sulking, and sarcastic comments directed into the air. My mom just wanted me to eat. I just wanted to read. Lots of fun was had by all.
Year after year, mothers do battle against her kids’ iron wills, their indiscernible palates, and their terrible attitudes, all to get them to eat.
But once a year, those kids wake up early. One cracks a dozen eggs into a pan and another burns a loaf of bread. They cut the best flowers off of the bushes outside. They microwave that coffee that was sitting on the counter from last night. They sneak up the stairs and push open the door.
They tiptoe on staticky socks and shimmy the tray through the thick feather comforter. They pile themselves one on top of another in their mother’s bed, and snuggle into the pillow, giggling and wiggling. Mom sits up and rubs her eyes. She yawns a big yawn and stretches, immediately wide awake. Her children beam. What a surprise.
But this is no surprise for any kid. It’s commonplace, and they know what to do.
They’ve been watching.