the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Short stack

One of the most obvious things I inherited from my father, other than the shape and length of my body, my chin, my forehead, my ears, and that highly flammable sense of righteous indignation that usually erupts in the middle of 1) the local news, 2) traffic, and 3) phone calls with customer service personnel who do not speak English, is a love for greasy spoon diners. The dirtier the place the better, maybe because that is somehow proportional to the amount of butter they use in their pancakes. If my father were given the choice between an expensive dinner with the current Republican president or a lunch alone at a truck stop diner that is cooking its hamburgers in a vat of bacon grease collected over the period of fifteen years, he’d say, DO NOT FORCE ME TO MAKE THAT CHOICE, GEORGIE.

Our favorite local greasy spoon is a place called The Blue Plate, and we often go there for brunch on the weekends, mainly because it’s one of the only non-chain sit-down restaurants that has something on the menu that Leta will eat. She always orders the home fries which are basically potatoes cut into squares and then fried. And then she eats half of a bottle of ketchup. Is it the healthiest meal? Of course not, but we’ve run it by her pediatrician who has eight kids, one who was exactly like Leta, and he said, look! She’s getting potassium! And ketchup is sometimes made out of real tomatoes! So stop coming in here with these stupid concerns and call me when she’s managed to lodge a quarter in her nostril.

A couple of weeks ago when we were on our way to brunch Jon quietly talked to me in the front seat about how he wanted to try to get Leta to try pancakes that morning. We both understand how important it is to provide a united front when it comes to disciplining your kids (when spanking, both parents should use the same wooden instrument) or trying to teach them anything, and we’re usually very good about that, except when it comes to her eating habits. Because that is a battle I specifically chose to stop fighting. It was taking years off my life and making me so crazy that getting up from the dinner table and counting to a hundred was not calming me down one bit. In fact, it gave me more time to think about HOW INSANE my child was that she wouldn’t eat a peanut butter sandwich. WITH JELLY. WHICH IS SUGAR. SUGAR ON BREAD. A kid who won’t eat a certain type of sugar. So trying to exert any influence on that was like going, you see that nuclear bomb over there? I think I could defeat it with this here spitball.

But I was in a good mood that morning, had slept in past eight o’clock and that had made my brain a little woozy and disoriented, and I was all what year is it? So I agreed to support him in his attempt. There we were whispering in the front seat of the car about how we were going to convince our daughter to eat a pancake. If that is not the dumbest first world conversation. Other ones we’ve had in the past few weeks:

This iPhone is too heavy.

Someone was using my favorite treadmill this morning, so I was forced to use the stationary bike.

This refrigerator isn’t big enough. Let’s buy another one and put it in the garage.

So we’re sitting there waiting for the server to bring us our food, and when he sets down Jon’s plate Jon immediately mentions that he can’t wait to eat his yummy pancake. I don’t say anything because I want to gauge Leta’s reaction, and it is exactly what I had expected it to be: “Pancakes are yucky!”

Yes, pancakes are yucky, puppies suck, and rainbows are boring. And the old part of me that gave up this battle a few years ago is starting to rumble a bit, and I have to bite my lip. Because I want to stand up and yell IT’S NOT LIKE WE’RE ASKING YOU TO SEVER YOUR OWN ARM WITH A BUTTER KNIFE, KID. But I remain calm and say, “Actually, Leta, pancakes are pretty good. They taste like cake.”

And in turn she replies, “But cake is yucky, too!”

Jon and I ignore this obviously misinformed statement and continue to mention the yummy pancake for the next half hour, and occasionally he offers her a bite. She continues to refuse. Want a bite of a yummy pancake? No. How about now? No. Now? No. Mmmmmm, this yummy pancake is really yummy, would you like a bite? No. How about I grab it off the plate and aim it at your head like a frisbee? No. Are you even paying attention to me? No.

And this is where the teamwork, the united front comes in, because it suddenly occurs to me to tell her that the syrup tastes like candy, and right when I say that Jon nods furiously and suggests that she dip her finger in the syrup and touch that finger to her tongue. The mere mention of candy causes her to sit up straight, and for a second we both get the sense that she is trying to figure out if it’s worth it to give in and let us win, especially if we’re telling the truth. What if it does taste like candy? Wouldn’t it be stupid to sit there with all that candy a few inches away, just to prove a point? And the voice inside my head is going HAND HER THE BUTTER KNIFE AND DEMAND THAT SHE REMOVE HER ARM.

So she gives us both this look, like, you guys are so cute, look how hard you’ve been trying. Just this once I’m going to indulge you, but don’t say I didn’t warn you! And I’m waiting for the bleaaaah and yuuuuuccck and moaning and wailing, and I’m holding my breath as she dips her finger in the syrup. And as she brings that finger to her mouth the overwhelming aroma of AWESOMENESS hits her tongue, and without even tasting the syrup she yells, “I LOVE IT.”

What?

“I LOVE IT!”

Excuse me?

“I LOVE IT AND I WANT MY OWN. MY OWN PANCAKE.”

I’ve never seen Jon move so fast, he was out of his chair running to find the server. And in the five minutes it took for him to bring Leta Her Own Pancake we sat there holding our breath, not looking at anything other than the table, afraid that if we moved at all that particles in the atmosphere would shift and she’d change her mind. She’d say something and we’d barely nod or shake our heads. Briefly I looked up and caught Jon’s gaze, and I knew we were both thinking the same thing: that pancake would taste no where near as good as victory.

She ate every bite of that pancake, and she has eaten pancakes every single morning since then. It’s the first thing she asks for in the morning, Her Own Pancake, and I don’t think Jon has ever experienced more joy standing over the stove. Partly because she loves them so much, but mostly because I think he knows that I am now more willing to follow his lead in certain matters when it comes to our very unique daughter. Thank you, Jon, for expanding our daughter’s diet from four to five things.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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