I eat cereal after Silas goes to bed. It’s what I do. It’s who I am. It defines me as a person.
There’s a three hour difference in our kids’ bed times at the moment. The big guy (Silas) sacks out around 7:30 and his little brother (Arlo) is up practicing for a Korn moshpit until 10:30. He’ll take a short break to catch his breath, then clumsily waltz over to me and sink his hand into my bowl of cereal to fish out a nice soggy rice check.
“Don’t you want your own bowl?”
“No, daddy bowl!”
We try to keep our kids clean, but when they make no contribution to that effort, it’s impossible to know what’s on their hands. Flecks of brown Play Doh are simply Play Doh until the one time they aren’t and then everything changes forever and daddy stops eating and talking.
I could wash his hands before he goes splashing into my food, but that would be a tacit approval of his scavenging. Lindsay is no help, “I’m just glad he’s eating,” she says. While I share that gratitude, he looks like a raccoon sifting through the garbage, and I feel like a helpless orphan who isn’t tough enough to defend his gruel.
I sit on the sofa eating like a prison inmate, but as soon as he sees it, there’s no stopping him. I suppose I could sneak down into the basement and eat my cereal behind the boiler, but that would be lonely and pathetic.
Most parents will let their kid eat off of their plate. It’s no big deal — they grab a pea, a piece of broccoli or a bean and pop it in their mouth. Very few parents would let them plunge their hand into the soup and eat it like a thirsty cowboy at a watering hole. When it’s just pieces of food, there’s very little collateral damage, but if a 2 year-old goes wrist deep into milk, it’s inevitable that something gets left behind.
It’s never anything solid that you could simply pick out, investigate, shrug off, and flick across the room. What’s left behind is a film that rests on top of the milk. You can only see it from certain angles, but when you do catch a shimmering glimpse, it’s clear your snack has been contaminated by the toddler-sheen. I don’t know if it’s sweat from all the moshing, or just a general greasiness, but it rests on top of milk like someone laid a wind breaker on a puddle.
But you love the kid, and cereal is expensive, so you do the best you can to eat around it.