As I was sitting enjoying a lovely dinner out recently, I was introduced to the most stealth of toddlers. It wasn’t a formal introduction, where I got to look him in the eye and shake his hand, tell him how much I admire his work. Our introduction was a sneaky one. What is that slimy feeling on my foot? What is that fishy smell in my daughter’s handbag? What is that wet stuff in my hair?
And there he was. His back was turned to us, but we recognized him immediately. Jack the Salmon Slinger. We have encountered his kind before. Cereal Chucker. Spaghetti Shooter. Lima Bean Launcher. They are the babies who express their dislike of certain foods by flinging them – or even more stealthily, dropping them – on the floor around them.
What irked me most about Jack the Salmon Slinger was not Jack himself. I’ve had my own babies try this sneaky route out of eating foods they didn’t like. The person that pissed me off most in this situation was the Slingers Mom. Let’s call her Wino-na.
As Wino-na downed copious amounts of African white wine, she blindly took the food from her own plate I don’t think she enjoyed and broke it into tiny, toddler sized pieces, and without looking, she dumped them on the plate in front of Jack the Salmon Slinger. Faster than Wino-na could pile up mounds of salmon, Jack was snagging them off of his plate with his left arm, and as if it was spring loaded, the arm would snap back, releasing the offending salmon, propelling it in various directions behind him. Where I sat.
My daughter, who alternately rolled her eyes and sighed in disgust, while picking pieces of salmon out of her handbag and off of her sandals, said, “What are you supposed to do to stop that?”
That, my sweet daughter, is called parenting.
You don’t sit there, completely oblivious to the tiny human being sitting in the high chair next to you, while you drink more wine than the college of cardinals during Papal election. You glance over at the little guy once in a while, see how he’s making out, be sure he hasn’t flipped himself backwards out of the high chair – which Jack tried to do a couple of times as the mountain of salmon grew before him.
Where was Jack’s dad, you might ask. Well, poor dad was at the other end of the table, alternately running up to the beautiful Boma buffet and putting in his own best effort at keeping Jack the Salmon Slinger’s sister, Suzy the Chicken Finger Flinger, from making her own food throwing tornado.
Would it kill you to take a glance in the direction of your child? Make some eye contact? Put the wine down for a minute and chat with the little guy, maybe slipping in a bite sized piece of salmon into his mouth while he’s laughing at you entertaining him?
I hear people ask often what’s wrong with kids today. There’s nothing wrong with kids. Ask what’s wrong with their parents. We’re so busy connecting with the global community anymore that we sometimes forget to slow down and connect with our own dining room table.
Where Jack probably does Sling Salmon. But maybe if Wino-na glanced in his way once in a while, she’d know what those of us sitting near him knew in the first five minutes.
The boy just doesn’t like salmon.