Chuck wrote this piece about his grandson Ryan ten years ago.
It started out as a fairly typical supper.
Grandfather, grandmother, son, daughter-in-law, and grandson — all at the table ready to partake of a simple meal. The adults would be dining on carry-out Chinese fare and Ryan, twenty-two months old and a very finicky eater, would be having spaghetti, cut into shorter, manageable lengths.
Ryan may be finicky about WHAT he eats, but he’s not quite so reserved when it comes to the manner in WHICH he eats. Not yet well versed in the niceties of the use of knives, forks, and spoons, he is allowed to use the utensils given him by nature — his fingers.
It’s a good thing children are not as dexterous with their toes as with their fingers or mealtime would undoubtedly be far more interesting than it already is.
Shortly into the meal, Ryan decided that the proper place for the pieces of spaghetti was not on his high chair tray, but on the floor and he proceeded to gingerly drop strands over the side and then watch to see where they would land.
After only a couple such gravity-testing experiments, Grandmother, affectionately known as “Gimme”, decided that this was not the way that she wanted to see her grandson develop, visualizing him as a thirty-year-old gleefully dropping food onto a restaurant floor somewhere, still testing to see that gravity was continuing to work as always.
With Ryan poised to let fly another piece of spaghetti, Gimme gently admonished him, “No, Ryan. We don’t throw our food on the floor.”
Ryan stopped in mid-drop, his arm outstretched with a single strand of spaghetti dangling precariously, ready to be launched. But his tiny fingers, smudged generously with tomato sauce, held the potentially errant piece of food there in mid-air, a mute barrier between him and a grandmother trying desperately not to break out laughing at his hesitation.
Ryan lowered his head slightly and scowled (as much as a twenty-two-month-old can scowl) from under his brow, not knowing how far he could push Gimme and get away with it.
Grandmother and grandson each sat there, trying to out-scowl the other, while three other adults at the table were either trying, unsuccessfully, to stifle outright laughter, smirking, or giving up altogether and howling uncontrollably, grandfather being the latter.
After a very long time of Gimme and Ryan seeing who would yield first, each trying to out-stare the other and with Ryan scanning the faces of everyone sitting at the table looking for some guidance as to what his next course of action should be, he apparently finally decided that crossing Gimme was probably not a good plan, especially since she is the one who provides cookies and milk on a regular basis.
Reaching across his high-chair tray, he very gingerly placed the piece of spaghetti on the dining table and settled back to nonchalantly take a drink from his sippy bottle, obviously gloating in the realization that he had accomplished a coup and a diplomatic solution all in one, while the adults were barely able to finish their meal due to laughing so hard.
Remember, grandmothers are just like mothers, only fewer rules… but don’t break the ones she has.