A Tale Involving a Banana
Today, my son taught me about compassion and consequence. He is four.
Home with a stomach bug, we spent the day together being the silly duo we have come to expect ourselves to be. I make him laugh and he says, “You’re funny, Mommy.” Then I make him laugh some more because he’s my best audience. I try to live in the moment rather than supposing that in the future, he will be older and, therefore, want silly Mommy to stop being so damn silly because, “You’re embarrassing me in front of my friends.” For now, he loves it and I couldn’t be more willing to supply the funny.
Trying to give him foods that fall into the B.R.A.T. diet of Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast to ease his tum, he asked if he could have a lone piece of banana that was on the table between us. It was the top of the banana, one of his very favorites!
“Yes,” I replied happily, following it with a silly face of longing for that banana.
“Heh…what?” he asked, wondering what I was doing.
“Ohhh…nothing,” I replied in mock sadness for the lost banana. I went back to my meal and then looked up at it again, longingly, then turned my head back to my food. Funny, right? I was on a role!
“Mommy?” He extended his hand with the untouched banana. “I want you to have the banana.”
“Oh, no, honey,” I replied, smiling, “Mommy was just joking. You eat the banana.”
He went to put it into his mouth and stopped, repeating himself.
“I don’t want the banana, honey, I was being silly. Enjoy it!” I responded sincerely.
Getting engrossed in my meal, I realized I had been daydreaming and looked up at my son, who’d also been quiet. His eyes glistening with tears immediately pulled me out of my haze. Like Gossamer in Bugs Bunny’s “Water Water Every Hare,” I slow-lee star-ted form-ing wordzzzz.
“Mamma, what’s the mat-?” I started to ask in concern. Like the old soul that he is, he turned his head away and swung his palm at me as if to hide his crying eyes and said, “My eye,” as he started to rub his left eye. He often gets a pinchy lash attacking his sclera and I thought for a moment that maybe, oh, I see – he’s in pain from the lash and started tearing up as an eye would do to protect itself from the foreign object, but…those lips were turned down at the corners! Maybe he’s about to cry in pain over the lash, as he has done several times before, but, no. He’s now turning to me with wide-eyed concern.
“I wanted you to have the banana, Mommy. I wanted you to have it.”
I slowly inhaled the realization of what my “act-ING!” had caused. A sense of guilt for taking something Mommy longed for. A concern over taking Mommy’s favoritest banana. She should eat and enjoy it. Not ME. I was crushed at what I had done to my boy over some tomfoolery.
“My darling boy, you are so thoughtful,” I started to say, as I caressed his arm and tried with words and actions to make him feel loved and protected and safe, “but I was being silly, pretending that I wanted the banana but I am full and don’t want it at all. I want you to have it and never wanted it at all. I was being silly. I really do not want it and hope that you can enjoy it.”
He wanted me to eat it. It was very important to him.
I told him that I eventually would, if it made him happy, but I was full then and would leave it for when I was hungry, if he really didn’t want it.
Being ill for a few days, he knew that we weren’t sharing each other’s food and he has been mindful of wasting food. I’ve seen him force himself to eat a bit more or drink more so that it wouldn’t go to waste. It is so tricky trying to find and then teach the right balance – don’t overeat and don’t force him to eat more than his tiny tummy tells him is needed. Don’t waste food, but don’t guilt the child into shoveling something down his throat so that it isn’t wasteful.
“I put that in my mouth, so you can’t eat it, huh?” he asked, knowing that Mommy may not eat it, after all.
“Well, I can wipe it and then eat it. Or you can eat it.”
“No, I want you to eat it.”
I wiped it and ate it.
“I wanted the banana!!!” he cried.
No, I’m kidding. I would have deserved that, but that’s not what happened. He smiled, sadly; exhausted at the emotional ride he’d just taken. Will I never be silly again? Probably not – it’s in my nature – but I will definitely not toy with him about longing and regret. Those may not be so funny, after all.
More from parenting