Sunday, April 26, 2009

The trauma of life without the "cool spoon"

Published April 26, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

As I sit in my home office, pondering the subject for this week’s column, I can hear the heartbroken sobs of my youngest child in the dining room above me. I can just see his sad, little body, hunched over his bowl of chocolate cream of wheat, convulsing in the torment of a four year old who did not get the “cool spoon.”

Being a blended family means having blended dishes. Our flatware is an amalgamation of several different sets of forks, spoons, and knives, the coolest of which we inherited from my husband, Richard. While our silverware is the plain, replacement variety one buys from Wal Mart by the bundle, Richard’s flatware is endowed with magical black handles! And as anyone knows, black handles make food taste so much better.

Unfortunately, Richard’s dishes came in the service for four variety and I have five kids. Actually, I think it’s pretty safe to say that at least three of the black handled spoons have been lost since we married almost a year ago, so there’s only one black handled spoon at any given time. If you thought FOUR black handled spoons were magical, you can only imagine what the rare and precious ONE spoon can do for a meal. Every child in my home plots how he or she can lay hands on that spoon before anyone else, hence my littlest son’s current anguish.

We didn’t have a cool spoon when I was growing up. We had a cool bowl. It was a light blue-green Tupperware number with the usual nubby rim and melted pockmarks consistent with the early days when plastic didn’t do so well in a microwave or dishwasher. It was the holy grail of bowls…the prize for any child lucky enough to receive it. It was the catalyst for dismayed cries of “No fair!” and obnoxious taunts of “Nanny nanny boo boo!”

There are those people in the world who are extremely good with kids. They understand what the little tykes are going through in all situations and show amazing amounts of empathy. People say of this kind of person, “She remembers what it was like to be a child.” I don’t think that’s an accurate enough description.

I remember the cool bowl. I remember the hope, the triumph, and the agony. I remember the dread I felt each time my mom threatened to just get rid of the bowl altogether as a solution to the unnecessary drama. I remember all of that, but when my kids start fighting and crying over the cool spoon, my empathy level hits zero in a flash and I find myself making the same, “I’m just going to throw that thing away,” threat. It’s obvious, remembering is not enough.

Maybe it has to do with motherhood. It seems as much as I remember what it was like being a kid, I “remember” what it was like for my mom. I’ve never noticed, but maybe those people who are so good with kids are the ones who don’t have them themselves. Or maybe they do, but all their dinnerware matches. Maybe a few hundred doses of, “No fair! Why does she get to have the cool spoon?” would tame that empathy, and that person would be dangling the cool spoon over the garbage can until the whining stopped.

If I do decide to dispatch the cool spoon, I won’t be dangling it over the garbage can in front of the kids. That would be torture, and I have at least enough empathy not to put my children through that. No, if I decide I can’t take it any more, I’ll dispose of it under cover of darkness and feign ignorance the next morning.

Of course, knowing my kids someone will decide he or she has the “cool cup” and they’ll all be at it again.