…on the way to the Wild Goat Bistro with my mother and my three year old niece…
Me: What are you going to order for lunch?
Niece: B A C O N!!!! (…leaning forward in her seat and growling)
Me: Don’t you want something else with the bacon? (…not thinking how silly that question is.)
This is followed by Niece giving a fairly long, serious, and unintelligible dissertation of some sort. I can only guess Niece has just explained all the logical reasons why “B A C O N” for lunch is acceptable. The scolding look on her face leads me to believe that Niece believes “B A C O N” for lunch should probably be the rule, not the exception. I sense I am being scolding for even questioning “B A C O N” for lunch in the first place. The lecture ends with a look of disappointment. I can only guess this is because Niece is a bit disappointed that I didn’t know all of this already. There is nothing quite like letting down a three-year-old, especially when we are in my wheelhouse… salty…tasty…MEAT.
Once at the restaurant we order Niece a kid’s burger with bacon.
While waiting for her food Niece attempts to undress. Not yet knowing the shame of nudity, kids rightfully feel that clothes are an affront to all that is logical and good. It seems as if kids this age want to be naked all the time (and twice as much if in public) and can accomplish this goal in the bat of an eyelash. It does not matter how many layers their protective parents have launched them into my care with…if I turn my attention away for even a moment…I turn back around to find a shivering pudgy pink skinned kid smiling back at me. Breaking the constraints of clothing brings them such sheer joy that I always feel like an ogre making them put their clothes back on. Kid naked happiness is hard to argue with, until the server is standing over us with our food, a look of scorn in her eyes.
So, to avoid the judgment of our server, we start our negotiation with Niece at the earliest sign/hint of a fidget. We start strong. We shouldn’t have to…there are two of us against one little her, but we have been here before and know that age and wisdom (and superior numbers) rarely wins out over a wiggling and determined toddler.
First, we simply tell Niece that she has to keep her shirt on. She does not seem impressed. The little insubordinate ignores this order so we then revert to a fairly bizarre arbitration. I say it is bizarre because we, the smart adults, are trying to convince her of something she is sure is wrong – wearing clothes. She looks to us adults for guidance and protection…yet here we sit telling her lies.
What to do next? We can only use “your bacon is almost here” so many times but figure we should try to keep bacon present throughout this mediation, so we fire that one off hoping for a compromise. This does little to dissuade her, so we plead that it is too cold to go without a shirt…but like most kids, she knows when adults are lying. We are sitting outside enjoying the sun, and it is more than warm enough to go without a shirt.
Although not responding to us verbally, it is clear that she is going to see how far she can push her luck. She maneuvers her shirt around allowing her to poke her head out of the arm holes at will, which technically is not taking her shirt off. It now looks like she is about to escape her shirt all together, so we pull out the big guns and start playing dirty. We inform her that if she doesn’t keep her shirt on the server won’t bring her bacon. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t believe this either, but I can see her doing a quick calculation in her head. Her final conclusion must be that the risk is too great, especially considering she will have her shirt off half a dozen other times today, and so she gives up on undressing. …for now.
Our food has arrived quickly …by clock standards. But every minute of negotiating with a toddler feels like a year so the ten minutes it took for our food to arrive seems like a lifetime. Luckily, the bacon comes in tiny kid-sized pieces, which she proceeds to strip off the burger and eat. Because they are also stuck to the top bun, she alternates between eating fingers full of mini bacon strips and eating the top bun like an open-faced bacon sando.
…eventually, she runs through all the bacon.
Niece: Where is the bacon?
Me: I don’t see any more.
(…across Niece’s face flashes the signs of astonishment and bewilderment.)
Me: You ate it.
Niece: Is there no more?
Me: Nope, you ate it all.
Niece: They have no more bacon? (…she says with a mixture of panic and contempt.)
Me: Nope, that was all of it.
Niece seems to accept this answer, even looking a bit satisfied with what she had accomplished.
…a few moments later while enjoying my burger I hear the nearly silent sounds of a tussle. I am familiar with this sound because of the time I have spent with my young nieces and nephews. It is the sound that errupts when there is no time for verbal negotiations. It is the sound of grandma battling with Niece in an attempt to keep Niece’s clothes on. But Niece has gotten out ahead of grandma’s best efforts. She has outsmarted us by using the shirt as a distraction, while going for her shoes and socks. By the time I look up Niece already has one of her shoes off and grandma is attempting to retrieve the other one, which is firmly clenched between Niece’s teeth.
Ah…a meal out with a toddler.