Kiddo, it's time to go eat dinner.
The Man put a hand on the Eldest's shoulder. The Eldest, curled into bed with me and a sleeping Toddles, grumbled quietly. The Man looked at me.
You should take him downstairs and manage dinner, he said. I looked over at the clock.
I unfurled myself from the Toddles while the Eldest stirred. Why does Mum do dinner? Why not you?
It's the fast of the first-born, the Man explained. I can't eat for a little while yet.
Unexpectedly, the Eldest wailed. It's so unfair! Why can't there be fasting for the second-born, too?
Hm. Well, what about those second born persons?
Right now, the Toddles and the Eldest are curled up together in my bed. I love watching them sleep together, with arms flung over each other, spines tucked into tummies - there's a wonderful microcosm of siblinghood happening there, with a sort of gentle territorialism combined with mutual comfort-seeking. Worn out by a pair of full boy-days, they sleep pretty well.
The Toddles is now on his nth antihistamine-free night, having foregone Zyrtec for the privilege of doing today's food challenge. It galls me that this is true, but without the medication, his dust allergy keeps him from sleeping well. Sleep deprivation combines with two-ness in some shoulda-seen-it-coming ways, and when the mama is also sleep deprived (a poorly sleeping Toddles is a Toddles in my bed), well, you can imagine.
Thus the voice in the parking lot, thus the odd mutual explosion when things go sufficiently wrong. D'oh. So, today's food challenge was a disaster waiting to happen, and picking up speed with each poorly slept night.
The first teaspoon of oatmeal was simple. I don't like it! said the Toddles suspiciously. I ate the oatmeal - appreciatively - and the Toddles copied me. But after that, it was long past naptime, and the already overtired Toddles simply stuck to his refrain.
I don't like it! (defiantly)
I don't want it! (hiding behind my back)
or simply, noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!
I tried luring him in, cajolery, tempting him with the idea of oat cookies/muffins/breads/pitas, bribery (oh, how I hate that as a tactic), until I ended up with flat statements ('this is not an option. Your options are with honey, without honey, with chocolate pudding'). The Toddles wailed, I roared and the allergist not-so-coincidentally popped his head into our cubbyhole to see how things were going.
I can stay until 4, he told me, having already given us an hour and a half of precious clinic time. And we can call it quits if this is turning into a major power struggle. It already had, and having just confidently chatted with the doc about the pitfalls of food and power, I was humbled. I paced, muttering, until I realized that it was time for the mama to be a mama. Gritting my teeth, I grew up a bit.
The Toddles and I played with cars, sitting on the floor. We went for a walk (how's it going there? um. He's not eating it. Oh, we see that a lot in the little kids. Farther down the hall, the allergy nurse practitioner looks up. He's not eating it? Yep, we get that a lot.) Huh. Still, I just didn't care how often this happened to others. Given the heroics performed to get us into clinic that day, I couldn't bear the idea that we weren't going to get a happy ending. So, we drew spiders and webs all over the examining table's paper, we found some cool wooden ball and track toys, and we sang Pesach songs. We did everything but talk about oats - nevermind eating them.
Eventually, eventually, when the tone of the afternoon had shifted, and when the Toddles had his second wind, I offered him a raisin. Just one. Then, I offered him a spoon of oatmeal, with the raisin on top. Don't eat the pudding, I told him. Just the raisin. He grinned, and delicately picked the raisin off with his teeth. We tried it again. And again. Oh good, I sighed. I'm glad you aren't eating the pudding - it'll make you too silly.
And then it happened: the Toddles remembered that he is Two, and scraped the spoon clean. Oh, no! I screeched. You ate the pudding - oh, but your ears will get all curly-swirly. It'll be too silly. Whatever shall I do? I paced the tiny floor theatrically. I need a plan, need a plan, need a plan, I said worriedly. Aha! I will put TWO raisins on this spoonful of pudding, like the buttons on a clown's jacket. Now, don't eat the pudding, please - it'll make your nose bounce. And that would just be so silly that oh, I don't know what we'd do.
We hid the raisins under the oatmeal (a.k.a. pudding), we polka-dotted them on top. We made clown eyes, noses and mouths on top of the spoonfuls of oatmeal. And I threatened the Toddles with elaborate, ridiculous images of the silliness that would come to pass, should he eat the pudding. I wailed despairingly when he did, ignoring the slightly perturbed allergist and clinical assistant to stuck their heads in. (Is everything alright? *grin* Oh, woe, woe, woe, he has eaten the pudding. Oh, WOE.) Grinning, laughing and entirely delighted by his absurd mama, the Toddles turned the afternoon around, as the Eldest is wont to say. Bit by bit the littel guy polished off about 2/3rds of a cup of oatmeal - more than he needed to prove the point. His vitals were taken, his lungs listened to repeatedly, until he was decreed just fine and sent off.
Now, oat matza. Except, of course, that they're sold out in the stores, and our box at home has only fragments. So, back we go to the standby: faux matza. With oat fragments, for added verisimilitude, perhaps? Or not. But certainly, oats for the Toddles for the next five days, and oats for us all after Pesach ends.
I know how the Toddles feels, suspicious and uncertain in the face of all of this change. Mango? corn? oats? Is it true? The shapes of our menu are sliding under my feet, and I'm delighted and unnerved.