Friday, November 13 2020

sugary cereals and rodney time

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Dear Journal,

Happy Friday, everyone. How's it going today? It's a beautiful day today. After sleeping in, I had the honor of pouring Rodney the first bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch he's ever tasted in his life. After taking his first bite, Rodney's eyes widened. He hurriedly shoveled three more bites into his mouth. I helped myself to a bowl of Fruit Loops with coffee. We would gather around the lunch table a few hours later for lunch and story time. Rodney, still fired up about his bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, recounted to his cousins how life changing the sugary cinnamon cereal was.

"I ordering groceries, and I just kind of had an impulse," I explained to Kelly over Zoom. "We didn't have enough junk food in the house."

"I think it's because we were cereal repressed," laughed Kelly. "I do the same thing now, I love having Fruit Loops and Cocoa Puffs in the house."

When we were kids, cereal like Fruit Loops Cocoa Puffs were a forbidden pleasure. Our parents stuck to Cheerios, hearty wheat cereals, and the less satisfying Trader Joe's knock-offs like "Gorilla Crunch". If I wanted to partake in the good stuff, it had to be at a sleep over or at summer camp.

The first month at college, I bought several boxes of Cookie Crisp. Of all the sugary cereals I had to wait to try, Cookie Crisp was probably the biggest disappointment. The "cookies for breakfast" cereal held up its promise of giving you a spoonful of cookies in every bite, but nobody ever said anything about how those jagged, flavorless cookies would cut up the roof of your mouth.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Fruit Loops, and Apple Jacks - the boxes we have in the house now, are probably my personal pillars of sugary cereals. Why the lack of chocolate, you ask? Well half the fun of eating cereal is watching your dogs scamper after the spare pieces you toss across the kitchen floor, and you can't do that with chocolate cereal.

Sip. Do you have a favorite cereal? And how is the end of your week so far? The house is quiet. Marissa crashed on the sofa for a well-deserved nap. She stayed up until three in the morning setting up her online gallery shop. I tried to stay up with her to keep her company, but I only made it until about 1. I feel asleep on the couch watching reruns of Whose Line Is It Anyway.

We had a great day yesterday. Yesterday we had a sort of breakthrough with a tough parenting dilemma. This week, we decided to confront Rodney's bad habit of eating slowly at the dinner table.

Rodney has pretty much always been reluctant to eat anything outside his candy and mac 'n cheese comfort zone. He eventually eats most foods, but only if either Marissa or myself sacrifices our own mealtime enjoyment to vigilantly remind Rodney to take more bites and chew every five minutes. If left to himself, Rodney will talk, tell stories, look around the room, and stare out the window until his bedtime.

The other night, Rondey had remained at the table for an hour and a half. His mashed potatoes were untouched. He hadn't even broken the surface tension of the little pool of gravy. In a fury, I sent him up to his room. Marissa and I recused ourselves to the kitchen to talk it over.

"I did some reading, and I don't like the blogs with this one," said Marissa.

"I know what you mean," I replied. "This is one of those things where we already know what kind of behavior we want. We just need to figure out how to get him there."

Marissa and I stared blankly at the kitchen floor. I kicked a dog toy from under my feet.

"What about incentives?" she said. "We can keep a couple of those marshmallows he likes next to his plate. And if he finishes his dinner, he can eat the marshmallow. Otherwise it gets taken away."

I leaned on the kitchen counter in thought. "I'm not sure about that," I said. "He should look forward to dinner. We make food that he likes. Why does he need an extra treat on top of it?"

"I just don't think that's realistic," said Marissa. "He's a kid. He hates sitting still and he doesn't get excited about food."

"Can we find some other incentive though?" I asked. "I guess I just don't like the idea of incentivizing him to eat food with junk food. It feels like a desecration of the behavior we're looking for. That'd be like giving him five bucks every time he does something selfless."

"What do you think we should use?" asked Marissa.

We stared at each other in silence. After shuffling my feet around and putting some dishes away, I piped up with another idea.

"Rodney likes to run things," I said. "He likes telling us what to do, and he likes it when we're all engaged. What if that's the prize."

"So like Rodney Time?," said Marissa.

"Yeah," I said. "Rodney Time. It can be after dinner. He chooses what we do, and he runs the show."

We quietly made our way upstairs, slipping through the hallway into our bedroom. Rodney was quietly whimpering in his room. Once we were seated, we called Rodney into our room.

Rodney stood meekly between us. He said he was sorry and we exchanged hugs. We made him take a seat so we could explain the rules.

"Each time you finish your food on time," said Marissa. "You get Rodney Time."

"And Rodney Time is whatever you want us all to do," I chimed in. "We can play a game at the table. We can play with your toys. We can swordfight, or watch trick shot videos on the couch with you."

"So eat fast? Rodney Time. Eat slow and screw around? No Rodney time," said Marissa, tying everything together. "Got it?"

Rodney nodded, and scampered off to bed. The next day we sat down at the table for dinner, Marissa brought a timer.

"You have thirty minutes to eat your stew," she said. "Remember, Rodney Time is at stake."

Rodney powered through his dinner. We still caught him staring off into space a few times, but the promise of Rodney Time seemed to keep him more anchored to the task at hand. The timer rang, and Rodney dropped his spoon. I circled the table to inspect his work.

"Eat that piece of shrimp, then you're good," I said. "Then we can have Rodney Time."

Rodney raised his hands in victory. We cheered. For Rodney Time, he chose a regular game of Jenga at the table. Putting him to bed last night, Rodney filled my ear with ideas and plans for the next Rodney Time.

Thanks for stopping by today. Have a great weekend everyone.