I’m not sure this is normal. Most 2-year-olds play with their food, yes. But shouldn’t I have scolded him for playing with it, and told him, “No, no, Miles. We don’t play with our food at the table”?
I suppose I could have said that. But I would have been lying.
I can’t remember the first time I saw my Mom do something ridiculous with food. But I do remember one time while I was in junior high, sitting across the table from her at a restaurant when she was feeling feisty and shot a spoonful of chocolate pudding my direction. I looked down at a wad of pudding glopping down my white T-shirt. I was stunned. I couldn’t believe how cold it was.
Years later at my first job out of college, I fell head over heels for guy who, upon finding a suction cup with a hook attached to it, did exactly what I would have done had I found it. He licked it, stuck it on his head, threaded some Life Savers (or maybe they were Froot Loops, I can’t recall) onto the hook and walked nonchalantly into the offices of some higher ups and offered them a treat.
I fell a little further in love with this guy when, at a ritzy restaurant during dinner with a dozen or so coworkers, I pushed the fat ends of some roasted asparagus over several of my teeth, then turned toward him and asked him if I had any food stuck in my teeth. I knew he was a keeper when he started laughing.
The only logical thing to do at this point was to get married have two kids. I knew for sure that we had brought the right kid home from the hospital when, at the tender age of three, my daughter took a pancake off her plate and set it on top of her great aunt’s head. Thankfully, this was before she had doused it with boysenberry syrup.
So, when I saw the Cheetos wedged up Little Man’s nose, it was truly a proud moment for me. But he’s still got some learning to do. As the saying goes, the key to comedy is Cheetos. I mean timing.
There are times when it’s OK to use the ol’ asparagus-in-your-teeth trick (nice dinner with coworkers = OK). And times when you’d better keep the broccoli on the plate (nice dinner with POTUS = not OK). Other situations are harder to gauge (nice dinner with potential clients = depends on the client).
This is a nuance he’ll have to learn the same way that generations before him had to: trial and error. Even I had to learn the hard way that some meals are sacred (don’t ask about the time I put my can of Diet Coke directly on the table that my mother had spent literally half a day setting for Christmas dinner. It almost cost me my inheritance).
My only words of advice for my son are that it ain’t easy being cheesy.
Melanie Medina is a Senior Communications Specialist at Texas Health Resources and a Mom to two kiddos who share her love of playing with food.