Now see, the hamburger was his idea.
There was a discussion about going to grab a bite to eat, then drop by the shoe store to pick the little phisch up some new sandals. For lunch, he wanted to go to the “apple place”. (No, techno-nerds, not that “apple place”.)
As we pulled in to the parking lot, Mommy asked if he wanted chicken fingers and fries, his customary meal at the “apple place”. After a second or two of silence, he replied, “I want a hamburger.” Mommy and I exchanged glances.
From that moment, until we actually placed the order with the waitress, we repeatedly checked that he was still on message. Did he want chicken and fries? No, he wanted a hamburger. Do you want cheese on the hamburger. Yes. Do you want chicken and fries? No, a hamburger, with fries. Okay. A hamburger with cheese, with fries.
About three or four bites in to the hamburger, it apparently lost its luster. Then the struggle began, most of the heavy lifting being done by Mommy, as she was the one sitting next to the little phisch. As any parent with a toddler will tell you, the point of bribery was reached–this time rather quickly, given the circumstances–and bites of hamburger were exchanged for more fries. More quickly than we would have thought possible, the bribery stopped working.
Then the whining set in, following swiftly by sniffling, and then that slow-building, deep-from-the-pit-of-the-stomach-and-hell-itself mournful wail that sets any parent’s teeth on edge, especially when in a public place.
Fortunately, Mommy and I had finished our meal, the bill swiftly arrived, and we paid. The little phisch did not want to leave, of course, he wanted more fries. Our getting up from the table led him to throw himself on to the floor and begin the launch in to full-blown tantrum. At this point I had to scoop him up and carry him out, nearly tossed over my shoulder like a thirty-pound bag of dog food, his cry of “More french fries!” resounding in my ear.
As he was loaded in to the car, his plaintive wail for more fries continuing, it was explained to him that he could have had more fries, but he chose to not do what was asked of him. The tantrum erupted, and continued as he realized we were not, in fact, going to look at sandals, but were instead heading home because someone had hit his wall after going ninety miles an hour the entire morning, most of which had been the province of Mommy to oversee, and she was exhausted, too. “More french fries!” was replaced by “I don’t want to go home…”
But to home we did go. He had mostly quieted by the time we pulled in to the driveway, and allowed Mommy to remove him from his seat and carry him inside. Once in the house, however, the tantrum started up again, and I had to again throw him over my shoulder and carry his kicking and screaming body up the stairs and to his room. Mommy followed behind, and after a few minutes was able to get him to calm down. Still a few minutes later, he asked for me.
“I want to snuggle,” he told me, so I lay down beside him in his bed, and he folded himself in to the crook of my arm, resting his head on my shoulder/chest. After a few seconds, he told me he wanted covers, so I pulled the sheet up over his legs. Then he wanted Snoopy, and I reached down to grab the Peanuts mutt, handing it to him. He was quiet for a minute or so, then he wrapped his fingers around my thumb, his fist swallowing the digit, and gave a squeeze.
“I love you, Daddy.”
And everything from the past half-hour disappeared.
The Peace Corps, for all its good work, has it wrong. That is not the toughest job I would ever love. I’ve already got that job, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Now see, the hamburger was his idea.