The other night, I'm making dinner while Henry is complaining that he's huuungry, that he can't waaaiiit for dinner because he's huuuuuuuungry. "It's only five minutes away," I say as I run around dropping things and burning other things. Once again I have foolishly attempted to cook more than one dish. When will I learn?
"Five minutes is a long time and I can't wait that long," Henry declares. "I need applesauce."
Applesauce. Mostly water, right? No big deal. I can't imagine how any human being could eat applesauce without potato pancakes, but that's me. So Henry gets a container of applesauce and a spoon, and he shuts up for approximately 30 seconds.
"Now I need a slice of American cheese," he announces.
"Henry, dinner is four minutes away. Four minutes!"
"Four minutes is One, Two, Three—" he gasps for breath, "FOUR, and that's SO LONG."
"No, you're not having American cheese," I tell him. No. I am firm. I am invincible. I am Mother. No little kid's going to push ME ar—
"Mom," says Henry, "You have to be more appreciating."
"You have to be more appreciating, and gentle, and loving, and kind."
I look at him. He's giving me that face, with the big cow eyes and the rosy cheeks and those stupid crazy eyelashes. Actually it's just his face the way it always is. But when you really look at that face, you're helpless.
"You need to be gentle to me," he repeats. He smiles. He's won. He knows it. "Cats in the Cradle" is playing in my head and my eyes are tearing up and ONE SLICE OF AMERICAN CHEESE, it's not like it's a candy bar, Alice, GOD. Lighten up for once.
"Okay. One slice of American cheese. That's IT."
"I love you so much. You're the best Mommy ever."
Yeah, yeah. I've blown it. I hand him the cheese.
"We're playing the appreciating game," he says as he bites into his cheese slice. "You have to do everything I ask because you appreciate me."
Whoa, boy. No one said anything about a game. I tell him as much, but he's insistent. "We're playing the Appreciating Game. You do everything I say because I'm just so good. THAT WAS THE DEAL."
We like to do this lately, this rewriting of recent history. Sadly no stenographer is present to support the non-crazy version of events, so I decide to ignore him.
"Do you hear me? Don't ignore me! You're appreciating me because you love me! You ARE LOVING ME!"
I turn my back to attend to something else boiling over, and when I turn back, he's standing right behind me. I yelp.
"Mommy, we have to play the appreciating game, because I said so," he tells me. "And then we're playing another game. I have so many games in my head."
It took all of my strength not to run screaming into the night.