They want Coke.
“How much Coke are you allowed to have? I say as I open the refrigerator door. Would your mom mind if I gave you some?”
“I think we’re ok,” the boy of 8 says.
“With ice cream!” said the younger girl, who has just finished first grade.
“In the morning?” asked the boy, piqued.
JR listens anxiously. I never give him soda. You can see the wheels turning as he computes that if they get some so does he. The three of them bounce around the room like pop rocks then come back to swarm the counter expectantly. Part of me thinks the excessive sugar and salt in just one can of coke is bad for an adult, let alone precious little children. I should cut up a pretty plate of fruit and entice them to eat it. The other part of me really wants to get back to my work.
“Sure, you can have ice cream sodas.”
They caught me on a bad day and I’m not prepared with clean glasses. As I wash some I notice the unnatural quiet. I don’t want to look but I know I have to. My human Hoover thought potato chips were the logical accompaniment to chocolate ice cream coke sodas. The other children can wait for the snack but JR cannot. He was just tall enough to reach the cabinet I kept them in but not aware enough to be bothered which end should remain up. He’s chomping on the fistful that he could catch as the rest litter the floor. His one pointed focus was amazing. If they were rose petals that peppered the tile it would have been beautiful.
Just for the fuck of it I ask the other boy to help JR sweep it up. I knew that wouldn’t happen but thought it couldn’t hurt to put the words into the atmosphere. The boy giggled maniacally and literally swept it under the rug. Here I put my foot down though and put it in the garbage myself.
They wolfed the concoctions down alarmingly fast and then the tornado trebled back to the play room, leaving a dairy apocalypse in their wake. I settle down to my computer.
“You trains need to go on a diet.” I hear JR saying.
“What’s a diet?” the other boy asks
“It’s when you eat less than you want to so you can be thinner.” I yell from the other room, cringing a little. It seems like bad parenting. But what do you do at that point? I can’t ignore the question. They didn’t have the attention span for a more nuanced answer. And I need to get back to my computer.
JR tells Gordon the train : “You know you need to go on a diet, right? Oh, bad luck. Sorry, trains.”
The tornado changes direction. They have liberated the plastic coins and paper bills from the cardboard piggy bank by dumping it all over the floor. I hear the little girl say to JR “Here, have some diet money.”
I suspect I’m losing my hearing in middle age. I’ve never been able to tolerate other people’s noise. But these kids run around like maniacs and since they are alive and nothing is on fire I’m able to go back to work. Five minutes later I look up. The girl is talking to me.
“Um, there’s a big mess over here. There’s water on the carpet.”
“Ok. Clean it up.” I show her a calm, patient smile that says I know she’s mature enough to handle it.
She looked at me blankly and ran away. I went back to my computer. One day this will work.
Night falls and morning comes. The doorbell rings at 9 a.m.
The little girl peers through the window in her pajamas and crackling hair that looks fresh off the pillow. JR runs to the door wearing only a t-shirt. The girl says she hasn’t had breakfast yet. I force JR to put pants on because that’s what we do when company is over. He doesn’t understand why but he doesn’t want to lose his trains.
They sit down to play and JR says he’ll get the door when her brother comes over. No, she will get the door. No, he will get the door. We don’t even know if the brother is coming. JR finally says he’ll get the door because he’s the man.
I make them breakfast. Cream of Wheat would have been the easiest thing but the girl mutely resists. She doesn’t know what that is. “It’s delicious!,” I entreat in a happy, animated voice, and place it before her with a flourish, but no dice. It was too hot, then it was still too hot, then it was out of the question.
Pancakes it is. Gandhi has nothing on these kids.