Half-eaten, gluten-free Gorilla Munch, organic banana slices (also half-eaten), Trader Joe’s multigrain O’s (half-eaten, too), all swimming in a small puddle of organic, reduced fat milk.
This is what a Yuppie Hunger Strike looks like.
Our 8 year-old son, Everett, apparently feels he doesn’t have much power around here. His older brother is a force of nature. His mother is a high-powered law partner wearing pants suits and working in a downtown high rise. His father traffics in a prodigious collection of curse words, some of which seem like they might be made up, but Dad is ready, willing, and able to drop them on anyone at even the slightest provocation. Even our black lab (ish) puppy, barely a year-old, now outweighs Everett and tries to eat Everett on occasion (in a puppy-like way).
The roles of Governor, Warden, Prison Guard, Cell Block Boss — these are all taken. Whatever authority or power Everett wants around these parts, he has to take with his own two hands. Or not take them, as the case may be.
You see, Everett has been quietly stringing together what I’m now realizing could arguably be called a Hunger Strike. He has been weaving this tapestry for years. Short of pooping his pants–which I’m sure is a weapon he is holding back, the “nuclear option,” if ever called for–Everett’s sole means of exerting control is what he puts in his mouth and what he refuses to put in his mouth.
Sidenote: Everett doesn’t often read these blog posts; particularly the ones in which he is featured. He shuns the spotlight. But just in case he does stumble on this particular post — Hello son. Before you start seriously exploring the “nuclear option” I mentioned earlier in this paragraph, I would encourage you to Google “mutually assured destruction.”
Everett eats what he wants to eat. At his own pace. Regardless of his parents’ (apparently hollow) threats about what will happen if Everett leaves a half-eaten bowl of cereal at the breakfast table just one more time. His big, round eyes hold mine, giving me the certain impression that he understands what horrible consequences will come his way. I am convinced that, this time, he will leave no banana slice behind.
But he has proven himself a master of deception. Professional magicians are expert at distracting their audience with a theatrical wave of one hand, while dropping a quarter down a sleeve with the other, unseen. Everett has perfected the same technique. But rather than outstretched fingers swiping the air, Everett deploys all manner of infuriating, stalling techniques that serve to drive his parents into a blind rage as we try to get him and his brother to the morning bus stop on time.
“Everett, you can’t wear that sweatshirt for the 7th day in a row! Wait, did you sleep in that sweatshirt instead of wearing pajamas last night?! Again?! Everett!!”
“Everett, there’s no way you brushed your teeth. No one could possibly ‘brush their teeth’ in 10-seconds as you just did. I don’t think anyone could claim to have brushed even one tooth in that time. Get back upstairs, Mister, and brush your teeth!”
“Everett, where is your homework binder? What do you mean, you ‘don’t know’? How could you not know, didn’t you need the binder in order to do your homework last night? You did do your homework last night, didn’t you?! Everett!”
“Everett, you cannot wear that beanie again today. You just can’t. I haven’t seen your actual hair in weeks. Your teacher keeps sending home pictures of you from class wearing that hat, which is no longer so subtle. This is “No Hat Tuesday,” anyhow, remember? Everett, don’t you stuff that beanie in your school bag! If I see that in the class pictures emailed to me this afternoon, you are in big trouble!”
Everett masterfully stirs up this swirl of chaos, lathers us all up into a fervor, knowing that we will temporarily lose our minds in a desperate, panicked attempt to make it to the bus stop on time. We are fairly terrified of the shame associated with missing the bus. We can’t bear the stigma. So we are laser-focused in the time between 7:40am and 7:43am on only the bare necessities; Principally, delivering our youngest son to the bus stop with no justifiable basis for a visit later that day from Child Protective Services.
Everett knows this.
Hilary waves “goodbye” to the bus, jogging the dog back to our house, then shooting off to work in the Financial District. I get back to the business of whatever my day brings. We both breath a sigh of relief, impressed with ourselves. Once more, we haven’t missed the bus. Everything is in perfect order, and we are in control.
Just then, Hilary begins replaying in her mind the funny little smile on Everett’s lips, barely perceptible behind the dark window at his seat towards the back of the bus. Why was he smiling that smug little smile? Her suspicion grows. At exactly the same moment, I am turning the corner in the kitchen, catching sight of the breakfast table for the first time in 10 minutes.
He got us again. In all the excitement and yelling, Everett had managed to leave behind a subtle reminder of who is really in charge around here: The cereal bowl pictured above.
The Yuppie Hunger Strike continues, Day 3003.
Thanks for reading.