The following story contains a parenting fail of galactic proportion. In order to understand exactly how thoroughly I bit the bleachers on this one, you must first understand something about me.
I love spicy foods.
Not in the way that normal people do. I don’t want an extra crank of pepper on my chicken. I don’t want a dash of sriracha on my pasta.
I want my face to feel like it’s melting off my skull. I want my food to protest in volcanic fashion to my attempts at eating it. Case in point: the last time I was in a Thai restaurant, owned by a Thai family, I requested that they make my dish as hot as it would go. Everyone who understands the significance of the Thai family owning the restaurant understands exactly how terrifying my request was.
I couldn’t feel my mouth for two days. It was bliss.
My son, to my everlasting despair, hates spicy foods. He gets one whiff, and he immediately requests something “not so spicy, daddy!” Heck, he even hates when food is too hot temperature-wise. He likes all of his meals warm, but piping hot is a one-way ticket to a modest request that the food spend one timeout-length in the freezer.
His revulsion is my responsibility.
I am, without reservation or hesitation, 100% to blame for my son’s complete and utter disregard for the world of food that bites back.
Like most things to do with parenting, I knew that there would be consequences for my actions.
Like most things to do with parenting, I was far too busy laughing myself stupid to stop.
Win some, lose some I suppose.
So, let’s begin the tale of the death of my son’s palate.
Here’s the setting; It’s 2016. My son is one and some change. We’re living in an entirely different city, in the house my wife and I bought together.
It’s a normal weekday, and my wife has had a rough time dealing with her principall. She doesn’t have the energy to cook. So, like the sage and thoughtful husband that I am, I offered to make tacos. Everyone loves tacos, right? Right.
Quick detour: If you actually answered no to that question, I’m afraid that you’ll have to stop reading this story. That’s the law. I’m sorry, I don’t make the rules.
In a mindless husband haze, I begin browning the meat. Per tradition, I tend to leave a little more water than usual with the browned meat. What can I say? I like my tacos a little saucy. Then, oh joyous day, it’s time to start seasoning the taco meat. I am pulling my best Emeril impression. BAM! Chili powder. BAM! Taco Seasoning. BAM! More chili powder. BAM! Even more chili powder.
It smells divine. I am in heaven and I’m about to serve a dinner fit for kings.
I gather three plates and move them into prime taco-collecting position. Do you begin to see the fatal flaw with my dinner arrangements? That third plate should have been sounding every alarm-bell inside my capsaicin-shriveled brain. Without a second’s hesitation, I begin doling out the to-my-tastes mild taco meat. After getting those tacos dressed up for a night on the town, it’s off to the small table which served as our can’t-be-bothered eating place.
My wife has finished strapping down the tiny one. That’s more work than it sounds, because he’s eight different shades of hangry. I swear, until he turned three he was nothing more than a semi-intelligent mouth and various sinew and bones whose sole purpose was to cram as much raw material into the mouth as possible. If that raw material happened to be nutritious, then that was a happy freaking day indeed.
I pry the baby fork out of Eatit McSlobberface’s maw and slide his serving of taco meat and assorted veggies into place. I do my best to get my hands out of the way before they become an appetizer, but it’s always a coin-flip when you’re feeding a toddler. I lucked out that night and came away with the same number of digits I’d arrived with.
I’m halfway across the kitchen when I hear the wail of a tiny one in distress. My beautiful, wonderful munchkin had grabbed a greedy fistful of dinner and shoved it directly into his face. His eyes are streaming. He’s sob-chewing his food. Before he’s even finished with the first bite, he’s blindly reached out to grab his sippy. In a desperate bid to put out the fire that has replaced his mouth, he chugs that puppy the moment he’s managed to swallow the inferno.
He then lets out an audible gasp of relief, as my wife had the foresight to fill it with milk instead of water.
I am bent double, arms across my abdomen, laughing as hard as I have ever laughed at anything. I had sent my son mouthfirst into the fiery embrace of dad’s cooking.
He does it again.
With an uncanny disregard for the last twenty seconds of his life, he grabs an enormous fistful of fire and chucks it down the hatch. His second round of cry-chewing is brought to a merciful conclusion by two frantic pulls on the sippy.
He gasps once more in satisfied relief that the danger has passed.
Then he freaking does it again.
I am paralyzed with laughter, curled up on the floor in the fetal position. I have long since lost my ability to make the sound of laughter. All you can hear is desperate hacking wheezes as my body clings to life. I could’ve died on that floor. My survival instincts were in high-gear, whacking away at the mirth which was trying to kill me. After a few moments, I subsided into easier-to-manage chuckles and I could breathe again.
My wife is torn between her own laughter at how completely I was destroyed by the moment and seeing her child in pain. She settles on a withering glare in my direction, as is the way of mothers.
This goes on for the entire dinner, by the way.
Wallaces don’t quit. My son cleaned his plate, one tiny handful at a time. Slowly, agonizingly, I was able to be a person again instead of a cackling madman balled up on the kitchen floor. I still broke into uncontrollable giggling at various points in the dinner, whereupon my wife would look at me sourly.
I cannot, for the life of me, imagine why I thought it was a good idea to spice up that taco meat. I mean, sure, they tasted awesome. I still should have seen that frantic cry of pain coming.
So now, when my son blanches and shouts “yuck” when I offer him a slice of one pepper or another, you now know that I have no one to blame but myself.
The Unsheathed Quill