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The Cereal Incident

When I was in high school, I managed to get into a huge fight with my mother's husband. Of course, now I don't recall what the fight was about, but I'm sure at the time it was The Most Important Thing In The World™.

At some point in the argument, which lasted days as neither of us was willing to cede to the other in this Important Thing™, my mom told her husband to give up, let me win. He (of course) resisted. Why should he give up to a 14 year old? A 14 year old! Any rational adult (especially one who had survived being shot down in a helicopter in Viet Nam) could outlast a stubborn 14 year old. Sheesh!

But then my mom told him about The Cereal Incident.

When I was little (as in really small, as in 3 years old), I ate my cereal the wrong way. In other words, I ate cereal the way everyone else does. Of course, I now eat cereal the correct way, but back then I was young and innocent. Basically, I ate my morning Cheerios by pouring a bowl of milk, opening the cereal box, pouring in the cereal, then eating really fast. You have to eat cereal fast because, as everyone knows, soggy cereal sucks.

So, one morning (did I mention I was three?), I poured my milk, poured my cereal, and started eating as fast as I could. Unfortunately, my Cheerios became soggy before I could get to the ones on the bottom.


So, when I was down to the soggy cereal (ick!), I took my bowl to the sink to pour the remains down the drain and put my bowl in the sink. I don't know how Mom and Dad managed to train us kids to put our dishes in the sink after a meal, but I can't recall not doing so.

On this particular morning, Dad saw me walking to the sink with the bowl of milk and soggy cereal, and told me to sit back down and eat it.


Eat this soggy cereal?

Why? It's soggy.

I'm sure he replied with something like, you shouldn't pour so much into your bowl if you can't eat it. I don't recall that detail. I assume he came over and took the bowl from me, putting it back on the table. He probably plunked me down in the chair, too.

According to Mom, Dad told me to eat that bowl of cereal.

I refused.

Dad countered with the threat, "You will sit there until you do."

And so I did.

I sat there all morning. I remember "reading" the back of the Cheerios box, really the only thing to do when you're three and stuck at the kitchen table all morning. There was a Winnie the Pooh on the back of the box. He was on the left side of the box.

I sat there all afternoon. Mom would wander in and out of the kitchen looking at the forlorn little girl draped over the chair in sheer boredom, and wonder who was going to win this battle of wills. Or as she recalled, "The thing I remember is your being draped across the chair, sitting up, then with your feet up over the back of the chair, then laying sideways on your back, then your tummy, then kneeling... I think one time you may have been on the floor with your hand on the seat..."

I sat there all evening. Dad would sometimes come in to see how I was doing. He'd find me sneaking off, and put me back in the chair. He wasn't able to go to work that day because I wasn't off at nursery school, so someone had to be home with the kid.

Still I sat there.

I was allowed to go to the bathroom, and eventually I was allowed to go to bed. I wasn't allowed any other food with the family at dinner because I hadn't finished my breakfast.

Dad was ever so kind as to put the bowl into the refrigerator for me to consume the next day.


The next morning, I was back at the table with the bowl of sugared milk and nearly non-existent Cheerios. By this time, the Cheerios had all disintegrated. All I needed to do was choke down the milk.

But to do that required (what else?) Cheerios!

I put a small handful into the milk, and ate the delicious, crunchy Cheerios with the uncomformably sweetened milk. I was ravenous at this point. I finished the milk, one handful of cereal at a time, thereby discovering the correct way to eat cereal.

I'm still not sure who won that battle of wills with my Dad. Sure, I ate the cereal. But he didn't go to work or out that night.

And my mother's husband?

He gave in after he heard the tale of the Cereal Incident.