|Photo by Lia Kurtin|
I took a box of Cheerios out of the cabinet yesterday and looked inside to find what appeared at first glance an empty bag.
But the bag was not empty.
In the bottom lay five sad little Cheerios.
And I knew exactly why they were there.
Whoever last enjoyed Cheerios for breakfast realized that if they finished off the contents they’d be expected to 1) throw the empty plastic bag in the trash, and 2) break down the cereal box and inter it in the recycle bin.
Now, dear reader, I know what you’re thinking: “What kind of sadistic slave driver demands that sort of backbreaking labor from mere children? You… You… Attila the Mum!”
Cruel. Barbaric. Demanding to the point of despotism. Yep, that’s me. I’ll tell you what I tell my kids: I take classes to learn how to more effectively render their lives miserable.
Anyway, I’m pretty confident that whoever left exactly enough Cheerios in the cabinet to re-create the Olympic flag in their bowl of milk rationalized such hebetude (I just discovered hebetude in the thesaurus under synonyms for laziness—it’s an awesome word and I’m going to use it all the time now) something like this:
I really should not eat all of the Cheerios, because someone else might like to have a bowl of Cheerios in the future. I will kindly leave the next person a serving of Cheerios. What a thoughtful boy/girl/hebetudinous cretin I am!
Last night at dinner I held the all-but-empty bag of Cheerios up to my family as Exhibit A.
“What do you think would be the reaction of a person who, upon experiencing a craving for Cheerios, discovered this in the cabinet?” I asked my doe-eyed progeny.
And guess what I learned? None of them eat Cheerios. Ever. As in, no one sitting around my table has ever eaten a Cheerio in the history of Cheerios. They all claimed full, shameless, and implausibly deniable innocence.
“Maybe it was you, Mom!” one claimed.
Attila the Mum doesn’t even eat cold cereal.
“It was probably Dad,” another tried.
Dad has his own separate and personal stash of Sharpie-scrawled “DAD’S!” cereal boxes which live on the roof of the pantry, out of the reach of his children’s grubby little paws. The reasons for this may become the subject of another blog post sometime in the future.
If my kids are to be believed, there is either a Cheerio-noshing poltergeist inhabiting our home, or one of the neighbors broke in during the night when he had the munchies but couldn’t stave off his hunger long enough to drive to the 7-11.
They even implied that the cat might be to blame.
Given what a terrible, awful, no good, very bad creature she is, that blame-shift attempt wasn’t entirely bad thinking on the part of the short people. Sketchy inculpation of the nearest available scapegoat? Politics may be in one or more of my children’s futures.
But, since no one owned up to the crime, I’m considering options for making the natural consequences of repeating such an egregious act of selfish hebetude (I love that darn word) so unpleasant it will never happen again.
Here are a few of my ideas:
§ Five pieces of cereal are now considered a serving in our household. You may have multiple servings, but you must close the cereal bag and the cereal box and return them to the cabinet between each serving, as well as finish all the milk in your bowl before pouring subsequent servings. That last part shouldn’t be hard, as a cereal-size serving of milk will now be one tablespoon.
§ Or: Cereal—and only cereal—will be the sum total of the items on the breakfast menu in this household from now on. But there will be no more Cheerios, or Super Chocolate Sugar Freaks, or Bubba Berry Blue Blast-Offs. Our cabinet will contain things like Special K-an’t Eat This, Original Shredded Cardboard, and Flax-Crusted Oat Bran Granola with Toasted Asparagus Tips.
§ Or maybe: All servings of all food—for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—will consist of single, half dollar-sized portions of everything. For your meat you may have one chicken nugget, alongside a single tater tot, accompanied by five or six peas and/or a cherry tomato. None of us will ever struggle with obesity, because we will eat our meals off teacup saucers. And think of the money we’ll save on groceries!
Okay, maybe I’m making too much out of this. It’s just a single, petty episode of I’m-too-lazy-to-do-the-right-thing-and-too-selfish-to-care. It’s not like members of my family also run off with their exciting new purchases and abandon the empty plastic bags and receipts on the table or the kitchen counter or the bedroom floor. Nor do Amazon boxes and their air-filled packing bubbles lie around my house like so many dead bodies in the aftermath of an earthquake at the county morgue. And no one ever dumps the contents of their pockets or backpacks on the most convenient horizontal surface, to remain there till Mom deals with the detritus or Jesus comes back.
No, this is probably just a case of me being a fault-finding, guilt-tripping, hyper-judgmental shrew who needs to get out of the house more.
So toward that end, I’m going to grab my purse and head over to the community center. They’re offering a class tonight called “I Hope You Have Kids Just Like You Someday!”: A Mother’s Guide to Super-Effective Intergenerational Curses.
Let me know if you want a copy of the syllabus.