When I was growing up, there were few things that I liked to eat, or were more American to me, than a can of SpaghettiOs. They were perfect for everyone in that all my mom had to do was open up a can of them, dump the whole thing into a small pot, let it simmer for a few minutes and lunch was served. And my brother and I ate them like nobody’s business.
So, being such a fan of SpaghettiOs, and being the most-American American I know, my spirit was crushed the other night by my five-year-old daughter Maddo’s reaction to the first-ever bowl of SpaghettiOs we presented to her.
Maddo [Takes one look at bowl. Doesn’t attempt to taste SpaghettiOs]: I DON’T LIKE THIS!
Me: [Rolling eyes so hard I dislocate my pupils]: Of course you don’t.
Now, I know that little kids are finicky. I’m pretty sure they are genetically predisposed to automatically hating anything that isn’t candy just like they are incapable of not banging on the door like a jackhammer when you are in the bathroom. They are not going to like everything they taste.
But…This was after she said she wanted SpaghettiOs and that she would give them a try. She likes spaghetti. She likes red [or, in the case of SpaghettiOs, orangeish-red] sauce. She’s five years old. She’s an American kid. How could this not work?
Well, it didn’t. She tasted the SpaghettiOs, and then made a face like she had just put a handful of spiders in her mouth.
I wasn’t in the mood for it. The fact that this occurred one day after she spent a good half an hour bawling her face off because of—get this—her turkey burger was on an actual burger bun, was more than I was willing to deal with. I went to my big guns.
Me: Maddo, there is NOTHING wrong with SpaghettiOs. When mommy and I were your age we LOVED this stuff. And you know, there are kids ALL OVER this country with nothing to eat that would gladly FEAST on these SpaghettiOs, so if you want anything for dinner, you BETTER eat these!
In spite of my cajoling, her response was about what I expected.
Maddo: Can I have some chicken nuggets.
My wife and I just looked at each other…And then over to our three-year-old daughter, Little Sis.
In addition to tearing through her slices of pears and some yogurt, the kid was eating her SpaghettiOs. Sure, she was doing them just one or two at a time, but she was working her way through them. After a few minutes of this, she started to get up from her chair and wander around the living room like she often does. I then went to the spoon myself, called her back over, and spoonful by spoonful, shoveled the SpaghettiOs into her mouth until after about 10 minutes there was nothing left in her bowl but a few drops of SpaghettiO sauce. She proudly showed the empty dish to her mom.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the table, Maddo was still sitting there, staring at her SpaghettiOs like she was contemplating the Mona Lisa. The Os weren’t going anywhere except into the trash after I told her dinner was over and to go wash her hands.
But Little Sis? She got the best reward possible for finishing her dinner. A homemade chocolate milkshake. Something more American than even SpaghettiOs.