Easiest path not alway the best

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 11, 2002

Litter - we're against it.

It's a running joke in the office, for those days when nothing has occurred to raise the editorial ire or admiration, and we're hunting for a topic to expound upon.

Even for grumpy, curmudgeonly editor types, it is hard to maintain sustained rage against anything and everything, although election season certainly provides ample fuel for the fires of indignation. But staying ticked off is exhausting - watch a three-year-old in action if you need proof.

My youngest, Michael, or "Buzz" as he renamed himself shortly after his first buzz cut, has had a tumultuous year.

He lost a favorite uncle, the one he was named after, and his grandmother, who was his primary caregiver. Then his mother disappears on weekdays and his poor old dad, unaccustomed to single parenthood, is too tired for the usual romps.

It is testimony of his innate good nature that he is not a total little monster, but, like all his age, he has his moments.

Now that he is down here with me for good, along with the middle son, Ben, I'm seeing evidence of just how hard my husband had it. There are no screaming tantrums, just sullen fits that, thankfully, occur rarely and don't last long.

Usually it is over food. Unlike my oldest two, who would choose fruit over sweets at snack time, Buzz has his daddy's sweet tooth and cannot understand why dessert has to come after the main meal.

He sniffs when I set the plate down in front of him, crosses arms and scowls.

"Don't want it."

I've learned to shrug and say "OK."

Then I go on with my meal, Ben with his. Soon I see Buzz lifting a forkful to his mouth. With the very tip of his tongue, he barely touches the food.

"Mmmmm - that is good!" he declares.

I have to fight the urge to give in to his demands. After a ten to fifteen-hour work day, it just seems easier to collapse on the couch and let him make the TV choices - Monsters Inc for the fifth time this week, or Jimmy Neutron for the third. So he wants Lucky Charms instead of Cheerios is it worth the battle?

Sometimes no - but sometimes yes. The cereal battle was the easiest. We alternate - "good" cereal in my terms - Raisin Bran, Cheerios, Chex, or Total, one week and "good" cereal in his terms - Lucky Charms, Fruit Loops and Cocoa Puffs the next.

I copped out on the TV battle - there is now a TV-VCR combo in the other room. On the dessert issue, I stand firm.

Giving in is easy, but after working in a school system for seven years, I have seen the results of long-term giving in. I'd rather have a two-minute tantrum now than a spoiled monster later. Easy is not always right, although that path, like writing the mythical editorial "Litter - we're against it," it is terribly tempting at times.