The conversation started with a roller-coaster and ended with a vegetable.
One evening just before dinner, the family gathered around the table and began to revisit the conversation they had on the way home. Something about a big roller coaster and that you had to be big to ride it. How big? Big like Daddy (who is six feet tall). My three year old was curious: how do you get big?
Jackpot. Parents love these kinds of questions (as an aside, so so SO much more than questions about where babies come from or why is the sky blue). My husband took advantage (as I would have had I been in the car, myself) and promoted our emphasis on eating healthy foods:
“If you want to get big,” he said, “you have to eat your fish and peas.”
What is so very magic about fish and peas? Nothing. There’s nothing magic about fish and peas except that this combo meal happened to be something that we served as a healthy meal and the kids already understood the relationship. They knew, at this early age, that eating fish was much better for you than chicken nuggets. I mean, really, we all know this from birth, right? Anyway, the fish and peas are symbolic. Stay with me.
That night the conversation was repeated for my benefit. My daughter (the three year old) told me that she had seen the roller coaster and she wanted to ride it.
“Well, if you want to ride it,” I said, “you have to grow up big like Daddy.”
She proclaimed, yes, she did want to grow up big like Daddy. My response, of course? “Then you have to eat your fish and peas.” (Cue wink and nod from the Daddy. We were SO simpatico on this.)
My daughter looked at me (all 5’2″ of me) and I could tell she was thinking. She took a good, long look at my husband. Then, with all the authority of a corporate CEO, looked back at me and said without blinking, “I want to grow up short. Like Mommy.”
Here she was, this three year old philosopher, sitting at my kitchen table, weighing the pros and cons of eating a healthy meal. Not knowing what the future might hold, she firmly believed eating something more delightful to the palette than fish and peas was worth the sacrifice of height. She was making a decision based on what she thought she could tolerate.
My daughter had no way of knowing at three years old that being short, while pretty awesome for limbo-dancing and being at the top of the competitive cheerleading pyramid, is difficult in a lot of other ways. My feet never touch the floor when I sit on an airplane seat, I always have to get a stool to reach anything above the second shelf in the kitchen, and people have always underestimated my age. This last point stinks when you’re 20-30 and you can’t get a drink without ID but it gets to be a pretty good perk in your 40’s. Please, card me.
Making the decision to switch gears and start down a path with an uncertain ending is hard but it’s doable. What’s interesting is that the more you do it, the better you get at it. You even start to enjoy it a little bit. Just ask my daughter.
One of her favorite dinners now is fish and peas.
What are you tolerating that keeps you from really enjoying what you are doing today? What can you change that will increase your joy the present?
Tara is a coach and writer, who works with other people as they define what success means to them and helps them map a practical path to achieving it. You can follow her at taralynnfoster.com, linkedin, twitter or Facebook.