This is not a new subject. For decades kids have been fighting for silly household titles. When I was a little girl, I remember the day I was crowned “Sunkist champion”. My mother would take an orange and slice it four ways. Each of my siblings would choose a segment for our snack and immediately flip it over to see if we chose the piece that had the brand Sunkist stamped on it.
We all wanted our slice to have the stamp but there was only one winner. It didn’t taste any better but the victory was sweet. Kids need something to make them feel special and sometimes they take matters into their own hands. In my house it’s a fork. A stupid fork. It has an overwhelming sense of magical power at our house but it didn’t start out that way.
We inherited the fork through my husband. He likes to collect things and he struggles throwing anything away. He would tell you he is resourceful, I consider it a form of hoarding. Anyway, his grandfather donated a huge pile of hand-me-down silverware when he downsized and moved into an apartment. We were thrilled. Let’s face it, anything that saved us money after we graduated college was very appreciated. We used the handed down silverware for several years but eventually we got married and we received new silverware. Ahhhh! The joy of new silverware! It was exciting to own forks with all of their prongs and forks that matched. I was eager to show them off so I suggested that we donate the hand-me-down fork (and her ugly fork friends) to a new family. This may shock you, but my suggestion did not sit well with the hubby. I got a lengthy spiel about how “we will use them one day when we retire”. Retire? What? Was he actually planning this fork’s retirement? I don’t understand him. I think about today and he thinks about the future. He plans everything, including the fork’s retirement?? He babbled on and on about “how we might buy a beach house one day and how we will NEED this silverware and I will thank him.” (Sigh.) It’s not easy being Mrs. D. We are very different and there is no arguing with a stubborn Irish guy.
I boxed most of the “retirement” silverware up and put it in the basement ending the argument. I kept a few extra forks, including the special fork, in the very back of the silverware drawer. Ya know, just in case. They sat back there for the first few years of our marriage. Yes, you heard that right. I said years. Feel my pain? I don’t know why or how we started using the fork but it began to make more and more appearances. It seems I lost control at some point and it soon became a piece of our everyday life. Now, 12 years into the marriage and 4 kids later it has become a sacred possession.
It’s the only one in the whole drawer that looks different so my kids named it..(wait for it..drum roll please..) the “special fork.” Clearly my children are some of the brightest, most creative kids on the planet. I guess that fork is kinda special. It has been around a long ass time. Comparable to an Apple computer. Popular in the 80’s, vanished for 20 years then.. Whamo…back on top in 2012. All I know is that it’s a trophy for my kids.
Today was no exception. This morning Flynn and Teagan had cereal for breakfast. Molly begged me for eggs and I am a sucker so I agreed to make them for her. I served the cereal first and Molly watched as I cooked the eggs. When you have a pack of children, it’s the small moments that help you connect with each one. Molly sat on the counter and kept me company. She is my happy child. Always smiling and full of life. I love that about her. She helped me out by adding salt and pepper to her eggs. When they were finished cooking, I scooped the eggs onto the plate. She wrapped her arms around my neck and thanked me with her 7-year-old toothless grin. (Unfortunately, this Hallmark vision ends soon) I helped her off the counter.
She grabbed her plate and began walking toward the table to join her siblings when she remembered that she needed a fork. I was standing next to the silverware drawer when those big brown eyes looked right through me. “Mom?” She questioned with some hesitancy. “May I please use the special fork?” Normally, I would say no and avoid a sibling fight but today was different. The others didn’t need a fork, they had cereal. I paused and quietly nodded my head yes and braced for the inevitable repercussions. She grabbed the special fork and skipped to her seat. It only took seconds. The always observant Flynn noticed first, “Mooooooom?” “Why does MOLLY get the special fork? That is so NOT fair.” He gave his sister the evil eye. She knew not to say a word but ate each bite as if it were a piece of chocolate cake. Admiring the fork after each bite and then diving back into her breakfast without a worry in the world. She knows how to get Flynn going and plays him like a fiddle.
Teagan stood on her chair and looked over Molly’s shoulder to see if Flynn’s accusations were true. “Whaaat? The special fowak? I want the special fowak!” This was followed by instant crying. Oh no! Please no! Her high-pitched whining sends me into a downward spiral every..single..time. It’s too early to hear it, I had to think fast so I interjected “Hey, Hey? Hey? You both had cereal and you did not need a fork, right?” Flynn crossed his arms holding a grudge. He was way too stubborn to agree with my point. “That is Not fair! I would have asked for eggs too if I knew I could use the special fork?” Before you accuse him of being an ass, know that he gets it honest. I remember changing my plans if it meant I would win a sibling battle. Why do kids do that? It’s a primal survival tool. A sense of competition that humans are born with. I changed the subject “Go brush your teeth and get ready for school.”
He storms off and Teagan is crying in her seat feeling helpless and defeated. How would she get through the rest of the day without the special fork being integrated into her life? I attempted to distract her 4-year-old brain but nothing worked. The time is 7:58am and my day has already gone to complete shit. I haven’t had my coffee and I am weak. I panic and bribe her. “You can use it at lunch!” It was true. The fork IS magic. She stopped crying. “I can?” she questioned in the most pitiful whimper. “Yes! You can! Relax! It’s just a fork!” She clapped in celebration and I thought all the dust had settled until Flynn returned from brushing his teeth. Uh-oh, now I’m screwed. He immediately became a detective. “Why are you so happy now?” He asked Teagan. “Because Mommy said I get to use the special fowak at wunch time!” Then she proceeded to do a preschool version of the happy dance. Flynn shook his head in disbelief. “That is just wrong mom!” The look he gave me was loaded with emotion. First anger, then disgust, then defeat.
I felt awful! How did this morning go so sour so quickly? Then I remembered how ridiculous this is? “Flynn? Really? You are 8. Are you really upset over a fork?” “Yes mom! Now Molly has it for breakfast, Teagan gets it for lunch and…” I interrupt, “and you may have it for dinner, okay?” He is satisfied with this answer and somehow everyone gets on the bus drama free. I return to the kitchen post bus stop and I am greeted with a Maggie smile as she stuffs her face with scrambled eggs in her high chair. Somehow, she too managed to get her hands on the special fork. “I gave it to her mommy! “ confessed Teagan. “Ok sweetie! Thank you! That was very nice.” What will I do when she gets old enough to beg for the special fork? There are only 3 meals in a day? How will I make it fair with 4 kids? Why are we fighting over a fork from 1980? Why?
I took a deep breath and replayed the entire morning through my head. I could avoid years of drama and throw the damn fork away but why would I do that? They would move onto other things like a cup or a Sunkist orange. I have grown to love the little fork despite all of the drama it causes. Now it has history and believe it or not it is teaching those brats of mine a valuable life lesson. Everyone does not win all the time. Be patient, your time will come and you too will eat with the special fork and when you do…remember to savor every bite.
We can’t be the only house that fights over dumb things like a fork? What do your kids fight over? A cup? A fork? A plate? A blanket?