Clear back in March of 1990, the ship I was teaching on, the USS Cape Cod, pulled into San Diego after I had ridden it across the Pacific from Atsugi, Japan. Once I got to San Diego, I got to see my friends, Mark and Barbara, their two beyond adorable daughters (Erin Nicole, then six and Seana Christine, about to turn three) and their infant brother Bryant Edward, then four months.
If you have never had the experience of seeing a six-year-old and a three-year-old jumping around with excitement, “It’s Uncle Kent! It’s Uncle Kent!”…trust me, I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world. That night at dinner (which was a really delicious dish of pasta, ground beef and fried tomatoes—yes, I remember what Barbara cooked twenty-three years later), Erin and Seana were doing their eating-like-little-kids bit. That’s where you divide your food into nine neat piles, you stir them around and put your fork down before you give an expression that seems to say, “Sorry, I’m not hungry.” Mark said very quietly, “Barbara, when you finish eating, if those girls haven’t cleaned up their plates, they’re going to bed. And don’t eat slowly to give them more time.”
At that gesture, I made a point of eating a large forkful of pasta and ground beef and pronouncing it yummy. (What I am I going to do, say, “Girls, you don’t have to eat that?” I don’t think so.) I am proud to report that, by the time Barbara had cleaned her plate, Erin had cleaned hers and Seana had done the same. By the way, I had cleaned up my plate, too. And if anyone is snickering, you can just knock it off, because if *you* were there, you would have done the same thing!
(This may look like a brand new plate, but it's actually what the dishes look like after people eat Barbara's food.)