This story begins, as many do, with me sitting at the dining table, exhorting five-year-old Big Brother to eat his dinner.
It’s not that he doesn’t like his food, or that he’s a fussy eater. He just gets distracted by all the thoughts and stories in his head. If no one reminded him to eat, I’m sure he’d just wander off and not notice his grumbling belly for days at a time.
“Come on, Big Brother. Keep eating,” I say.
“Mummy?” It’s the tone of voice that tells me he’s got an important question to ask. “Is this candy?”
I look at the food on his plate: Lettuce, cheese, green beans, broccoli, carrot sticks, boiled egg, and ham. You’d be hard pressed to describe any element of his meal as “candy”.
“No,” I say. “Eat up.”
He picks up a bean and slowly, carefully nibbles on it until he’s holding a stub between his fingers. He pops that in his mouth and his eyes refocus on me. “Are apples candy?”
“No, Sweetie. Apples are a type of fruit.”
“I know,” he says. “But something can be candy and fruit. Can’t it?”
“Well…” My first instinct is to say ‘No’. But then I think of candied apples, and I wonder what they’re made of, and if they’re really apple or not, and if they are, are they classed as fruit or candy, and… and… and this is exactly where Big Brother gets his wandering mind from. “Eat some more of your dinner,” I say to cover up the gap in the conversation.
This time it’s a carrot stick. He nibbles on it, his eyes unfocused and his mind far, far away.
“Then, what’s candy?” he asks.
I don’t even know what to say. First of all, I don’t like the word ‘candy’. It’s not a term we use in Australia. Over here, we eat lollies and chocolates and biscuits. If you’re particularly posh, you might even eat confectionery. But not candy. In my head, the word conjures up images of spoiled rich kids holding up Halloween bags and buckets and screaming, “I want more candy!!”
I know, it’s not the poor little word’s fault that I have negative associations. But still.
Big Brother picked up the word years ago, back when he watched TV. And that’s one of the reasons he doesn’t really know what it means — it’s not a word he hears in the real world. But it is a word he likes the sound of.
“What do you think candy is?” I ask him in return. (Long-term readers may recognise the turn-the-question-back-on-you technique that is my parenting staple.)
“Well,” he begins, absentmindedly building a log cabin out of beans and carrot sticks. “It’s something yummy that you don’t get to have all the time. And it might not be healthy. Is candy healthy?”
“Not usually,” I say.
He thinks a moment longer, then nods. Answer given. Decision made. Conversation finished.
“That’s a pretty good definition.” When he has nothing more to add, I say, “Now how about you finish your dinner?”
He eats quietly for awhile. Then he looks up at me with a mischevious grin. “Mummy, do you know what my favourite candy is?”
“What?” I ask.
And you know what? I’m just going to go with it.
Bring on the candy!
What’s your favourite candy?