Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Of Peas... and Lipsticks

Lillian hates vegetables. She despises them actually. Her hatred is so very deep that she will sometimes actually completely flip-out (and I mean have a total meltdown) just because there are vegetables on the plate NEXT to hers.

Lillian devilishly taunts Sylvia with her 'lipsticks'
while Sylvia recoils behind her frozen peas. 
And I don’t mean she’ll flip out if there’s a plate full of veggies sitting right next to her own plate, I mean she’ll flip out if there is, say, a small pile of peas on a plate on the setting next to hers – a good full two feet away. She will see the offending mass of green or orange or yellow stuff, her eyes and mouth will shock open in terror, then she will quickly pick up her own plate and everything else from her setting, and move somewhere else – usually to another table entirely.

Her distain was so acute that we actually looked up to see if there is actually a medically noted phobia of vegetables. There is.

It’s called lachanophobia.

And we’ve fought the battle, fought it over and over and over again. We’ve tried every vegetable imaginable. We’ve tried numerous variations of each vegetable. We’ve tried hiding them, disguising them, covering them with cheese or brown sugar, inserting them into things, and more. The only thing that has really worked with Lillian is if you take the Jessica Seinfeld route of shaving bits of a veggie into a mass of carbs and fats and then feed it to your kid as a muffin or some other more familiar food, trying to be content that this dusting of vegetable mass that you were able to slip by your kid’s radar is certainly better than nothing.

So, we did what all good parents eventually do: we gave up. Hard to admit, but it’s totally true. Lillian beat us. There, I said it. Congratulations seven-year-old girl – you just wore down two 40-year-old (ish) adults!

But our misery is Sylvia’s opportunity.

As Sylvia started to grow out from under the yoke of oppression that her older sister held over her when she was two or three years old, finally standing up for herself and telling Lillian what was on her mind, or what SHE – not Lillian – wanted to do, and generally putting her little four-inch foot down, she started to use vegetables against Lillian.

You see, Sylvia loves her veggies. She chows on carrot sticks, asks for extra peas (even pulls the peas out of Indian rice to eat them like a treat before the actual rice), loves her some broccoli, and will even try exotic new vegetables. And, while mackin’ on some squash puree or something, she at one point realized just how much it repulsed Lillian. So she did what any good little sister would do: she started taunting her big sister with it.

She held vegetables aloft before eating them, so that Lillian could bear witness. She declared, town crier like, which vegetable she was about to eat. She chewed with her mouth open. She asked for more, and then more again. She pointed out how much she had eaten and pointed out where the bowl of more veggies was on the table. She often walks around the table with her plate to eat her veggies right in front of her sickened and screaming lachanophob big sister. Sylvia saw Lillian’s weakness, and like a good general commanding troops or a boxer in the ring, she immediately exploited it.

But Sylvia is not without her own kryptonite. You see, Sylvia hates lipstick, or ‘lipsticks’ as she calls it. And, as the parental fates would have it, Lillian just LOVES makeup (and all things girly for that matter).

Now Sylvia’s fear is so acute that she asks her mom if she is, “Wearing lipsticks” before Sally can even kiss her good-bye or night-night. She inspects family water bottles to be sure that no one with lipsticks has used it before her – and if they have, well then she just doesn’t drink water then. It goes so far that she will ask me if I have any ‘chapsticks’ on before I kiss her, or before she drinks out of my water bottle.

Now, a quick search of the interwebs tells me that, thankfully, there is no official phobia named for a fear of lipstick (although apparently there is a band by that name), nor is there even an official phobia for a fear of make-up in general. But if there were one, Sylvia would certainly have this ‘revlon-aphobia’.

So, what does Lillian do? She taunts her sister with it, of course! Sylvia won’t do what Lillian wants or maybe gets her in trouble? Lillian is off to her bedroom to apply some Hello Kitty lipsticks! Is Sylvia being a whiney brat to Lillian in the car? Lillian digs out some lip-gloss (or perhaps ‘lip-glosses’ in Sylviaspeak) and applies in layers (sometimes missing her lips and creating this creepy sort of clown-face look). Then, once firmly applied in layers thick enough to make a house painter proud, she chases Sylvia, threatening to ‘kiss her all over’ with her lipstick-caked lips.

So what do Sally and I, the parental equivalent of the U.N., do here to assuage the saber-rattling of these two super powers? We have tried peace talks. We’ve tried d├ętente. We’ve tried disarmament treaties. We’ve tried the spray bottle, squirting them in the face like a bad dog or a cat trying to sharpen her claws on your new sofa. But, in the end, we settled on deterrence – you simply arm them both. And with this ‘mutually assured destruction’ (in Cold War parlance) comes an uneasy, stressful ‘peace’ – of sorts.  

When we’re at the dinner table now and we’re serving vegetables, we make sure that Sylvia is aware that Lillian can go get her lipsticks whenever she likes. When we leave the house and Lillian holsters her lipsticks or lip-gloss, we grab a ziplock bag of frozen peas and hand them to Sylvia (the peas eventually defrost and serve the double purpose of providing her with a healthy snack later).

So, while in the world of Jude and Ward Cleaver, everything little sibling conflict might actually have a parental solution that can wrapped up in a nice, tight, little succinct package, the reality of real-world parenting is that it doesn’t work that way. And, as sheriffs of this one-horse town, sometimes to keep the peace you’ve got to just make sure that both your little gunslingers are armed – even if it’s just with a baggie of frozen peas and a Hello Kitty lipsticks. 

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