Tuesday, June 12, 2012
The Grape Nuts Effect
I was six, maybe seven. I swear when I pulled the bowl from the cupboard it looked like a normal cereal bowl. Innocently, I filled the bowl (to the brim) with Grape Nuts and milk and settled in for a lovely breakfast. However, with my first bite, I found, to my horror, that I HATED Grape Nuts! How could this be? My dad LOVED them. They were the staple of his breakfast routine. How was I to know that they were heinous? Suddenly that petite cereal bowl looked something akin to a 2 quart mixing bowl. I sat staring in horror at the thick, heavy mess before me and knew, somehow, that this would be a defining moment in my young life. I was right.
As I tip-toed through the kitchen, trying to get to the garbage can before one of my parents spotted me, a voice behind me said "Enola, what are you up to?". Turning, I saw my dad standing in the doorway. As I mumbled something about not being hungry, I saw a look cross my dad's face that was rather unfamiliar to me. It was a cross between determination and righteous indignation. "I see you poured yourself some Grape Nuts, how do you like them?" my dad asked. "They were really good, dad, but I'm not hungry anymore", I said in my most innocent voice. "Enola, you took way too much. You can't just throw it away. Grape Nuts are expensive, and you should have asked before you helped yourself. You need to eat those." Horror of horrors! He wanted me to eat this sopping, soggy mess of nastiness. "But daddy, I'm full! I won't take them again without asking, I promise!" I said.
My father is not a hard man. He loves his children fiercely and has always been our greatest champion, however, he knew that he was forming the generations that would form this nation. He knew that we had to be responsible for our own actions, even when it was uncomfortable, and, quite frankly, yucky (if you don't understand yucky, just try eating soggy Grape Nuts for breakfast, lunch and dinner until your 2 quart bowl of them is gone!). He knew that he had to teach us to discipline ourselves, even when our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. He knew that he was laying the groundwork the for the kind of adults we would become. Even though he came to regret his edict regarding the Grape Nuts (I didn't know this until I became an adult), I am thankful he didn't bend. The lesson that bowl of Grape Nuts taught me has traveled with me throughout my entire life, providing a compass setting that points true north.
We make choices every day. When I was six, I chose to fill a huge bowl with Grape Nuts without my father's permission. Had I asked, my dad would have had me taste a bit, to see if I like it. Instead, I helped myself to way more than I could possibly eat. Instead of letting me throw the cereal away, dad had me eat it, breakfast, lunch and dinner until it was gone. Through that lesson, I learned a lot about life. I learned to ask before taking. I learned never to take more than I could use. I learned that when I am in a hard situation, regardless of the cause, that I have to find my bootstraps, give them a good yank, and do what needs to be done, even if it is soggy, icky and distasteful. I learned the value of walking through messes and coming out the other side, rather than having my messes cleaned up for me. I learned that being a good parent means helping our children through the problems of life rather than preventing problems from touching them. I learned that Grape Nuts are horrible, but when I take them, I have to eat them. I also learned that when someone else serves Grape Nuts, I must smile graciously, politely eat them and then get on with the rest of my day. In essence, Grape Nuts taught me to be tough in any situation (just ask a six year old who had to finish her bowl of Grape Nuts - tough indeed!).
I love my dad for many things, not the least of which is the Grape Nuts Effect. That one moment in history was a defining factor in how I view my world. Because my dad knew the importance of training his children, I have reaped the benefits of not being at the whim of bad situations. No matter what the struggle, I approach it just like I approached that bowl of Grape Nuts, with dogged determination and a will of steel. I refuse to be a victim , be it from my own choices or unfortunate circumstances. I will walk through my messes and come out wiser and stronger - all because of a silly bowl of Grape Nuts and a dad who loved me.