You ask for your favorite cereal. No surprise there, kiddo. You ask for your favorite cereal a thousand times a day. Rarely do I see you without your cup of dry cereal close by. It sits next to you in the living room when you watch Curious George on TV. It stands guard next to your plate at dinner time. It sits high up on your dresser in your bedroom while you sleep, waiting for you to wake up and claim it. We add cereal to it when you ask, which is daily. Or more, if you are having a tough day.
Maybe you don't know this, little Mishka, but we eat a lot of cereal in this family. And we have a tiny pantry, so your mommy has to be creative in how we store our food. That is how your favorite cereal ended up in a Rubbermaid cereal container. I had no idea that without the box you would think we ran out of your security cereal.
When you are older, and, hopefully, able to trust that you will never be hungry again, I will tell you the stories of how you fought me, daily, for your food. You will be amazed at how you needed to see your cereal and yogurt. I will tell you how sometimes you just opened the refrigerator to look at your cups of yogurt lined up on the shelf. I will tell you how you threw yourself on the floor, screaming and crying, when you saw the empty cereal box in the trash can. I pulled out the plastic cereal container and tried to show you how we had lots of your cereal in the house, but you were too far gone. Finally I set the cereal down and picked you up, holding you close while you threw your food induced fit.
The memories of starvation are slow to fade, I am told. When you saw that empty cereal box you lost your mind, little one, temporarily. You started thinking with the back of your mind, where the memories you cannot voice are stored. In that moment, in your mind, you truly thought you would never eat that cereal again. It doesn't matter that I buy it for you every week at the grocery store. It doesn't matter that you have never once been without it. It doesn't matter that you have been with me at the store and witnessed where it comes from. None of that matters. At that moment, you are fighting for your life, little one.
I should have known. I should have shown you how I moved the cereal from the box to the plastic container. I should have taken the empty cereal box to the trash can outside so you wouldn't have seen it. I should have just left well enough alone.
That night, after you had come out of your fit and eaten your cereal and happily gone to bed, I lay in my bed, thinking about the cereal episode. I cried for the fear you must have felt earlier that evening, when you truly thought you might not eat again. I cried for your pain, and for the first 24 months of your life when that fear of starving was not just a memory in the back on your brain, it was a real, every day issue you faced. I pushed down the guilt I sometimes feel when I think about the children left behind, the ones still hungry. I pushed off the covers and walked down the hallway to your bedroom. I sat in the rocking chair and watched you sleep. You were spread eagle in your crib, taking up all the space. You were wrapped up in the knitted blue and green blanket that was your father's when he was a baby. You were peaceful. Your cereal cup was sitting on your dresser, waiting for morning.
Oh how I wish all of your trauma could be fixed by giving you a small green snack catcher cup full of cereal.