Chasing saltines

At some point each day, I offer an explanation, declaration or theory to my 7-year-old daughter that’s too prolonged and tedious to possibly forget any time soon.

Luckily, I rarely want to do that anyway.

“What do you want for groceries?” I asked as we entered the store parking lot one night. “I know we need milk and bread … what else?”

“I ate all of the saltines.”

“Okay. We can get some more. Anything else? Cereal, yogurt, eggs? You’re going to need food for lunch this week.”

“Just saltines. Hey – you know what we should do? We should get one box to go in the cupboard and another to go behind it.”

Kalista can live on saltines. I constantly find proof of this in the cushions of living room chairs.

“Well, let’s see what else we can find.”

“But Daaaaad … ”

I wondered if we were actually having this discussion or if I’d fallen asleep at a red light and was having a recurring dream. She wants saltines at home, when we eat out and even recently conceded a battle for Uncle Dickie’s saltines at my parents’ house. It’s well out of hand.

“Look,” I said, stopping near the cart area just inside the store so I could squat and be eye-to-eye with my daughter. “We are obviously going to need more than saltines here. I think you know that.”

She nodded, looking solemn. I still couldn’t believe we were discussing this.

“We can get saltines. Seriously. And you may eat them until you’re dehydrated and lethargic. But we need more to eat than saltines. How would it look if you just took a bag of saltines to school for lunch? That would not be okay.”

She nodded and mumbled “yes, sir.” She seemed ashamed – like she does whenever I use “that tone,” which is typically reserved for instances of talking back, getting in trouble at school or burning Bibles in the toilet. I felt guilty “that tone” had been evoked by saltines.

“I’ll tell you what,” I said, standing and turning to proceed inside the store. “Saltines can be the first thing we get.”

“Yay!” she said, smiling.

I reminded her en route to the cracker aisle we had other items to purchase as well. She said that was fine and seemed really enthusiastic about saltines. When we arrived at the promised land, I saw shades of Christmas morning in her eyes. I found it quite ridiculous.

When I told her she could even get her backup box, she squealed with delight, which I deemed even more ridiculous.

“Well, I hope you’re happy,” I told her as she pushed her cart of saltines toward the store’s dairy section. “I also hope you understand why you need to eat more than saltines.

“Do you have any questions?”

She thought for a couple of seconds, turning sheepish and solemn again.

“Dad,” she bellowed.

“Yes?” I replied, preparing for the worst and suspecting I’d been unnecessarily stern with her earlier.

“What does ‘lethargic’ mean?”

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