Spilled beverages follow into the teen years

When my kids, now 14 and 16, were little, never a meal went by without a spill. Like clockwork, I’d make a nice dinner, serve everyone else and then try to wearily sink into my own seat at the dining room table, tastebuds salivating. But before I could sink my teeth into a juicy morsel of home-cooked food, my ears would be greeted by a dull thud.

“Plunk.” It was the sound of a drinking glass tipping over, followed by a “swoosh” (of the non-Nike variety) that signified a flood of liquid was quickly covering everything. Next came a “Scrape” from everyone reflexively pushing back his/her chair back from the table as the liquid crested over the edge, soaking anything/everyone in its path.

“$*@#!” came next, because you can’t move faster than accidentally-launched liquid: the primitive parenting cry of someone bone-tired from messy diapers, cooking messes and dining room messes, who now also had a laundry mess and who would need to change clothing because of what had sloshed all over her lap. Get the non-Norman Rockwell-like picture?

Like any seasoned environmental clean-up response team, our family had its own protocol for addressing the crises of overturned beverages. I called it the “Spill Drill.” When the cuss alarm sounded, the older family members present launched into our well-rehearsed first-responder roles.

My husband would quickly go into source thwartation, aka placing the drinking glass back upright, an especially important step if there were still liquid inside. It prevented fallout damage beyond the initial spill.

While he did that, my teenage stepson would go on towel patrol: running to the kitchen for those absorbent instruments of tabletop moppage. Highly-skilled at stopping escaping liquid dead in its tracks, he would toss them down around the edges of the table to sandbag our perimeter defenses.

My role involved catching run-off and dabbing at the open areas of the table in an effort to sop up as much spill as possible. This was followed by drying off the bottoms of plates, cups, trivets, condiment bottles and sometimes even pouring unwanted liquids off the serving plates and bowls. Yuck.

Typically, the person least-affected by the spill was the small child who had perpetrated it. He/she would continue to sit in the high chair, nonchalantly eating while the rest of the family ran around like crazy people, responding to the missile the toddler had gleefully launched.

Why didn’t we just use some kind of toddler spill-proof sippy cups? Well, we did for several months, but one must gradually graduate the kiddies to a “real cup,” which is where there real fun began. It was particularly problematic in our Kalamazoo home dining room, which had a hardwood floor topped with a huge, braided rug, from which I spent countless hours hand-scrubbing milk and juice from its cinnamon roll-like crevices.

All this came back to me the other night when my son and I exited Menard’s with a huge, flat box containing an assemble-it-at-your-own-peril Sauder armoire. Admittedly, we had no business trying to fit it into our Chevy Equinox hatch, which already contained backpacks, gymbags, music for church, emergency winter clothing, plastic recyclables and shopping bags.

We had officially been on a dresser scouting-only mission, but I’d found a deal and knew, based on the weight of the box, that I needed my wrestler son to “wrastle” (he hates when people pronounce it that way!) it into the car. It might have worked, had my daughter not used our absence in the store to steal the coveted “shotgun” frontseat position, while leaving behind her mostly-full cup of fastfood soda in the backseat drink holder.

Without looking, from the hatch my son and I used the 80-pound box to batter down one-half of the backseat, effectively hurling the Dr. Pepper forward. Soda-soaked casualties included the floor and surface of the backseat, the backs of the frontseats, my son’s headset, my winter coat, a book, a magazine, spare shoes and a Methodist hymnal. Thank God my purse had been zipped!

Cleaning up the mess by flashlight at 10 PM on a wintery night, I paused to reflect, but nothing came to mind. Except that parenting continues to be sticky.

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