On toddlers and the development of memory and altruism

My toddler is one funny kid. Every time he sees pickled ginger, typically present in the occasional sushi dinner we order in, he starts clamouring for it. There’s no quieting him down once he gets his first glimpse of the pink palate cleanser. After we carefully pick a few small pieces out for him, he’ll shove some into his mouth, close his eyes tightly, shake with every part of his body, and then spit it out. He tends to smack his face lightly, as if trying to coax some manner of sense back into himself. He’ll then reach for the ejected morsel and start anew. Eventually, he will down the entire spicy offering of his own free will despite the extreme physical response to each bite.

A few weeks ago, his brave heart decided that he was up to sampling wasabi. The tough tyke muscled down a wad that was large enough to have us all watching with keen interest for the hilarious response to a first encounter. Surprisingly, he came through with some semblance of dignity. He luckily had a glass full of milk close at hand, which he eagerly downed to quench the burn.

We had sushi again tonight. As we closed in on the end of the dinner, he jabbed his chopstick into the small container of green goo and brought it in close to his face. “You sure you want to do that again, kiddo?” I asked.

But before the words were even out of his mouth, he thrust his stick out to me. I looked at it for a moment. I’ve never been a huge fan of the radioactive green paste, since I find it drowns out the flavour of everything I eat for the next few minutes. That, and I don’t like a river of snot and tears running down my face for dinner. It tends to put other diners off their meals. However, I did not want to miss an opportunity to coach my son in the importance of being open to a wide variety of foods, so I opened my mouth to let him plop in the chunk of green lava.

He yanked the chopstick away and giggled. Funny guy. That’s his new trick. After a laugh, he returned the stick and I accepted the proffered offering with a big smile. He snapped his stick away, dropped it and lunged for his drinking glass, which was filled with milk again for this meal. He held it quickly up in front of me “Milk?” he asked.

Well I’ll be. He actually remembered that wasabi burned like a bad case of road rash. He also remembered that the best countermeasure was a healthy slurp of milk. He even thought about the fact that the wasabi would burn me, and the right and proper thing to do would be for me to drink milk. Since I had water in my glass, he was willing to offer his up to make me feel better. Impressive reasoning for such a young one.

Of course, I shouldn’t forget that he schemed to offer me the painful tidbit in the first place. A real conniving git. Takes after his father, that one.

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