Ryan is a creature of habit, never more so than where food is concerned.
He likes a very select number of foods (though the list has been growing) and even fewer drinks. He hasn’t had a sip of orange or apple juice, at least not since he was old enough to express a preference. He has never touched a soda.
And he has never had a glass of milk.
Never. As in, never ever.
Oh, but he does drink milk. He drinks it every single day. Each morning with his breakfast — waffles (plain unless they’re weekend waffles) or a bagel (butter only) — he drinks what we call “red juice.” It’s strawberry-banana V-Fusion (primary ingredient: carrot juice), mixed with milk. Don’t judge. I’ve tasted it, and it’s not as horrible as it sounds. Sort of like a really lame smoothie.
We always serve him his juice in some sort of cup with a lid and straw. These days it’s out of habit as much as anything, as he’s long past the age where constant spills are a concern.
The other day I was fixing Ryan his breakfast as I have thousands of times. I got the juice and milk out of the fridge and looked in the cabinet for a cup. Spying a San Jose Sharks tumbler he’s had for a few years, I got it out and started to pour.
Ryan, who was sitting at the kitchen table, immediately protested, telling me to use a different cup.
“But it’s the Sharks cup,” I countered. “Why wouldn’t you want that?” After all, there are few things in this world Ryan loves more than the San Jose Sharks.
In the back of my mind I had a vague idea that this was an issue that had come up before. But I had no idea why.
“I just don’t, OK!” came his defensive reply.
“Ryan, I’m not mad,” I said. “I just want to understand why you don’t like having red juice in the Sharks cup.”
Perhaps satisfied that I wasn’t mad, he told me.
“I don’t like to see my juice.”
It was one of those a-ha moments, another tiny piece of the puzzle that leads me to better understanding of my child.
And you know what? It makes sense. The juice mixed with milk looks … unappealing. It looks worse than it tastes and it doesn’t taste all that great. But, hey, it gives him some much needed calcium and veggies and he likes it, so who am I to protest.
If he’d rather not see what he’s drinking, that’s fine with me. I put the Sharks cup back and found an opaque cup, and we both went about our days.
Only it was more than that. A few years ago I probably would have reacted differently, either telling him he was being ridiculous or plotting to try serving him the clear Sharks cup again. Of course, a few years ago I don’t think Ryan would have told me why it mattered to him.
I thanked him for explaining it. Veronica, who was listening to the exchange, told him we were just trying to better understand him. We reiterated that we were proud of him, not mad.
The exchange stayed with me. Later in the day, I noticed Ryan getting himself water in, you guessed it, the Sharks cup. He doesn’t care about seeing water, only the juice/milk mixture. In the evening, when he takes pills with juice (not mixed with anything this time)? He uses any old cup. Doesn’t even need a lid.
The “no clear cups” rule is confined to his juice mixed with milk, and it’s not strange. It’s practical. It makes sense.
No clear cups? I can see clearly why it matters now. But only because Ryan told me — and that’s the best part of all.