We were babysitting our two young grandchildren while their parents went to a wedding.  Rydia, 3 ½, was recovering from a little stomach bug and maximizing the rare privilege of watching endless cartoons.  Link was his usual energetic toddler self, alternating between pestering his sister, begging to be held, and investigating the kitchen drawers.

I tried to get Link to eat something during the supper hour.  He picked at some cereal, drank some water, took tiny sips from an applesauce pouch.  He usually eats enthusiastically, but teething and ear problems have stifled his appetite lately.

I had to take him out of his high chair, because he was throwing food to the two golden retrievers, eager recipients of a forbidden practice in this household.  Little ones are better at paying attention to their bodies than we are, and it is futile to try to force them to eat when it doesn’t appeal to them.  Supper was finished.

Eventually Link wandered over to the bread drawer and opened it.  The clear acrylic lid posed a challenge for him, and he whined for help to open it.  I thought, “Why not?” and got out a slice of bread to see whether it was the food or the challenge itself that interested him.  He took it and began to take little bites.  Interesting; this was out of character.  When pain isn’t interfering, Link will stuff his mouth with whatever food is within reach.

My husband and I go by the old German endearments for grandparents, “Opa” and “Oma.”  Rules are slackened with Oma and Opa around, and I let him take his food over to the leather couch.  I figured plain bread wouldn’t spill or stain.  Rydia was on Opa’s lap by now, so Link took over her spot, testing the feel of the quilts and pillows.  He climbed onto the short, sturdy table nearby, then perched there grinning, bread in hand, king of his domain.  I lingered nearby gathering crumbs, troubleshooting.

Link ate his bread politely, grabbing his water at intervals with the spastic movements of a 16-month-old.  At one point he laid his half slice down, and it was gone!  Sabin (the dog) snatched it in one bite.  But Link didn’t even cry.  I got him another slice and he ate it at the same leisurely pace.  His sister played the part of sibling, requesting a helping equal to her brother.  And they both dined as though at a picnic, simple fare made delicious by eating it in the outdoors, only this time it was in their living room with their grandparents.

When they heard that the children had eaten bread from the drawer, our son Kyle and his wife Janessa were puzzled.  They didn’t know there was any bread in the house.  They couldn’t remember buying any for weeks and weeks.  They surmised that the preservatives in the bread kept it edible for the children after weeks of neglect.  And it was.  I checked; it was just fine.

Simple sustenance, forgotten.

I remember how demanding it was to raise young children.  Sometimes I wondered if there was enough of me to get us through the day.   But there was always more in reserve than I realized.   Our children can uncover nourishment in us that we didn’t know was there.  There is more to us than we think is possible—more energy, more creativity, more grit.  Our children can feed off us day after day, and it is enough.

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