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Don't leave the Ninja Turtles in charge when sugary cereal is involved

Columnist Dan Conradt says the accomplishments of a 6-year-old can be befuddling to a parent.

Dan Conradt column sig

“I need to go into the basement for a few minutes,” I said. “Are you okay up here alone?”

Steven was staring over my shoulder at the TV; It’s hard to get a 6-year-old’s attention when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are trying to save the world.

Without glancing at his bowl, he ate a spoonful of breakfast cereal.

“You want some milk on your cereal?” I asked.

“Yo, dude.”

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I was pretty sure “Yo, dude” wasn’t Jim Lehrer’s standard News Hour signed-off, so I figured Steven had learned it from the Turtles. I added milk to his bowl, unsure whether “Yo, dude” meant “yes” or “no.”

“I’ll be in the basement,” I said again, waiting for a response that didn’t come. I was tempted to say “We’re getting a pony,” just to see if he was listening.

On TV, a Ninja Turtle was twirling a pair of nunchucks.

Nope … not listening.

I left Steven with his cereal and his Turtles and headed into the basement. But projects you expect to take “a few minutes” rarely do, and, even after six years of the surprises that come with having a child in the house, I wasn’t expecting what I found when I came back up the stairs 40 minutes later: the cereal in Steven’s bowl had turned into a bloated tan paste, the entire box of cereal had been emptied onto the table and Steven was standing on his chair, pawing through the pile.

“What are you doing?!” I asked, watching my dreams of a “Father Of The Year” award evaporate.

“Eating cereal,” he said matter-of-factly, not bothering to explain his unorthodox cereal-eating style.

“You’ve got a bowl full of cereal right here and you haven’t touched it!”

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“There’s milk on it!” he said. “I don’t like milk on my cereal.”

For future reference, I made a mental note that “Yo, dude” means “no” at least when it comes to milk on cereal.

“But you can’t just dump a whole box of cereal on the table,” I explained. “If you didn’t want milk, I could have gotten you a bowl of dry cereal.”

“But you were gone a long time and I was hungry,” he said, plucking a tidbit out of the mound on the table and popping it into his mouth. Then he added proudly: “So I did it myself!”

And that’s when I noticed that something wasn’t quite right.

“I thought this cereal had marshmallows …”

“It does.”

“So what happened to all the marshmallows?” I asked, the answer dawning before he even said it.

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“I ate them!”

I looked at the remaining cereal more closely … pink hearts, orange stars, yellow moons, green clovers … gone.

In my own defense, the box wasn’t quite full, so there couldn’t have been more than 200 marshmallows. 250 tops. And they were pretty small.

“So I went into the basement for a few minutes,” I said, “And you decided you could dump the cereal on the table and eat all the marshmallows?!”

“They’re magically delicious!” he said with a sugar-fueled smile, and I decided I needed to seriously limit his intake of breakfast cereal and Saturday morning TV.

I used my hand to sweep the remaining cereal back into the box.

“Can I have a Popsicle?” Steven asked.

“No, you can’t have a Popsicle!” I said. “And Steven … we’re not going to tell mom about this, okay?”

“Cowabunga, dude!”

I’ll take that as Turtle-speak for “Your secret’s safe with me, Dad.”

Dan Conradt, a lifelong Mower County resident, lives in Austin with his wife, Carla Johnson.

Related Topics: PEOPLEDAN CONRADT
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