This is a submission in our monthly contest. October’s theme is Determination. Enter your own here!

“I don’t know how to swallow,” my oldest cries with a mouth full of broccoli. My head sinks into my hands because this newfound frustration with being able to swallow undesirable foods seemed more than I could fight after such a long toddler day.

“You’ve chewed and swallowed broccoli successfully many times, my dear. Please keep trying. It’s no different than any other food you eat. Just swallow,” I reply as calmly as I can and end up sounding rather Eeyore-esque. And then I follow up with a typical mom-tactic, “If you finish, you can have a treat.”

The clock ticks, time disappears, but also eventually the broccoli does too.

A hard earned treat after a grueling process of eating noodles and broccoli for dinner, my oldest was given a few Doritos. Mama has been known to knock back a bag of these bad boys in a sitting with no problem, and only a side serving of guilt. Unless no ones knows it happened. In which case, it didn’t.

Bag of what?

Anyway, while having a few chips for herself, my eldest looks at me, distressed, saying, “These chips are burning my lips.” Her eyes shine as tiny pools begin to well up within them. You can read the frustration on her face. After all, she swallowed all that broccoli just for this. And now, this “treat” was causing an “ouchie” and that was not supposed to happen. This isn’t how treats are supposed to work.

“Awe honey, are your lips chapped a little? Let’s get you cleaned up. You don’t have to finish them. I’ll get some chapstick.” But rather than turn and fetch said chapstick, I stand there, looking at my daughter, looking at me.

Mouth slightly agape, cheesy bits visible on her toddler tongue, she stares at me blankly. You’d think I had suggested that she step away from a brand new pony with the way she looked at me in total shock and horror. Or like I’d suggested she not open her Christmas presents she had been waiting for all year and forever. They were just chips … at least to me.

To her, this was her reward for her troubles. Her dinner’s Holy Grail. Earned with the grueling task of swallowing a vegetable. (It doesn’t matter whether or not it was a vegetable she previously used to love. And by previously, I mean, like, last week.) She had put saliva, sweat, and tears into choking that stuff down, and here I was trying to lift away the reward with nary a care in the world.

She turned to face this challenge, her delectable yet slightly stinging treat, and with a look of utter determination, grabbed another chip, exhaled and said very calmly, “No.”

This was not really a no of defiance, but rather one of “no, I will not let this deter me. No, I will not be denied this satisfaction due to a little pain.” So this little girl kept plugging along, savoring every cheesy crunch and the finger-licking which ensued afterward.

Oh, my dear little girl. May you face every adversity with such determination and reap life’s cheesy rewards.