Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sippy Cups

We did a happy dance at my house a few days ago. We are finally finished with sippy cups. Son Number Three is finally old enough to use a regular plastic cup and keep it at the table or the counter when he drinks. No longer is he allowed to roam free around the house holding a sippy cup of milk. This is a BIG deal for us, and I’m guessing that only parents who have experienced the modern-day sip cup can really relate, but I will try to explain.

The sippy cup full of water is no big deal, but water isn’t why you bought sippy cups in the first place. You bought them so that your kid would stop splashing milk on the furniture and the carpets. A sippy cup of milk is no big deal either, until it goes missing.

Now, nobody has just one sippy cup. You have to wash them on a fairly regular schedule, and you might even have more than one sippy cup-using rug rat, so chances are you have at least two and probably more. This seemed like a good idea at the time. “We’ll just buy this convenient five-pack of sippy cups, that way we’ll always have them available for our precious offspring, plus they’re cheaper this way. Aren’t we smart!” No. As it turns out, you’re stupid, because now, since you have multiples, when one goes missing you don’t notice right away.

The problem is compounded by the multiple colors that the sippy cups come in. The ever so misleadingly non-convenient five-pack has five different color sippy cups. That makes sense at first glance, because you’re thinking you’ll be able to keep track of them better. That might actually be the case if the right color lid ever stayed with the right color cup. And they might if it was just the parents handling them. Insert kids into the mix, and suddenly it’s chaos. Blue cup with yellow lid. Purple cup with green lid. Anarchy. I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a sippy cup in my house with the correct color lid.

What’s the big deal, you might ask. Well, I’ll tell you what the big deal is. The big deal is that when your wife asks you if you’ve seen the purple sippy cup in a while, you have no idea. You’re pretty sure you saw the purple one this morning, but it may have just been the purple lid you’re remembering. Or was it the red lid on the blue cup? Now this conversation is going to take a lot more of your time than it really should. Whatever you were doing is put on hold until you can verify the whereabouts of the purple cup and/or the purple lid. No luck? Well, sir, that’s not good. Now we’ve got a broken arrow. A sippy cup is officially missing somewhere in the house.

The modern day sippy cup is the result of years and years of post-moon landing-era engineering and material science. They are incredible. They only let the milk out when you suck on them, and they don’t let air in or out. They have plastic air-tight screw tops and removable silicone rubber one-way valves in the lids. This makes them expensive, hard to clean, and indispensable for parents who enjoy owning furniture that does not smell like sour milk.

It is their air-tight, spill-proof nature that is both their greatest feature and their fatal flaw. Since it is in a perpetual state of hermetical seal, a sippy cup full of milk can remain hidden under a couch or behind a desk for weeks without anyone noticing. It will only be searched for when its absence is noticed, not because it smells. Once you finally realize that you haven’t seen the purple one in a while, you have absolutely no idea how long it’s been gone.

Anyone who has ever owned a gallon of milk and a refrigerator has surely experienced what happens when the milk gets too far past its sell-by date. It develops a little film on top and starts to smell a little sweet. Let it sit in the fridge a few more days and you may start to see some curdling taking place, and the smell gets a little stronger. You then take it out of the nice, cold fridge and pour it down the sink while holding your nose and lamenting the fact that you didn’t get your money’s worth out of that gallon-gone-sour. Oh, well.

That is nothing like what happens to milk in a sippy cup under a couch.

Milk in a sippy cup underneath a couch at room temperature goes a whole different kind of bad. It undergoes a special kind of chemical transformation that is usually reserved for things at the dump or things in hell, and turns to a cross between tapioca pudding and beige house paint. The smell is almost indescribable. Crack the lid on a rogue sippy cup and you will be wishing for the carefree days of the sour fridge-milk smell. And, unlike the jug from the bad gallon of milk, you are obliged to try and salvage the sippy cup itself, since they are expensive. So, you are left at your kitchen sink, fighting back your gag reflex, and scraping chunky house paint that smells like death itself out of all the little cracks and crevices in the cute purple sippy cup.

Every time you do that, you think to yourself, "Man, I can't wait for the day I get to throw these things away. I don't ever want to smell this smell, ever again, ever."

It occurs to me, as my boys grow up, that much of the early parenting experience is marked by milestones that involve getting rid of smelly or annoying and inconvenient stuff. All told, I can't remember very much about the last seven years, since much of the early parenting experience involves sleep deprivation. I remember very clearly, however, the day that each one of them was done with powdered baby formula, and baby food, and diapers. I clearly remember the days that Number One and Two graduated out of their car seats, and I will always remember the day, just a few short days ago, when I threw away the last sippy cup we will ever own.

I mean, I think it was the last one. I hope it was the last one! It better have been. Although, come to think of it, I'm not sure I actually saw the purple one... Dammit! I'd better go check under the couches.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2012 Marc Schmatjen

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  1. I talked to your Dad today on the golf course and he told me you wrote the article on being sick not your wife, I can not believe I was so taken in!

  2. Don't feel bad, Steve. Lots of people thought that Sandy actually wrote it. She and I were amazed at how many folks thought she would actually be that nice to me! I told her that maybe it was a sign that she should start actually being nice to me, but she's not buying it. Oh, well!