"Aaron, since it's your birthday, you can choose a restaurant that we can go to for dinner tonight."
"Hooray! I want Souper Salad." (Groans and smirks from the parents. Cheers of great joy from elder brother, Elliot.) "Wait, no, I want to go to that place where you can make your own pizza, where we went with Jamie and Mark that one time."
"Tucchetti? Um, okay, we'll go there." I respond quickly, the faster to get Souper Salad out of that crazy little shaved head of his.
A little history: we've eaten at Souper Salad maybe twice before. For Elliot, it is just a taste of heaven on earth. You can get as much food as you want and you don't even have to pay for more! They have goldfish! They have pizza! They have ice cream with sprinkles! You can pick whatever you want to eat, and even go back for more! Watermelon? As much as you want. Pepperoni that you can eat plain just because it's there? They have it, and so much more. It's a picky seven-year-old eater's paradise. For mom and dad, our last experience there was of the variety that makes your stomach turn whenever you recall it. We sat at a booth--which is kind of gross because who knows what's down in the crevices--but this particular booth had a giant rip in the yellow vinyl seat, and our kids, more than once, were sticking their arms down it, finding treasures untold. Steve's germophobic tendencies were in overdrive and the kids were dragged multiple times to the bathroom to wash their hands. Plus we were grossed out by the food. So, needless to say, Souper Salad just doesn't do it for Steve and me.
Well, as I was saying, today I was quick to affirm Aaron's second choice of restaurant as a lovely selection. Yes, Tucchetti would be pleasant enough. Aaron could make his own pizza, and perhaps the kids might even eat free on Monday nights.
And so the brotherly manipulation began.
Elliot, desperately seeing his grand opportunity to eat at an all-you-can-eat buffet (with goldfish and pizza!) vanish before his eyes began panic-stricken bartering. Then reasoning. Then begging. Then threatening.
"Aaron, if you change your mind and pick Souper Salad, I'll clean up all the rooms, and you won't have to." (This one almost worked, until I caught wind of it. There'll be none of that.)
"Aaron, wouldn't you rather go to a place where you can still get pizza, and also get other stuff? And you don't even have to pay to go back and get more?"
"Aaron, if we don't go to Souper Salad, I'm not going to be your brother anymore! Humph!"
"Aaron, fine then. I'm going to buy the video game with my own money, and you won't be able to use it. Ever!"
Of course, I was all, "Sorry, Elliot. Aaron made up his mind, and if he wants to go to Tucchetti, then that's where we'll go. Please," (please!) "don't try to change his mind."
And so we set off for Tucchetti, a bit of a drive, but what the heck! It's not Souper Salad! Steve and I didn't mind the distance. As we pulled into the shopping center, Steve pointed in horror at the restaurant right in front of us. There, coincidentally, was, of all things, a Souper Salad. Yikes, don't let Elliot see that, I telecommunicate to Steve. We pull around. Tucchetti: empty parking lot, locked door!! They may have gone out of business, or at the very least are very much closed on Mondays. Steve and I exchange glances.
"Aaron, honey, the make your own pizza place isn't open anymore. Why don't you pick something else? We could go to California Pizza Kitchen. Or get some yummy Mexican food. Do you want chips and salsa? Mmm, Mexican food. Or....." I try to disguise it as well as possible. ".....salad??"
"I want Souper Salad!!" Oh no! He picked it. He hates salad and he saw right through my trick.
"O-kay.....if that's what you really want. There happens to be one right here."
And so the motherly manipulation began.
"Elliot, I know I told you that you could pick the next restaurant that we go to as a family, but since we're eating at Souper Salad tonight, how about we just count this choice for both you and Aaron? Would that be okay?"
Elliot agreed, truly beaming from ear to ear.