When I was a kid I hated lima beans. I despised them. In fact, I still do. They’re the toxic sludge of vegetables.
My father used to make lima beans often — or at least it seemed like he made them often — when I was younger. He probably only made them a few times a year but eating them – and his mandate that “you cannot leave the table until you eat them” –scarred me.
I did not eat lima beans from the ages of 12 to 40. That’s the kind of commitment I made to avoiding eating lima beans, thinking about lima beans or allowing the words “lima beans” to be spoken within the confines of my home.
But recently, lima beans reared their ugly, pasty, pale green head.
Hiding inside a bag of mixed vegetables were a group of lima beans. Clearly, they are the uninvited guests of the vegetable family but there they were, welcoming themselves into a pot of boiling water on our stove, secretly hoping that we would shovel them into our mouths without noticing, until their soft skin exploded in our mouths, revealing a mushy, nasty aftertaste known the world over.
As we sat down to eat, a strange thing happened. A thing so strange that the people at Guiness (the book, not the beer) might need to be notified. Our 2-year-old started scarfing them down. In fact, he ate little else from his pile of carrots, peas and green beans. I almost wanted to tell him, “Dude, don’t eat those. They’re disgusting.” But I stood down. “Let’s see where this goes,” I thought.
Here’s where it went. Our 4-year-old noticed that his little brother treated lima beans like a delicacy and started offering his unwanted lima beans to his sibling. First, I was impressed. Then, I was bothered. No, not because the 4 year old was treating his brother like a dog who might eat his unwanted scraps. I was bothered because I wondered if I was missing an opportunity to teach 4 an important life lesson.
Here’s my thinking — was 4 learning that if there was something he didn’t like or didn’t want to do, he could pawn it off on someone else? Was he learning that when something offends us (and few things offend me more than a lima bean), we can avoid it and refuse to confront it? Alright, I know this is deep stuff concerning a benign member of the vegetable family but this is how my brain works.
I wondered if my father’s insistence that I consume the lima beans on my plate, while wretched, taught me an invaluable lesson about persistence, dealing with something uncomfortable and overcoming my dislike of a situation. Did I become a person more willing to take on the “lima beans” of jobs or tasks that others would shun because I saw that the discomfort was only temporary?
Or maybe I’m an idiot. Maybe this is simply about a boy who, like his father, thinks lima beans are “yucky.”