Recently, while studying Roman mythology, my daughter Clementine came across the story of Saturn–you know, the guy who eats his own children.
“Gross,” she said.
“What?” I replied. “The poor guy was probably just trying to clean up some leftovers and the kids got in the way.”
I can picture the whole thing–in fact, I can probably tell you exactly where they were when it happened: a restaurant. An expensive one.
For some reason, as the price for a meal increases a child’s appetite will decrease (of course, this is only true after they have ordered, and you are obligated to pay for it all). And no, it’s not because the more expensive the food is the more exotic (and therefore less child-friendly) it becomes. I mean, I could understand them turning their noses up at Black Squid Ink Pasta in a Chanterelle Cream Sauce, but that’s not the case: they turn their noses up at plain old spaghetti with butter (but served at Squid Ink and Chanterelle prices).
It’s even worse at a buffet. There the same kid that can eat their own weight in chicken nuggets back home suddenly becomes “full” after two of them at the $16.95 all-you-can-eat buffet. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not trying to encourage gluttony. In fact, I think the ability to stop eating when you are full (even if the food tastes delicious) is a wonderful skill, one that I wish I had myself. No, my problem is that, invariably, after having picked their way through an expensive meal like an anorexic on a first date, the first thing they say after we’ve gotten back into the car and buckled up is, “I’m hungry. What’s for dinner?”
“That was dinner,” I’ll reply through clenched teeth. “Didn’t you see me handing that man an enormous stack of money?”
“No.” (Looks out the window in boredom.) “So—can we stop and get something to eat?”
Meanwhile, I’m completely stuffed, probably because I just ate both of our dinners. (This because I don’t want to “waste money”–although how it saves me money to have to buy a larger wardrobe every year, I’m not quite sure.)
Which brings us back to Saturn. Although in all of the pictures I’ve seen of him he looks pretty fit (especially for an old guy), I can’t help but believe that eating his own children was just a mistake he made while over-enthusiastically cleaning up after them at a really expensive Roman buffet. It was no big deal.
And besides, it wasn’t like the kids didn’t get their revenge—gruesomely. (In the PG version the kids just cut their way out of Saturn’s stomach. In the Quentin Tarantino edition, after they cut their way out they turn around and cut off Saturn’s—well, let’s just put it this way: getting smacked below the belt with an errant T-ball is not the worst thing that can happen to a dad. Not by a long shot.)
I explained this theory to Clementine, but instead of being awed by my new interpretation of a classic myth, she just rolled her eyes and said, “Whatevs. I guess it’s never the parent’s fault, is it?”
Okay, so she may have a point. After all, the whole “Saturn eating his kids thing” probably was about a bit more than making sure he got his money’s worth at the $24.95 seafood brunch. After all, he was known for having a few issues with parenting.
Although, when you think about it, doesn’t all of mythology (Roman and otherwise), come down to (mostly bad) parenting? I’m not sure if that’s comforting or disturbing, but either way, one thing is sure: it’s nice to know that five thousand years ago people were still saying, “I am so going to kill that kid!”