Breakfast: Not for the Faint of Heart
March 6th, 2016
Somehow, despite my best intentions, I’ve become a short order cook. Not at dinnertime, mind you. In the evenings, I’m perfectly fine holding the line on dinner and forcing everyone in my family to eat quinoa or squash fritters with feta. It’s breakfast that has gotten away from me.
At first glance, it doesn’t seem too complicated. On school days, my kids are allowed to choose toast or cold cereal for breakfast. We save more involved morning fare like pancakes and oatmeal for the weekends. Easy peasy, right? But wait. It’s not that simple.
In our house, “toast” actually means either bread or English muffins since I’ve usually got both in the cupboard. Then there are toppings. Do you want peanut butter? Honey? Nutella? Jelly? What kind, strawberry or grape? These are critically important distinctions – as any parent knows, putting the wrong kind of jelly on a two-year-old’s toast will promptly derail your entire morning. Possibly your entire week.
There are usually at least four kinds of cereal in the house on any given day and, if allowed, Miss Mouse will rotate through them. One small bowl of Cheerios, then a helping of Frosted Mini Wheats, then maybe some Rice Chex. She’s adamantly opposed to co-mingling, however, so we have to rinse the bowl out in between helpings. Sometimes she wants fruit on top of her cereal. Or next to the bowl, but not IN the bowl. Possibly cut up, but sometimes whole, depending on the day, her mood, and whether Venus is ascendant or the moon is full.
And let’s not forget about beverages. KFP wants orange juice today. Miss Mouse prefers milk, but only if it’s chocolate milk. Birdie suddenly decides she cannot drink from any container other than her Hello Kitty water bottle, which is – of course – in the dishwasher.
For those of you keeping count at home, that’s at least a dozen different breakfast variables distributed across three children. I was never great at permutations, but I’m pretty sure my kids can come up with at least 360 possible ways to combine those variables. Most mornings, it feels like we sample all 360 of those options. Twice.
Each option, when considered separately, seems utterly reasonable. Why not let your child pick their flavor of jelly? It’s the combined magnitude of all those choices that drives me slightly batty, particularly when they’re piled on top of the other early morning angst related to clothing, hair styles, and the whereabouts of last night’s spelling homework. (Answer: in the laundry hamper. No, I don’t know why.)
Sometimes, I wonder what breakfast might be like in families with one child and no morning time constraints. I imagine it’s a serene, loving event. I picture beautiful, well-rested mothers (the kind I see in commercials) chatting with their cherubic offspring while sharing a plate of fresh multi-grain waffles. My world doesn’t look much like that. The other day, I was in a hurry and I tried to brush Miss Mouse’s teeth while she was still finishing her last bite of peanut butter toast. It didn’t go well.