Breakfast by candle light
“Do you want me to cut your cake, honey?”
“Not really mom…”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I don’t really like store-bought cake that much.”
“But this is from a bakery. It’s a gourmet chocolate cake with buttercream icing. Here, taste this.” I pulled one of the dark chocolate shavings off the side of the gorgeous cake.
Everyone else who was over wanted this cake, but I wasn’t going to cut it if the birthday boy wasn’t interested. His actual birthday was the following day, and we were all watching a football game, anyway, so it wasn’t like the cake was the main attraction, though it certainly was the most compelling feature on the buffet table.
“Oh, hmmm. No, thanks. Not right now.”
And I knew what he meant was “not ever.”
My original plan was to bake a cake. It wasn’t that I didn’t have cake mix and frosting: I had congratulated myself weeks prior when I bought the Pillsbury cake mix and frosting on sale, well in advance of my son’s birthday. My guilt over boxed cake mix (since my own mother would have never done it that way) was long ago assuaged by my colleague’s affirmation that “if it comes out of my oven, it’s homemade.”
This is actually the way I overcome most of my remorse about feeding the kids chicken nuggets, fish sticks, pizza, mozzarella sticks, or anything that they really like that comes out of my oven (since my own mother would NEVER have allowed us to eat these things growing up), as well as conquer my contrition about allowing the Bigs to eat hot food from the Middle School’s oven every day (since my own mother lovingly prepared our lunches, complete with our names on one side of the reused-and-wrinkled brown bags and our initials inside a heart on the other) until we were just about done with junior high. My boys asked long ago, “Mom, do you hafta put notes inside our lunch bags?” No, I don’t, I realized. There are many different ways of doing things.
It’s just that when I saw gourmet chocolate cake with buttercream icing, I knew it was decorated far better than I could have done, and it wasn’t like it had the typical neon-colored, sugar-flavored lard covering it. Plus, I justified that I could use the food prep time saved to clean the house, since we were having company and most of my cleaning is event-driven (which meant I really needed to clean). However, I wound up giving it to our neighbor to take to the office.
The next morning, on my son’s birthday, I pulled the Pillsbury box out of the cabinet. Cake would be the first priority after we’d finished our morning breakfast routine, which is the story within this story.
In order to ensure we have family mealtime, we have to do it at breakfast. I have given up feeling guilty about not having dinner as a family. We’ve rushed through it prior to evening activities, tried it in the car while en route, or attempted it later on at night when everyone is too tired to do anything other than feed. A lot of times one or more of my kids still eats that way because the fact of the matter is, there is barely a night of the week when someone doesn’t have “something.” One night, we have two or three basketball practices (during one of them, the Bigs are assistant coaches for their younger brother’s team and sometimes my oldest has a school practice or game in addition to rec practice) as well as hockey and chess club. This means someone is doing something between the hours of 2:30 and 9:00 p.m. so there’s no way we’re going to have the family-sit-down-togetherness that my own mom insisted upon nightly when I was a kid and that parenting experts everywhere agree is vital.
Instead, I make the kids hot breakfast every morning. Usually it’s pancakes or waffles (yes, from boxes) and some combination of eggs and/or bacon. Sometimes there are oven things, like muffins or coffee cake (also from boxes) or breakfast “cocktails” (juice and seltzer in non-plastic cups). We dim the overhead lights and burn candles. We might listen to music and I might read out loud (which incidentally never worked for us at bedtime; I’d have to corner them in the bathtub before the closed-door policy was enacted.) At this writing, we’re listening to a motivational book on tape and reading sports trivia. My youngest does his homework in the morning because after the Bigs get on the bus, he has an hour before his bus comes. There are many different ways of doing things.
That morning, after each boy took his turn cracking an egg into the cake mix, I got busy with my son’s cake. After all, as Pillsbury’s slogan says, “Nothin’ says Lovin’ like something from the oven.”