I’ve tried very hard to create structure and healthy living in my home; having a plan for the kale in my fridge makes me feel like a good mom. My children have routine meal and snack times, and they are always seated at the table. It gives us a chance for face time and also keeps the house less dirty. The majority of their food is homemade, organic, humanely raise, and if possible, local. While it is my deepest desire to make this a lifestyle, I don’t want to be the crazy crunchy mom that doesn’t let her children go to birthday parties because they may ingest corn syrup. At some point, our lives have to be worth living.
Sunshine has a terrible cold. The poor baby was up all night and miserable. When she woke up, she was in no mood for eggs with spinach or a bowl of steel-cut oats. We compromised on dry cereal and frozen raspberries. While getting out the berries, I saw that Mr. Responsibility had brought home ice cream. “Sunshine! Look what we have. If you do a good job of eating your meals and snacks today, you can have some ice cream!” Her feverish face lit up and she smiled.
As usual, I finished my food first and excused myself from the table while Baldilocks and The Jungle Kid made finger paints out of the raspberries. Bound and Determined Mom got down to work. After a while, a small voice piped up, “I’m all done.” Sunshine had brought her plate to me at the sink, and she had finished every morsel. “Wow! Look at that! Do you want more?” I said with excitement.
Sunshine looked at me. Her newly freckled skin and enormous blue eyes were so sweet and hopeful. The purple circles under those eyes and the mop of yet to be brushed hair made her look like Olivia Twist. “Mommy, I’m all done with that. I…I want my ice cream.”
The cosmos swirled; stars crashed and collapsed. The unified voice of thousands upon thousands of mothers from all time chanted the first commandment of motherhood in my head: Thou shalt not have ice cream before lunch time! Thou shalt not have ice cream before lunch time!” This is a slippery slope. If you give the child ice cream after breakfast, she will expect it. Then, there will be more lazy parenting in the future. Soon the ice cream will be cheap ice cream that’s made by whipping Crisco with corn syrup and Red Dye 40. The mothers spoke again, “You are one decision away from falling into the pit. One false move and you’ll be smacking them with fly swatters and buying economy packs of Slim Jims.”
“Mommy?” Sunshine was standing before me. Her pale little face had a tight frown and her chin was quivering. Her deep breaths were all in an effort not to cry. It was simply a misunderstanding, and her little spirit was crushed. She didn’t want to eat her breakfast, but she had stuffed it down just so she could have a taste of ice cream. She’d earned it, and now the big person was reneging on her end of the bargain so she could be like June Cleaver. Her tears made little wet spots on my jeans.
“Well, it does have peanut butter in it, so I guess it will be okay this one time.” Cool mom dusted conventional wisdom off of her shoulder like dandruff and dished up some ice cream for all of the children. All would be well. Sunshine’s little spirit puffed up, and there were no problems with wiping faces, brushing teeth, or combing hair today. It’s going to be a good day, though I will admit to having a hankering for some kind of spicy “meat-like food” at room temperature.