This morning, my younger son requested cinnamon French toast sticks for breakfast.
Actually, that should be written as Cinnamon French Toast Sticks because that’s the name on the box that they come out of frozen.
When the microwave beeped, my own little 4-year-old Pavlov’s dog started jumping up and down and flapping his arms like a bird preparing to take flight.
Well, I don’t actually count bird-watching as one of my hobbies since I’m not 87 years old, hanging off of my wheelchair with a blanket over my lap and a pair of binoculars in hand, so I don’t exactly know what a bird preparing to take flight looks like. It’s probably a lot more graceful than my 4-year-old was, actually, but in any case, I figured it was a good enough simile to show his excitement over the prospect of those sugary carbs, no?
Or have I just ruined it?
Anyway, since he was a toddler, people have commented on how well he eats. My husband and I always give one of those disbelieving, Yeah, RIGHTs before explaining that yes, he’s a fantastic eater…as long as what’s on the plate in front of him is a noodle or a piece of cake.
The other evening, just after supper, I told him that he’d eaten well enough to earn a cupcake. The Hostess kind are his favorites, and he’ll ask for them by saying, “You know, Mommy, the kind that looks like this,” before using his index finger to make a squiggly motion that signifies the white curly cue line that’s iced on the middle of each pre-wrapped cupcake. It’s pretty adorable, actually.
When I got the cupcake out, he was so happy that he almost choked on his own gasping intake of excited breath as he ran to the table to eat it.
My husband and I looked at each other, mouths hanging open in disbelief, and started laughing.
You see, peeps, it’s not like the kid doesn’t ever get these things. We run a pretty balanced and moderate household around here. Our boys will receive a treat if they eat the dinner (which always includes a vegetable of some sort) that we place in front of them, so it’s not like my son is living on the edge of a happy heart attack every time he sees a Little Debbie because he never gets them. He does get them.
So what’s cute about his response every time is that it simply comes from his unabashed, uncontainable, childlike joy of all things cake.
When was the last time something so simple made you that happy?
Actually, I will admit that I’m not unlike my 4-year-old. We have a Friday night tradition of takeout for dinner around here, and last night when my 7-year-old requested Chinese food, I almost shit my pants over the excitement I felt at the prospect of broccoli lo mein. Then, I literally did shit my pants (but only a little bit) around midnight because I had eaten too much of it.
But anyhoo. Enough about me.
Last year, while my older son was busy in kindergarten, I would use my lunch break to pick up my younger son, then 3, from his half-day preschool and eat lunch with him before dropping him off at his babysitter’s house for the rest of my work day.
We got into a routine: I would approve of what he had eaten—Had he eaten most of the baby carrots I had set in front of him? His string cheese? At least half of his sandwich?—before letting him pick a snack cake from our little snack bin to take to his babysitter’s to have during snack time later. (I wonder if I can find a way to use the word “snack” one more time in that last sentence.)
One afternoon, he picked his Hostess cupcake up from the table before I had a chance to pack it into his bag.
“Oh, no, buddy,” I reprimanded him gently. “You know the rules. You have to wait until we get to Donna’s to eat it.”
“I know, Mommy,” he said, cake still in hand, looking up at me with totally innocent, wide eyes. “I just want to hold the cake. Can I hold the cake?”
I tried unsuccessfully to suppress a smile. “You can hold the cake.”
He cupped the still-wrapped cupcake gently in his hands as he sat on the couch while I finished gathering my things for the second half of my day. “I just want to look at the cake, Mommy,” he said reverently, almost in a whisper, and I could tell that all other things in the world had ceased to exist for my son except for him and his cake.
I didn’t say anything; I didn’t want to disturb the moment.
Sometimes we finished lunch early and had time to watch a show before heading to Donna’s house. On those occasions, he would say, “Mommy…can I hold the cake while I watch Caillou?”
“Of course you can, buddy,” I would say.
It got to the point where the first question he would ask me when he saw me walk through the doors of his preschool classroom to sign him out was, “Mommy, what do I have to do to get the cake today?” I thought about adding “—oh, and scrub the bathroom toilets” to the end of my usual response, which was, “Eat all of the lunch I make you,” but I kind of found that unnecessarily cruel.
I have to admit that I got as much happiness out of watching his joyful reaction to the cake as my son did at the prospect of actually eating the cake. I would watch him in the rearview mirror as I drove to his babysitter’s house, buckled into his 5-point harness, the cake still gently resting in his two sweet, chubby little boy hands.
He would gaze at it longingly—in much the same way as I did the images of Corey Haim in my Tiger Beat magazines during the mid-80’s—for the entire 10 minutes it took to get to the sitter’s house, and I would find myself thinking, Well, at least no harm will be done if he decides to have a go at it like I used to. A cake is made to be eaten; images of Corey Haim in magazines, however, are not.
Inevitably, my Tiger Beats would always end up soggy, ripped…totally ruined because they were simply not built for the passionate French kissing practice for which I used them.
It was heartbreaking. I don’t know why my parents weren’t smart enough to laminate the damned Corey Haim pages. I blame them.
In any case, not only do I love my kid’s reaction to snack cakes, but I love how our kids can bring us back to our own dear childhood memories…
Ah, Corey Haim...
What was the question again?