When I pictured future scenes of motherhood, I never saw myself doing anything wrong. In my mind, I flowed through the motions of parenthood with ease, which included planning for, shopping for and cooking family meals. I remembered my breakfasts as a kid: something quick (usually from a box) with a shot of orange juice and not much variety to choose from. The day’s first meal is the most important one, though, and I vowed to get my kids ready for the day with a wholesome meal. Ha. Turns out the expectations of cooking breakfast are nothing like the realities if cooking breakfast. Not for my children, anyway. Oh, parenthood: it never turns out the way we thought it would.
Honestly, there's simply not enough time to make good on that promise of a well-balanced, somewhat complicated but always nutritious and delicious breakfasts, while simultaneously delivering on all the other expectations of parenting small children (especially in the morning). Kids still need to be dressed, cleaned, cuddled and directed away from my make-up drawer. Something has to give, and that something, for me, has been cooking.
Being the budget-conscious family that we are, we don’t eat out much and rarely order in. I want my kids to love food and value its place in their lives — to nourish them and represent diverse cultures and flavors. It’s just, well, some of us aren’t the type to keep ground sage on hand or know how to make some sort of hollandaise sauce from scratch. So, the reality of breakfast time definitely doesn't live up to my previous expectations. That's alright, though. I take the wins when I can and, when I can't I just enjoy my cold cup of coffee.
Expectation: Only whole grain, low-sugar options that are easy for my children to serve themselves.
Reality: Whole grain plus ten more things to "preserve freshness," including an unbreakable bag that sends the kids into fits of frustration when they're trying to open it.
Expectation: Only served as a Sunday treat, usually with fresh fruit from that morning's beautiful and pain-free trip to the farmer's market.
Reality: Served out of the box in the back of the freezer, usually after sitting in our rickety toaster for three minutes. Oh, maybe there's some syrup on it or something.
Expectation: This is why I season that cast-iron skillet! I'll sneak some leftover dinner veggies into an omelet and grate some fresh cheddar over it as a light garnish. I mean, delicious.
Reality: I never knew you could make scrambled eggs in the microwave until I had kids. You guys, this is life-changing.
Expectation: Served with "the works," of course. I'm talking cream cheese, lox and tomato capers, for starters. How else would I serve it to my kids? After all, they're fourth generation New Yorkers.
Reality: One kid doesn't eat cream cheese, and the other only wants one side of their bagel toasted. I don't even think that manufactured miniature O-ring is technically a bread product.
Expectation: Nope. I'm not a meat eater, so my kids won't be easier. This won't even be a thing.
Reality: Their father does eat meat, however, and now they love eating meat and OMG, why does sizzling bacon have to smell so freakin' amazing?!
Expectation: steel cut oats with a dollop of jam and a sprinkling of almonds will definitely hit the spot on a chilly day. Of course, my children will need to practice some patience while it simmers, but they'll understand and wait quietly, I'm sure.
Reality: You mean I can boil a pot of water for both my coffee and this pack of instant oatmeal?! Win-win, because these kids aren't going to wait around for their meal much longer.
Expectation: We'll squeeze oranges every morning and make our very own, fresh juice on a daily basis.
Reality: Since we need 18 oranges to yield one cup of juice (after the spilling and the dripping and the crying), we're just buying a damn gallon from the grocery store or sticking to milk.
Expectation: It's part of any nutritious breakfast and my kids are going to love it and whenever I'm asked if they're getting their recommended amount of milk, I'll be able to emphatically and truthfully say, "Yes."
Reality: Please somebody in this house drink some milk. I can't look the pediatrician in the eye anymore, and it's becoming a serious problem.
Expectation: We'll get the thick, tangy Greek or Icelandic kind, with active cultures and protein. So what if it costs a little bit more, right? The brands with the cartoon characters are garbage.
Reality: The brands with the cartoon characters are the ones for sale, so they're the absolute best.
Expectation: No way will I be unwrapping my kids' meals. Homemade granola is so simple, and much better for them.
Reality: When they can serve themselves out of a box, I can get ten more minutes of sleep. So, yeah, I'm unwrapping my kids' meals.
Expectation: I will sip my coffee as I sit with my adorable bed-headed babies, savoring the aroma and the warmth around me (and in my cup).
Reality: Once my coffee is finally made, after the kids are fed and cleaned up from the fiasco we call "breakfast time," I immediately forget where I placed my mug and won't be able to enjoy a warm cup of coffee for another ten years or so.
Expectation: Never, ever, will I serve my children cold pizza and/or leftover Chinese food. My mom used to tell me she and her sister would eat cold leftovers for breakfast when they were trying to get out the door to school. She claimed to have loved it but I think it's just gross.
Reality: Does sit really matter what my children eat in the morning, as long as by the end of the week there was some accumulation of nutrients? Yeah, don't answer that.