Breakfast is challenging. Morning is challenging.
I know, I know: Most families with young children probably find it difficult to get them fed, groomed, and out to the school bus on time. Breakfast with Martin presents certain additional factors:
1. Martin doesn’t like his breakfast food options. I’ve given him as many choices as I can, subject to the parameters of what fits his current diet and what I can manage in a smaller window of time. His enthusiasm peaks at “meh.” Certainly nothing gets put in his mouth voluntarily.
2. Martin also needs to take supplements and medications and homeopathic drops (lots of them), which I assemble and administer during the meal, dividing my attention.
3. Mornings, for whatever reason, are Martin’s most distracted time. Often, despite the plate sitting in front of him, he seems to forget even that he’s supposed to be eating. I lob hints and suggestions. (“What’s 9+3, you ask? Try some turkey bacon and we can talk about it.” “Hey Martin, guess what you can use that fork for?”) Occasionally I resort to spooning the food into his mouth. Okay, fine. Often I resort to spooning the food into his mouth.
In order to be ready for the school bus on time, Martin needs to leave the breakfast table and go to the bathroom by 7:25 a.m. He knows this. While asking questions, drawing pictures, and dropping food on his school clothes instead of eating, he counts down the minutes until 7:25. The instant the clock turns, he springs from his chair, remaining food be damned.
If by some miracle Martin finishes his breakfast—or if he manages to bargain me down to some reduced food portion that he’s willing to cram into his mouth in order to escape the table—before 7:25, he’s allowed to go into the family room and play for whatever minutes remain.
One recent morning Martin was drinking a smoothie: coconut kefir, avocado, kiwi, papaya seeds, and strawberries. By 7:18 (the dance is precise) we had finished morning supplements. I headed to the bedrooms for my three minutes of “me time” (pull on jeans, straighten hair, add enough layers to hide pajama top so I can escort him to the school bus). Martin remained at the table, his smoothie glass still half-full.
Typically I would return to the kitchen at 7:21 and devote four minutes to cajoling him to finish breakfast. That morning, however, I returned to the kitchen to find the glass, empty, in the sink waiting to be washed.
“Martin!” I exclaimed. “What happened?”
“I finished my smoothie. I’m playing,” Martin responded from the family room.
I’m no Pollyanna. Quickly I scanned the sink and garbage for evidence that Martin had dumped the smoothie. Nothing. The kid was for real. He’d actually decided just to finish breakfast and go play. I swooned.
And lest you think that’s the only victory of recent days, allow me to say that, this very day, February 21, I asked Martin to get dressed “within five minutes.” After some debate about where he would agree to get dressed—he insisted on standing on my and Adrian’s bed, which apparently offers the best view of our digital clock—Martin completed the task in three minutes flat. Except for his socks. Socks are hard. Also, his underwear and shirt were on backwards, which I considered an improvement, because yesterday his pants were on backwards.
Victories are everywhere.