If there is anything I’ve learned in the 12 years since I became a father, it’s that keeping the kids well-fed should be THE number one priority. Full stomachs are the first line of defense against children turning into bad-humored aliens. When my son starts circling through the kitchen like a vulture or my daughter becomes completely irrational, I head for the refrigerator. In my house, food is the great peacemaker.
Knowing this, you would think I would ensure that my cupboards are never bare. But unfortunately, sometimes trips to the grocery store simply don’t occur in the middle of a hectic week.
The other morning I stumbled out of bed to find my children lounging in the family room watching TV. As I passed them on my way to the kitchen to brew the morning coffee, I mumbled something about breakfast and whether they’d eaten anything. I was sure they’d poured themselves bowls of cereal as they normally do.
But their emphatic “NO!” snapped me to attention. I could actually feel the blood sugar in the room falling off a cliff. I knew I had to act fast if I wanted to maintain some semblance of harmony.
In my fuzzy morning brain, I vaguely wondered why they hadn’t had cereal but I still thought that cereal was the answer. But when I stuck my head in the refrigerator, I was dismayed to discover that we had no milk. Of course we didn’t, I realized. We go through so much milk we should invest in a dairy farm.
My wife didn’t have a lot of sympathy. “We don’t have a lot of things,” she reported. “I need to go to the grocery store. Just take the kids out to breakfast.”
But there wasn’t time. The kids had heard the word “breakfast” and were expecting me to feed them immediately. I was feeling the pressure to put something, anything, on the table.
Sticking my head back into the fridge, I eventually came up with a couple of eggs with a questionable freshness date on the carton and a few limp slices of bread. The bread, I thought, could be fixed. A little time in the toaster and nobody would know the difference. The eggs, however, were a different matter. With no milk, scrambling them was out of the question.
“Well,” I thought, snapping my fingers. “I’ll just fry them.”
Here’s the thing, though. Our kids have never had fried eggs because my wife refuses to make them. She thinks they are gross. And, although she’s a true believer that our kids should try a variety of foods and eat what’s served them, she also refuses to make foods she doesn’t like or was forced to eat as a child. The list includes liver, alfalfa sprouts, turnips and, of course, fried eggs.
It’s the yellow yolk, once pierced and running all over the plate that sickens her. So, I should have expected her reaction when walked into the kitchen and saw what I was up to. She screwed up her face, put a hand to her mouth like she was going to lose it, turned on her heel and walked toward the bathroom.
I shrugged and finished what I was doing. The bread popped out of the toaster, and I carefully fished the eggs out of the skillet (so the kids could have the pleasure of breaking the yolk), placed them on top of the toast, added a little salt and pepper and OILA! Fried eggs on toast!
“Breakfast is served,” I announced, relieved that I’d avoided a pre-teen meltdown first thing in the morning. Or so I thought.
When my 12-year-old son saw what I was offering he gave me a skeptical look. “What’s this?” he asked, holding the plate at arms length.
“Why, it’s a fried egg on toast, of course. Just try it,” I replied.
“How do you eat it?” my 9-year-old daughter chimed in.
“Just pick it up and take a bite. Trust me.”
I went back to the kitchen to clean up and renew my search for coffee. For a moment, I was gratified by the silence. I figured the kids were knee-deep in fried egg goodness.
I was wrong.
Eventually, both of them brought their plates back to the kitchen with their breakfasts hardly touched.
“Gross, Dad'” my son said.
“Yea, gross,” echoed my daughter.
I sighed and put my wife’s plan into effect.
“Go get in the car,” I said. “I guess we’re going out to eat.”