For way more years than I can count I never had to worry about feeding my kids breakfast in the morning. Matt and I generally had early hours which meant that the kids were dropped off at daycare around 6:30 in the morning, and they’d eat breakfast there. In the past year and a half I have learned a lot about incorporating breakfast into the morning routine.
First that there needs to be a time limit set in advance. Otherwise 45 minutes into your morning routine you’ve still got one or more kids lingering over their breakfast with only one or two bites eaten. My kids know that they have to be finished eating by the time the breakfast cartoon is over. Lucky for me, they tend to request the same cartoons over and over and over again so they pretty much have all of the plot lines memorized and know when the cartoon is about to end. The boys are at least. Kaylee still dawdles over her breakfast, but at least with her I can let her finish her breakfast after we drop the boys off at school.
Second, there needs to be variety..but not too much. For years the only thing we could get Brendan to eat for breakfast at home was Eggo waffles. Plain. No syrup. We kept a variety of flavors in the house because if we didn’t have the flavor he wanted that morning it would inevitably lead to a massive meltdown. Cameron and Kaylee started down the same path as well because since we only ate breakfast at home on the weekends I didn’t bother buying any other breakfast foods.
It wasn’t until I stayed at home for a few weeks that I determined dry Eggos weren’t going to cut it every single day. I expanded their options to include cereal, oatmeal, Pop Tarts, toast, eggs, basically anything you can think of. It took me some time to recognize the patterns but I soon learned what things each of my kids will and won’t eat. For example, I don’t make eggs very often during the week because Kaylee is the only one who will eat them. Brendan will choke them down if you make him, and Cameron just looks at you like you’ve just feed him dog poop. (which, admittedly, is how he looks at you pretty much no matter what you’ve just put in front of him)
Cameron generally won’t eat toast, so I serve that on the side of cereal now instead of as a stand alone breakfast that way he still gets something to eat. Brendan will not eat cereal if you put milk on it. He prefers to munch on it dry. Cameron and Kaylee are a crap shoot with their cereal so always ask before you pour milk into the cereal bowl.
I also quickly learned not to just ask, “what do you want for breakfast?” That question resulted in a 10 minute delay as each and every one of the kids pondered their options, with the silence occasionally punctuated by the question, “but what do we have?” (the same exact options that you had yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that…) And when they finally did make a decision it was always for three different things which meant an extra 10-15 minutes to get it all served and on the table. Way too much hassle.
So now I decide what they’re having for breakfast. They still get some say in the matter because there are usually two or three options with each meal. For example if I say we are having cereal they get to pick which box they want, if we’re having pancakes (I pre-make them and freeze them) they get to decide which flavor. Things go much smoother and the decision making process is much shorter when they’ve only got a couple of things to choose between.
Every once in a while I will have one child or another whine about the choice I’ve made for breakfast and refuse to choose the specific one they want. I’m very firm with this subject however, refusal is an option but I’m not about to serve them something else if they have a bad attitude. I tell them they’ll eat what I’m serving or they won’t eat. 99 times out of 100 they’re hungry enough to take me at my word and eat what I’m serving. And those few times that they are stubborn enough to refuse they do actually go without breakfast.
Wednesday morning I was running, not exactly behind schedule, but not exactly ahead of schedule either. The kids should be sitting down to breakfast no later than 7:30 if we want to be out the door on time. It was 7:28 and I hadn’t yet decided what I was going to serve them. Figuring pancakes would be fastest, and knowing that chocolate chip pancakes always make my children happy, I got them out of the freezer.
Brendan was the first to ask what we were having for breakfast. I told him chocolate chip pancakes and expected his face to light up, but instead I got a very whiny, “awwwwww, do we have to?? why can’t we have oatmeal instead?” The whine surprised me a little, Brendan lately has been by far my least picky eater. He’ll wolf down pretty much whatever we put in front of him and within 5 minutes be begging for more. His comment about the oatmeal was less surprising, he’d asked me earlier in the week why I hadn’t been serving it lately and I’d promised him it would be on the menu soon.
I started to go down my standard path of you will eat what I serve, when Cameron piped up and said that he wanted oatmeal too, once Cameron spoke up Kaylee jumped into the conversation as well and started chanting “oatmeal, oatmeal, oatmeal” So there I was, preparing to make chocolate chip pancakes, with all of my kids begging and pleading for oatmeal, and the clock ticking away as I dealt with my dilemma.
My instinct was to stick to my guns and serve them the pancakes as planned, but I just couldn’t do it. I relented and quickly got to work on a pot of oatmeal. I know what you’re thinking, that was a bad example to set for them by giving in. I do know I shouldn’t have, but here’s the thing: they never all agree…on ANYTHING. This is the first time in the history of my kids that all three have come together and agreed on something. The first time that I haven’t gone with the majority just to have one kid whine at me that they didn’t get the thing that they wanted most. The first time that I have had blissful silence at breakfast, not punctuated by the sounds of huffing and puffing coming from whichever child isn’t happy with my selection and options for breakfast.
It was glorious. I raced through the oatmeal prep, and served their breakfast a mere 10 minutes behind schedule. My blissful peace lasted until Kaylee looked into her bowl and said, “but I don’t want dis.” And she pushed her bowl away and refused to eat a single bite. Sigh, it appears even when I give the kids exactly what they ask for they just are bound and determined to be unhappy about it.