Like any mother, I love to treat to my kids. I love to see their eyes light up in front of something special or inviting. I love that look in their eyes when I can say yes and the delight that follows an invitation to go out for an ice cream, or a special cup of hot cocoa—just me and them.
“Can we have marshmallows?” They always ask.
“How about whipped cream?” I compromise.
Sometimes I want to be the mother that says yes more often—yes to a pile of mini marshmallows, yes to a double scoop, yes to the endless parade of fun.
But, I’m not that mom—especially not right after the holidays. I'm not that mom, not because I don’t love my children more than anything on the planet (I do!!), but because as much as I want them to grow to enjoy the rewards in life (and have the motivation to work for them), I equally want them to feel gratitude for the simple things, too: small packages given with great care, the just sweet enough treat, a slow but special moment together rather than every instant indulgence.
I say all this, acknowledging just how many treats my kids had this holiday season, and how much we enjoyed them, and how it was hard to let it all go. But doing so doesn't have to be dutiful, or deprived feeling. Not even in the least.
Somewhere around the time my daughter, Greta, turned three, we hosted a tea party for her and two dear little friends. We dressed up and put bows in our hair and served tea and small scones and bowls of berries in real china. The girls, and I, were over the moon. You would have thought they were raised in a palace— their manners were so beautiful that day. Not long after, Greta and I threw ourselves a tea party, then another, not always in our best dresses, but always with our best (faux) British accents—pinkies up.
Our sweet ritual which has continued for years (she’s now 8). Recently, as my son turned the corner from two to three, we decided he was ready to join in. We gave him one of the tiny porcelain cups that we bought for a nickel a piece at local antique sale. They were delicate, but at such a small investment, there was no harm if he dropped one—which inevitably, he did. But soon enough, he learned to be more careful, and, like his sister, call up his best manners as soon as he hears the words, “are you in the mood for tea?”
Alongside the tiny pots of tea I make them— usually hibiscus or chamomile—I always serve a small sweet. It could be a single piece of chocolate each, a slice of my homemade banana bread, or a thin pizzelle cookie. Somehow, the tiny cups indicate a sense of gratitude for whatever I offer, no matter how small. When their treat is finished, they never ask for more. We refill our tea cups and drink as many as we’d like, and sit and talk and play like we're much fancier than we really are. Often we have a manners contest, other times we just enjoy each other's chatty company.
From time to time, a bit of porcelain crashes to the floor and we mourn it a little—our collection is now special to us—but even that gives us inspiration to save up our pennies, take an outing to the neighborhood thrift store and bring another treasure home.
These minutes with my children at the kitchen table, just the three of us—don’t hang on a yes or a no. They don’t involve any begging or negotiating or tears, or any of the other things that often accompany rearing children. No one feels deprived--in fact we all feel quite treated, even when there's very little sugar involved.
To me, and maybe even to them, too, these minutes together are always perfect (dinnertime, by contrast, isn't). Perhaps it’s because they know in this time they have me fully—no phones, no grown-up conversation or household task. And it is that simple thing—my time—that is the greatest yes of all.Sarah Copeland - Edible Living