I’ve always thought of myself as an honest person. In fact, when asked what my core values were, the first one that came to mind was honesty, followed quickly by fairness.
However, having small children around can play havoc on one’s personality.
Our son was around four and, like every other child, he talks. And talks. And talks nonstop. He’s also socially demanding, meaning he can’t even conceive of playing by himself.
One Saturday I had experimented with a dessert called molten chocolate cakes. They were delicious! The recipe made four little cakes, and there were three of us. There was one left over, and I told my husband not to touch it on pain of death.
Sunday night, I spent my typical 45 minutes getting the kiddo settled for bed.
“Read me a story!” Done.
“Get me some water. Please?” the polite portion of the request added after some prompting. Done.
“Tuck me in.” Done. For the fifth time.
“Kiss me goodnight.” Done happily.
Ah, at last the rest of the evening was mine. Hubby was busy shooting bad guys with his friends on the computer, and I had a date with a cake.
Ever so carefully, I upended the miniature cake out of its ramekin onto a saucer and microwaved it gently until it was warm and gooey, just as it had been when it came out of the oven.
I settled onto the couch with my little chocolate circle of heaven. The spoon broke ever so gently through the partially-baked crust, spilling the molten portion onto the plate in a wavy stream reminiscent of its namesake. I scooped a piece onto my spoon and lifted it to my lips, closing my eyes in anticipation of the warm, chocolaty explosion about to burst over my tongue when I heard it.
Pitter, patter, scuffle, scuff — it was the sound my son makes as he shuffles down the hallway to ask me for “just one more thing.”
I took a deep breath, set my cake on the coffee table and plastered a happy smile on my face. “What is it, sweetie?”
He answered in a drowsy voice, “Mommy, I need more water.”
At least it was easy to fix, I thought as I refilled his water bottle and steered him back toward his bedroom.
Just when I thought I was safe, his next question struck dread into my heart. “What are you eating, Mommy?”
I knew that if I admitted to eating cake there would be no getting him back to bed without sharing. Then there would be sugar hi-jinks and demands for more cake and more bedtime stories and more tuck-ins and…
And I just couldn’t handle it.
The only thought in my overworked mind was “that’s MY cake!” and I wasn’t about to share.
Thinking fast, I hit upon the perfect deception.
“It’s eggplant,” I told him with a perfectly straight face.
He smiled up at me with that adoring and trusting face. “Okay.” His demand met, he trundled back to bed.
Guilt demanded that I give him at least one more good-night kiss, but hovering in the back of my mind was the thought of my molten chocolate cake, sitting lonely and forlorn on the coffee table.
I hastened back to my abandoned chocolaty love. It was every bit as delicious as the first time.
And my sense of honor?
Parenting is all about making hard choices: letting kids fail, giving up your Saturday afternoons to birthday parties and sports games and watching cartoons instead of Game of Thrones. Occasionally, concessions must be made.
In the case of the kid versus the chocolate cake, I plead for parental sanity.