For more than a year, I have been letting my kids pour their own cereal and milk with the idea that some day they would be able to get up on their own in the mornings. Letting your two-year-old wield a half gallon of milk or tip a full cereal container upside down to pour it into a bowl takes an iron stomach, but I have stuck with it. I’ve mopped a lot of spills, and we go through much more cereal than a family of four has a right to, but I figured it would pay off some day.
This morning, quite unexpectedly, my master plan fell into place.
At 5:50 am, my daughter whispered into my ear, “Daddy, get up! We want breakfast! Let’s go downstairs!”
Our kids, Ayelet (age 5) and Rafael (almost 3) had wandered into our bed around 5:30, but instead of going back to sleep, they were flopping around, singing, and otherwise making a major nuisance of themselves. These pre-6am wake-ups have been going on for more than a week and half for no reason I can determine. As usual, I was pressed against the edge of the bed with my head under the pillow, trying to pretend to myself I was still sleeping.
When my daughter said she wanted to go downstairs, I knew the jig was up. My wife had gotten up with them the last two mornings, so today was my turn. I prepared to get up when I was suddenly struck by an inspiration.
Two weeks ago, my wife and I agreed that we could disable the safety locks on the cabinets and drawers in the kitchen. They already know how to press down the drawer locks to open them, and they haven’t had much interest in the cabinets that hold fragile items like glass measuring cups. My son has even figured out how to use the magnetic key to open the snack cabinet if he can get his hands on it. At this point, it was just an inconvenience for us as parents, so we decided to try removing them. Well, except for the knife drawer. Even I’m not that foolish.
The kids handled the unlocked cabinets without incident, so we left them that way. I hadn’t thought about it at the time, but this opened the door to execute my secret plan. In the bed this morning, with my daughter trying to get me up, I had an inspiration.
“Ayelet, why don’t you go make your own breakfast today! You and Rafael can go pour your own cereals! Um, just be careful not to spill it!” I suggested.
After a moment’s hesitation, Ayelet got excited by this idea, and if she’s excited, her younger brother will generally go along. As they marched downstairs, I remembered that the bowls were in the upper cabinet.
“Wait! You’ll need to get the step stool and climb onto the counter to get the bowls!” I told her. My kids are very adept at setting up the step stools and climbing up to the counter when they want to help with the cooking, so I was quite confident that they would have no trouble with this. Hey, I’m the guy who lets his two-year-old pour his own milk. I’m fearless.
As they went downstairs, my wife asked me if I was crazy. She was convinced that we were going to have an enormous mess on our hands. There was a pretty good chance that she was right, but I said, “Have faith. Let’s see what happens.”
For the next ten minutes, we listened to the bumps, clanks, and muffled conversations as our kids moved around the kitchen downstairs, setting up their own breakfasts. A few times Ayelet came up to consult on this question or that, but it sounded like they were making progress.
Finally, she yelled up that the milk was used up and she needed help opening the new one. As I got up to go downstairs, my wife recommended I take the wet wipes down to the kitchen to clean up.
When I arrived, I found my faith was well placed.
The kids had set not two but four bowls, one for each family member. They had poured cereal and milk, and they had gotten spoon for each place setting. They had also provided biscuits and graham crackers and poured a glass of water. Cereal was in the bowls and not on the floor, as it should be.
It was really quite civilized. And they did it all by themselves.
I was shocked. Even in my wildest dreams, I had not expected such a successful…and clean… first outing.
The funny thing was that once it was all set up, they decided to go upstairs to the third floor and play. They never bothered to eat. I had to cajole them to come back downstairs and eat with me to get them to actually have breakfast.
I suspect that a big part of this elaborate breakfast preparation was the novelty. Because they were on a big adventure, they were working together and taking great care with all the details.
I have no doubt that tomorrow they will refuse to go on their own, or if they do, I will have that big mess we were all expecting.
But now I know for a fact that they can do it. They day where both parents can stay in bed while they make their own breakfasts are in reach.