Childhood is Like Breakfast

Childhood is like breakfast. The very same way a nutritious morning meal can carry us through a busy day, a nurturing childhood can proof us against life challenges. Unfortunately, even though we know a lot about a balanced breakfast, a concept of balanced childhood leads to numerous misinterpretations. Besides, should there be a precise recipe for a perfect childhood, there is no guarantee that every parent would follow it. A tendency for deviations is a human trait. After all, how many of us eat bran cereal everyday, right? Some people prefer to line up in front of a donut store at 7am.

As I was going deeper in my breakfast vs. childhood comparison, I decided to support my reflections with more specific data. I used my family as a curious case study. To my surprise, I noticed a clear correlation between what we eat, what we feed our children with and our views on childhood. Who cares and why is it important? I noticed that the more negative our own childhood experiences, the more unbalanced our breakfast AND our parenting strategy. In other words, I think that it wouldn’t hurt to take a few minutes to analyze our breakfast menu and to reflect upon our parenting choices.

Argument:          1. Our breakfast reflects our childhood experiences.  

                              2. What we feed our children with, reflects our idea of what childhood should be like.

Case study:         My family

My parents: Both of my parents are quite bitter about their childhood. They grew up in the post-war Poland and were raised by struggling to rebuild their country and lives war-survivors.  My dad’s parents divorced when he was a little boy. Unlike his brothers,  my father felt responsible for his dad and chose to live with him. His childhood was mainly focused on growing up fast and taking his life into his hands. His father taught him the skills to build a house, but my dad learned nothing about making a home. His breakfast? A hearty meal to get him through a day of hard work. No fuss, though. Cold sandwiches with cold-cuts, hot black tea on most of the days, but any leftovers would do just as well. Breakfast is no celebration for him, just a way to fill his stomach. 

My mom’s childhood was less dramatic, but her grudges even bigger. One could define it as a middle child complex. She felt less favored than her older brother and had to help more with her younger sisters. She became very disgruntled about helping her parents, but at the same time, she used her diligence as a way of getting her parents’ love. Her breakfast? Very similar to my dad’s as far as simplicity, but lighter. It is just something to give her energy till lunch. Mindless chewing in silence, while the children are still asleep. 

Since my mom was preparing our food, we ate what she did. The meal was quick, simple and boring most of the time. But on ‘better’ days, she would spoil us with fruit fritters and freshly baked sweet rolls. Comfort food was her way of bonding with us and showing her love.

My parents’ tough childhood experiences and memories are just like their breakfast: no fuss, no celebration. A necessity. Since it was all they knew, our childhood was quite similar: a necessary phase before we grow up and gain independence.  Perhaps they wished they could sweeten our childhood a bit, but they didn’t know how. The sugary treats every now and then were a vague reminder of their attempts. 

My parents-in-law:

My father-in-law’s childhood reality wasn’t exactly a bed of roses, with his drinking father,  far from a role-model. As a result, he gave up feelings for rationale and created his own reality in the world of books and science. “Better things through chemistry”, he used to say. And if you look at his breakfast, it might not water your mouth, but it surely looks as if designed by a dietician. Full grains, yoghurt, fruit… he never shows much excitement eating it, but he knows it is good for him. 

My mother-in-law, on the other hand, could have a childhood of milk-and-honey. She was an only child, and her parents loved and spoiled her. However, her perfectionism, conscientious personality and an early start at school forced her to give the childhood up too early. She was in college before she got her driver’s license and she wasn’t ready for it.  Her breakfast? Very little, corresponding to her short childhood. But preferably, something indulging, like a buttery croissant. Can’t be too big, though. She needs to eat lunch early, about 11am. It will not be anything special or exciting.  Sensible chicken salad, even daily. 

But for her children, there would be cinnamon buns and syrupy pancakes. Such breakfast would fully reflect her idea of a perfect childhood.  To paraphrase what she says, children have the whole life to be responsible, so let children be children. 

Well, how did it work out for me and my husband? We both struggled for a while to find a balance between being a child and being a responsible individual. I took life too seriously, he lived to have fun. Over the years though, I learned to relax and he learned to make sensible decisions.  I changed my strict morning routine into a pleasurable event and my husband gave up his indulging morning smoothies for  grainy toast. Almost gave up.

And we just hope that our children will always view breakfast as a celebration with nutritious value. And that our knowledge about balanced breakfast will also help us to create a balanced childhood for our boys.

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