Let Them Eat CakeMay 16, 2011 at 12:52 am | Posted in Bun, Giggles, Lollipop | 26 Comments
Tags: Birthday, Cake, Children, Family, Food, Growing Up, Humor, Milestones, Parenting
Let Them Eat Cake: A Critical Analysis
A baby turns one. And gets a cake. All to himself. To squish, smash, and smear. And eat. Welcome to first birthdays in America.** But, really, what does this tradition say about the children who participate in it? And the parents who perpetuate it? And the bakers who tempt us year after year with their buttercream and their fondant?
I don’t know. But now? I want a piece. I really, really want a piece. First, three case studies.
Case 1: Lollipop
We set the cake on her tray. It met all the requirements: gobs of icing, colorful sprinkles, moist cake. She stared at it. She looked at us, as if to say, “Okay, but where’s my applesauce?” She tentatively poked a finger in it. And that was that. Done.
I cut the cake into quarters so she could see what was inside. Not interested. I wiped icing on her cheek. She ignored it. I ate a tiny piece so she might mimic me. But the child simply did Not. Want. It. So, we laughed. We washed her off. And we moved on to presents. Which she savored like a tray of fresh-baked cookies. Oh, the irony.
Case 2: Giggles
He spotted the cake from across the kitchen. His eyes locked onto it like a torpedo on an enemy sub. He absolutely, positively squealed when we put it in front of him. And then he attacked it. Blue and green icing became collateral damage as he destroyed layer after layer. When his hands got too sticky to funnel the goopy sweetness into his mouth, he dove in face-first.
Face. First. For real. We have it on video. Which I plan to use as blackmail when he’s a teenager.
Case 3: Bun
We put down a dropcloth on the floor. Just in case. I lit the candle and we sang. Daddy watched it all on the computer from halfway across the world.
I put the cake in front of Bun, and he looked at it. He stuck in a finger. He stuck in another finger. Then he smooshed his whole hand into the center of the cake and kneaded it like a potter working a lump of clay. He giggled as the icing inched its way between every finger and up to his wrists. He licked a few gobs off his thumb, tasted a small sliver of cake, and threw huge chunks on the floor. We’re still finding crumbs in our socks.
Same kind of cake. Same presentation. Different kids, different reactions. It’s an allegory for parenting, isn’t it? Even when we’re consistent — with dessert, with praise, with discipline, with daily activities — each child is going to respond in her own way. In the end, all we can do is honor those differences. Teach our children to love what makes them unique. And let them eat cake … or not.
How did your children react to their first birthday cake? Have you noticed them react the same way to other things? And what family traditions help illuminate parenting for you?
**My husband tried to explain this tradition to his Romanian friends. Something got lost in the translation, so he showed them the pictures. They speak 1,000 words, no matter the language!