Expand range of expected breakfast items

“Whatever happened to regular breakfast food?” my son asked, staring woefully at the plate of chicken casserole that greeted him at the breakfast table. “I mean, why can’t we have just plain old cereal?”

It was a fair question, but one for which I was neither prepared nor inclined to give a fair answer other than the stock and trade, “Because I’m the mom, that’s why.”

I had counted on my children being too sleepy to observe a whole lot at 6 AM. In fact, I might as well admit that grogginess has been a major parenting tool for me for several years. Under its cover, I have regularly ambushed my children in bed with garments of my choosing to ensure all their clothing receives equal wear. Too sleepy to protest my choice of outfits, they wouldn’t become fully conscious of their wardrobe until sometime during their bus ride to school. “Shoot! I’m wearing that hideous hand-knit sweater from Aunt Betty!”

By then, it was too late to do anything except suffer silently and rehearse the speech they planned to someday deliver to a child protective services (CPS) worker following their phone call reporting me for forcing them to shower regularly and requiring they write thank-you notes for monetary gifts from relatives prior to being allowed to spend the money.

I could see my son calculating where my choice of breakfast foods could be inserted into the CPS interview. So I hauled out a tried-and-true counter-measure: Using his previous behavior against him. “You had no problem with something other than cereal last Thursday when I served leftover Chicago-style stuffed bacon pizza.” He hesitated. I had him dead to rights.

Watching my children dive into the protested breakfast with gusto made me wonder about the real source of their objection: Was it with the food, itself, or the change in routine and an opportunity to practice budding assertiveness? At 10 and 11, they were beginning to define themselves not only by what they like, but what they don’t, the latter in tones louder than their enthusiastic response to the former.

That said, I next questioned myself about why I often serve non-traditional breakfast foods in the morning. Mostly because it’s quick and a way to ensure leftovers get eaten in a timely manner. My kids are at their dad’s house for dinner two weekday nights and every other weekend, so I have to capitalize on the times when they are present to help eat the excess.

There’s also my obsession with variety. Eating the same thing every day for breakfast bores me. At the very least, I like to alternate what we eat. From scrambled eggs, to French toast, to sausage gravy and biscuits, to banana bread, yogurt with fruit and cinnamon raisin toast, my alternatives beat straight cereal and milk.

My son understands and tolerates my penchant for variety, as long as it involves traditional breakfast foods. But I lose him once I start tossing in entrees such as leftover lasagna, taco salad or meatloaf. In an effort to convince him, I took a page from Bill Cosby’s famous “Chocolate Cake for Breakfast” routine. I insisted my meatloaf should be regarded as a compound breakfast food because it contained several other breakfast foods, including sausage, eggs, milk and toast, the latter in the form of bread crumbs. But he didn’t buy it, or eat it.

My daughter was more on the same page of the recipe book as me. She has grown especially fond of leftover dinner for breakfast, with the glaring exception of a dinner favorite I recently ladled out for breakfast: Special Senate Session Bean Soup. There’s no more nutritionally dense way to start the day than with a hearty bowl of bean soup. Unfortunately, the beans immediately began working their silent, but deadly magic.

Not only did Kate pass her spelling test that Thursday, but also a considerable amount of gas. Unfortunately, it wasn’t “Pet Day” at school, so there were no four-legged friends to blame, like she likes to at home. Kate had to take full social responsibility for her air-de-filing, terrorist activity. Later, she cleared the air with Mom: No more bean soup for breakfast!

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