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 cookies for breakfast


by Ann MacDonald

I can’t eat cookies for breakfast anymore: a letter to my daughter.

My Darling Baby,

I have always tried to eat a healthy diet. I fill our kitchen and our tummies with whole grains and fresh vegetables and fruit. I buy organic milk and work tofu into our meals. I want you to be healthy and replete with vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants.

I have a sweet tooth. You show every sign of having it, too. So, in addition to the broccoli and spinach, the wheat germ and pumpkin, I eat cookies. And I eat pies, cakes, ice cream and chocolate. (Not all at once. Well, not usually, anyway.) And, I do not always eat them at the most appropriate times. But, I tell myself, if I am eating a well balanced and calorie controlled diet, does it matter whether I eat a cookie as an afternoon snack – or as a morning one?

After you were born, I was always hungry. And, since I needed a few extra calories a day to make breastmilk, and it was so hard to get regular meals while caring for a new infant, I became even more lax about cookie snacks. I could pop one in my mouth while I did a quick chore in the kitchen.

Even when I got serious about losing weight, cookies still had their place. If I deprived myself, I felt deprived. If I had an occasional Tollhouse or Milano, I was happy.

At first you never noticed. Then, as you got a little older, you would sniff the cookie and smile. Yes, just the scent of chocolate made you happy when you were 4 months old. So, I would feed you, tight against me and I could eat. A whole wheat pita veggie wrap. Or a cookie.

And, then one day, you were suddenly six months old. We started to give you solid food. You loved everything. I fed you organic grains and vegetables and fruit. You ate it all. (Except green beans, which made you cry.)

You would see us with food, appropriate for you or not, and the little bird mouth would open. Your jaw would gape and you would lean toward us, begging for a morsel. I used to keep a plastic container of Cheerios next to me when I would eat. Then, when you would ask for something that was too big or spicy or chunky or allergenic to feed you, I would give you a Cheerio and you were happy. You did not know or did not care that I was switching.

And, then you got older. At about nine months, you started to really discern foods. You showed a marked preference for sweet things and breads. You once had a tantrum because Mommy gave Daddy a peach and he left the room with it instead of sharing it with you. You could take a mouthful of food and spit out just the chunks you didn’t like, usually green ones. You would pick thru teeny chopped bits on your high chair tray looking for the tastiest bites.

You would reject food that you couldn’t feed yourself. And, you wanted to try anything Mommy was eating.

Once, we were eating lunch together. You were eating chopped bits of deli turkey meat, mild cheese and bread: the baby equivalent of a turkey sandwich. I was eating a turkey sandwich. And, you decided mine was different. After all, it wasn’t chopped up like yours. I had to break off little bits and feed them to you until you realized we had the same lunch.

That was the beginning of the end.

When you first woke up in the morning, you woke slowly, but hungrily. So, we would have a bottle and sit on the sofa and snuggle to ease into the day. We ’d smooch and talk and pat and sometimes watch Sesame Street until we could face the reality of sunlight and happiness and start moving around and playing with our toys.

Once you were awake and happy and crawling around and playing, Mommy would go into the kitchen and get something to drink and take her allergy pill and feed the kitty. In an hour or so, we would have our breakfast together of cereal or yogurt and fruit.

One morning, after I fed the kitty, I grabbed one of the homemade chocolate chip cookies from the container conveniently located on the counter and started to munch it. I looked up and saw you looking at me. Big blue eyes bored into the cookie. You reached out your hand and the little bird mouth, as if in slow motion, popped open. You wanted the cookie.

“You can’t have a cookie for breakfast”, I said. And then time paused. I suddenly could see myself, eating a cookie and uttering those words. I was living a hypocritical morning. As waves of self-realization swept over me, I jammed the rest of the cookie into my mouth (I’m not a saint, you know) and vowed to do better. I would set a good example for you. I would show you how to eat healthfully. I would strive to improve our diets and make you love nutritious eating.

I would only eat cookies for breakfast when you were taking your morning nap.

ŠAnn MacDonald