What Cake Taught me about Parenting


March 5, 2013 by CassieCravings


“I want cake,” his request was quiet and calm. 2 year-old Eli has only had cake on a few occasions, birthday parties mostly. He peered into the dessert counter. The trays of goodies sparkled. My husband and I looked at one another and nodded in agreement. We would get a slice to share.

Eli sat down at the table with enthusiasm, “O’tay. Where my cake?”

Glances were exchanged between the husband and I. I smiled a bit to largely, a bit too enthusiastically as I oohed and ahhed over his chicken, rice and broccoli. “As soon as you get done with your dinner, we shall have some cake.”

His 2 year-old lip began to tremble. I thought how frustrating it must be to look forward to a treat and realize you wouldn’t get it.

“Eli, you will get cake. Right now it is your chicken, rice and broccoli’s turn. Then it will be the cake’s turn. The cake will wait its turn.”

He shook his head so that his curls bounced back and forth.

I wondered if he understood that he would eventually get the cake. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that he’s 2. Sometimes it’s hard to know how he thinks or how much he really understands.

“I. Want. Cake. You said I’s could.”

I explained. I reasoned. But all in circles and not to where he understood.

Crocodile tears began to fall.

I was stuck between feeling dreadful for him, feeling frustrated that he didn’t understand and feeling embarrassed. A grandmotherly lady at the next table gave a disapproving glare over her glasses. I felt my face flush. I became flustered.

We were in the middle of tears and frustrated negotiations. I pleaded for him to listen.

The husband and I looked at one another for a plan. Neither of us had one. He shrugged and half-laughed, “He’s 2.”

I held my 2 year-old’s hand as he cried. I tried to gather my thoughts, to draw upon all of those parenting books I had ever read, to pray.

Quickly, I picked up the cake and asked, “Eli, do you want the cake to go to time-out?”

Eli stopped fussing immediately. My husband raised an eyebrow. I shrugged. I mean, we had tried everything else. Why not?

I wiped Eli’s tears and explained once more, “It’s the chicken, rice and broccoli’s turn. They get to go first. If you don’t let them have a turn, then the cake goes to time out.”

“O’tay,” he whispered. The husband and I glanced at one another again. This was perhaps the most ridiculous parenting technique to try yet. And I’m sure that I had yet to read an article about cake in time out. I wondered if this was terrible parenting or brilliant parenting. I supposed I would find out. I was willing to try. Parenting can be quite theย improvisationalย gig.

I comforted him as he calmed his tears, “I understand how disappointing it is when you don’t get what you want. I get disappointed too. But you are going to get cake. I promised you could have it. You will have it when it is cake’s turn. Deal?”

“‘Tan you cut up chickens?,” he asked. The only sign of his meltdown was a stray tear on his cheek. He was calm. He was willing to give his dinner a turn.

I sighed in relief. I still wasn’t sure if the time-out thingy was a great idea or not, but I was going with it. I was using the age-old and flawed thinking of “Eh. It worked.” A passing waitress complimented what a polite young man we had with us at dinner, “Look at those wonderful table manners!,” she exclaimed. She winked at me as she topped off my diet Dr. Pepper.

Eli finished his dinner…and then part of my husband’s…and then part of mine before he again asked for cake.

Dinner was a success. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t without us all learning a couple of lessons on turns, sharing and disappointments.

In the end, I was proud of my son. He was disappointed, but he was willing to be flexible. He was frustrated, but he was willing to move on so that he could reach his goal.

Sure, it’s just cake. But the expression and the lessons learned are much bigger than that. And in the end, we all ate cake.ย 

24 thoughts on “What Cake Taught me about Parenting

  1. Nanny_cool says:

    Nothing like a nice piece of cake as a reward x

  2. I read this today and I have had a smile on my face ever since!! I LOVE, absolutely LOVE how you handled the situation. Healthy, loving and easy for your little guy to understand and relate to. Awesome job Mom!!! One of my favorite reads so far!! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Way to go!

    • mamacravings says:

      Oh wow! Thank you! What a compliment ๐Ÿ™‚ I wasn’t sure if the way I handled it was the “correct” way, but it was the only way I knew how at the time. There is an empty pit of a feeling when you’re kiddo is upset, and you can’t fix it. I know we’ve all been there. It ended up all good though ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Oh yes I can totally relate when your kid is upset. I think your way was so respectful and nurturing. This morning, I’m still in awe over it. If all us parents can handle situations like these with patience and love (especially in the “hairy” time), wow, what a different society we’d have ๐Ÿ™‚ Heaven knows I’ve had my share! hahaha

      • mamacravings says:

        Haha! I have certainly had my share as well. I am learning every day that even when I get frustrated or overwhelmed how to push it aside to put myself in my son’s shoes. How does he feel right now? What is he going through? This allows the mom to come through, and the selfish me to push back a bit.

      • Exactly!! It works wonders! Wonders!! Even when they’re teens!! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • mamacravings says:

        That is certainly good to know. I love to read about your kiddos and to look forward to Eli being a teen ๐Ÿ™‚

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  4. Parenting is quite the improv show, is it not?! I’ve found those most random moments to often be the most effective. Their minds are such unique and mysterious places. You never know what will “click”!

  5. inspired ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. MommyVerbs says:

    Well Done, Momma. Well Done. โค

  7. Chandelle says:

    I’m going with brilliant parenting! You explained the situation in a way he could understand! I don’t see anything terrible about that ๐Ÿ™‚ Well done indeed!

  8. Julie says:

    I’m curious. Did you notice what the grandmotherly lady at the next table did when you asked if Eli wanted the cake to go to time out? I personally think it was brilliant.

  9. Mama Carmody says:

    You did great. I must say, I have never heard of cake being in a time out but if it worked for your little one then that’s great. I remember those days when to me it was just logical that we would eat the cake after dinner but to a little one that doesn’t get cake very often we sometimes forget that we should probably explain the process before we say yes. Their little heads just don’t work the same as ours.

    • mamacravings says:

      In hindsight, I would have made it very, very clear so he wouldn’t get upset. It can be hard to remember that they can’t see around corners or process what “in a minute” means. Cake in time out may not be an official parenting technique, but it worked. ๐Ÿ˜€ lol

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