Imagine a February morning – cold and dark, nearing the end of a long winter. The children run down the stairs and to their places at the kitchen table. Set in a background of red, white and pink –accented with the rich, creamy brown of chocolate – the table looks like a tree on Christmas morning.
Of all the traditions we have in our family, Chocolate Breakfast on Valentine’s Day is my favorite, by far.
Pink Chocolate Chip pancakes , and turtle-clusters in a heart-shaped Russell Stover box, all matched with an equal amount of monster mouths (orange wedges), mango chunks and fresh berries. Each child’s plate is adorned with a trinket or new stuffed friend , a few select bits of chocolate and some love notes & greeting cards.
It is a veritable feast, an indulgence, a morning of decadent pleasure only a scrooge could turn down.
With significant food sensitivities, my family has to be careful when we leave our home and risk eating in the outside world. This is especially difficult for my kids, who must review Halloween candy ingredients for gluten or dairy, or find satisfaction eating apples and bananas at the end-of-team/school/club pizza party. Their peers don’t mean to be insensitive, but that doesn’t make it any easier to handle.
So once a year, we choose extravagance. We plan for it, anticipate it, and squeeze every moment of joy out of it that we can. There is nothing impulsive about Chocolate for Breakfast. In fact, it is quite calculated to teach my kids two things: to enjoy life, and make good choices.
I know it’s not necessarily healthy to eat chocolate for breakfast (though with dark chocolate it’s scientifically arguable). So do my kids. But by throwing caution to the wind and embracing chocolate breakfast as an exception, my kids learn that even extravagance can be measured, intelligently and thoughtfully.
With chocolate for breakfast there is an expectation that they also eat fruit and protein. They actually end up eating less chocolate than you might imagine, and a fairly decent breakfast. They don’t come to expect chocolate every day, but they do learn how to balance extravagance with common sense.
Of course, there is the added benefit of sending them to school armed with ‘safe’ chocolate so they don’t have to worry about the additional temptations they’ll face that day. But truly, that’s an added bonus, not a motivating factor.
“Everything in moderation, including moderation” is one of my mottos. Going to the extreme, runs the risk of backfiring. But when you remove the taboo, you remove its power. And so it is with chocolate for breakfast.
So on the evening of February 13, we shoo the kids out of the kitchen and prepare for the festivities. On the morning of February 14, weekday or weekend, we don our red shirts, let go of propriety and have a really great time with our kids. Some might sit in judgment at the irresponsibility of it, but we don’t really have the energy to worry about that. We’re way too busy teaching our kids that life is to be enjoyed – responsibly.