Mom-n-Me Breakfasts at the Diner

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It isn’t always easy being part of a big family. There is always someone older or younger than you, more needy, louder, bigger, or faster. Sometimes your voice is lost in the crazy swelling orchestra of brothers and sisters stretching up and out. There are dentist appointments, baseball games, and school carnivals. Sometimes it seems there is never enough to go around. Not enough time or energy. Not enough listening.

In this big family of ours we had a strategy for stretching that precious listening time. On Thursday mornings before school I roused one of our four children early and went to breakfast at a local diner.
It was a school day. There were routines ahead of us, but what made the day special was life set aside for a few hours. We ate an extravagant breakfast and I listened to each child, one Thursday at a time, with undivided attention. I said nothing about table manners (although it was tempting), and I didn’t take advantage of the warm feeling between us to discuss the friction or issues. I simply listened.

One Thursday morning at the diner I watched our thirteen-year-old son jitter his knees and roll his neck to some weird inner music. He dropped silverware on the floor, speculated how to make earrings out of empty Tabasco jars, and wiggled a loose tooth over and over. Ben ordered soda pop instead of orange juice and a huge ham and cheese omelet that he tried to cram into his mouth in three bites.

I didn’t say a word.

“MOM!! A HUGE WEASEL!” Ben yelled around a half a piece of toast stuffed in his mouth. I looked through the window onto the street where he was pointing. It was a wild and sleek river otter strolling down Main Street at seven thirty in the morning. There were eight of us eating at the restaurant that morning and we all rose from our chairs and walked outside with the cook. We watched the otter on this ordinary morning until it disappeared down a ravine that led to the harbor.P10304301-1024x774

We returned to our breakfast, but nothing was the same. Ben had led ten pairs of adult eyes to an otter on Main Street. We were too busy reading the newspaper, drinking our coffee, or thinking of ways to put a lid on a boy’s goofy energy to notice the miracle right before us. Blink! and it was gone. As fast as a thirteen-year-old boy would be grown and gone.

Thursday mornings at the diner lived long past a few hours for us. It was body and soul time. Beginning with a good cup of coffee with endless refills for me. This is necessary if your daughter wants to talk about friend problems. Sip listen. Sip listen. Let her decide that one good friend is worth three flighty ones. girl-drinking-coffee-e1436126799516

Ten-year-old Nick ordered bacon and eggs every time. Nicky felt he was too old to play with the box of Mr. Potato Head pieces, but he looked at the box with confused longing (I’m big. I’m little. I’m Nick. I’m Nicky). Our Thursday mornings together were gloriously simple. He was TEN. He loved eggs over easy and Mom and Dad. Mind and body were perfectly synchronized before the onslaught of pre-adolescent hormones. Nick’s two older brothers were smack in the middle of that dangerous territory; I silently begged him to play with Mr. Potato Head.

The gourmand of the tribe was Daniel. He was an accomplished cook with an adventuresome palate.  Daniel ordered the morning special. One morning we studied for a test on Africa between the hot chocolate and the eggs. “What is the capital of Liberia?” I asked him. “Hmmmmm. . . ” Daniel mused, “Liberate men roving–Liberia, Monrovia!” That’s my mnemonic boy.

Most likely there is a warm and intimate place washed in the good smells of something baking near you. Patronize it. The neutral territory of a cafe is a safe place for uncovering all the interesting, sad, unique thoughts of a child that can spiral past us at home. Parenting downshifted. I realized that all this growing up before me was fast. Fleeting. Thursday mornings were a chance to savor my daughter, my sons, before the mind faded away to another load of laundry, another meal made. On Thursday mornings my eyes were opened to the miracles in each child.

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  1. Wonderful post, Nancy! I can just see 13-year-old Ben at the table, the hot sauce! — and then to spot an otter/weasel. What a story! These breakfasts are such a terrific idea, and I love the insight into the kids…now fully grown happy adults. With love, Christi

  2. This is such a great idea! I wish my mom would have done the same with me. Jenna and I have touched on our similar struggles with middle school aged friends and I hope I can be a source of comfort for my girls during that time.


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