Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Secret Food Life of Parents

When I was young, little made me feel more betrayed by my parents than the early-morning discovery of empty Dairy Queen cups in the garbage. The lingering residue of creamy soft serve and tiny bits of chocolate, still clinging to the skinny red spoons, launched an indignant fury: I was deceived, and by the people who love me most. 

Kids are not dumb. Although it might take them longer, they do eventually put two and two together. Two empty Dairy Queen cups + I did not receive any ice cream = my parents got Blizzards after I went to bed. 

And at least in my childhood world, there were few greater treats than a trip to Dairy Queen. To be sneakily sidestepped by my parents in their selfish quest for ice cream that they did not have to share with their beloved flesh and blood was simply the worst kind of low-down dirty trick. 

I remember very clearly finding evidence of late-night ice cream or popcorn or other treats and, lower lip extended, wondering why I was not included. My sister, either because she in more in tune with such sneakiness or because she had a better nose for the smell of microwave popcorn, was more apt to get out of bed and confront my parents in the midst of their treachery, while I slept on, unaware.

This is, of course, a treachery that Chef Matt and I now engage in on a regular basis, making me the most evil kind of hypocrite. How many times has my poor preschooler called down to me with some sort of sleep-stalling excuse and I have had to hastily swallow a mouthful of Oreo Blizzard to answer her?

Our kids are still a little too young to catch on, so we have a few more blessed years of the patient waiting for a bedtime all-clear before Matt ventures out for an evening treat that the little ones will never suspect. Someday our kids will discover the long red spoons in the garbage and accuse us of exclusion, but for now they are blissfully clueless. 

Now that I am seeing this undercover Dairy Queen quest from a parent's point of view, I absolutely see the logic of such deception. Nighttime ice cream for kids can only lead to unwanted sharing. Sometimes, I think, parents deserve a treat that they can enjoy without the experience descending into feeding time at the zoo. 

Selfish? Maybe. There is something vaguely naughty about after-dark ice cream, much like wine before noon, and after a day of temper tantrums and befouled clothing, it is only too fair for a parent to selfishly indulge. So much like our children may someday hide their cigarettes and speeding tickets from us, I am getting my trickery in now as we wait with bated breath for the silence at the top of the stairs before dashing out for a little secret, deceitful ice cream. 

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