The weekend before Christmas, our family took a rare trip to the “big city” to do some last minute Christmas shopping. Since the pandemic hit, we’ve been spending family time outdoors and it’s rare that we take our kids with us to enclosed public spaces or restaurants. Needless to say, our kiddos were excited to spend a day back in civilization, even if it meant wearing masks and endless hand-sanitizing. Fortunately, the mall was not nearly as packed as it usually was this time of year.
After getting our last-minute shopping out of the way, we ate a late lunch at our favorite brick-oven pizza restaurant. It was a gorgeous day, so we chose to eat outside in the patio area. The kids had fun playing with pizza dough, while my husband and I chatted about our plans for Christmas. Our pizzas came out perfectly crisp from the brick oven, and I enjoyed my personal Margherita pizza doused in olive oil, salt, and red pepper flakes. It was heavenly!
Afterwards, we decided it was time to head home. We did what we came to do and had a great family outing in the process. As we drove away from the restaurant my husband turned and looked at me with a wide goofy smile and whispered, “Ice cream?” I thought he was joking since we’d just talked about how stuffed we were, so I laughed and said “Yeah right!” He looked puzzled, as if to say “I wasn’t asking…” but I shot the same look back at him.
In the past I would’ve given in and made a beeline for the nearest ice cream parlor, but since I started questioning my beliefs around food, I’ve come to realize that my thoughts about food are often more enjoyable than the food itself. I’ve always associated ice cream with having fun and feeling warm and fuzzy inside, so I ate it in an attempt to keep those good feelings coming. But when I really slowed down and made myself eat ice cream while deliberately savoring each bite, I realized that I was satisfied after about 2-3 spoonfuls… not an entire pint! At this point, I knew that if I got a giant scoop of my favorite ice cream, I would be rushing to eat it while making the hour-long drive home, then be upset afterwards because I didn’t get to enjoy it the way I wanted to.
Finally I told my husband, “Look, ice cream sounds good, but I’m really full right now and don’t want any. If you want some though, we can get some.” My husband huffed, “Well if you’re not going to get any, then I don’t want any.” Overhearing out conversation, the kids started chiming in too, “I want ice cream!” “Me too!” “Ice cream, ice cream, ice cream!” Oh geez! My husband stayed quiet but gave me an eager side glance, hoping that I would change my mind.
Oh boy, the mom-guilt hit me hard as negative mental chatter flooded my brain:
Oh come on! The kids never get to come out and you’re going to deny them ice cream?
One ice cream cone is not going to hurt them.
It’s been such a great day… don’t ruin it for them!
Is this how you want them to remember this day?
Finally, I did what I felt was best and told my kids, “Boys, I know ice cream sounds really good, but we all just ate a big meal and are not hungry right now. Let’s let our tummies digest the food that’s in there first, then maybe we can have ice cream later. OK?” As expected, I was met with several groans and awwws, then a final eye-rolling “Okaaay…” I glanced at my husband and whispered, “Sorry,” but he smiled nodded his head to let me know it was all good.
As we made our way out of town the mental chatter in my head continued, but I chose to ignore it and turned up some Christmas music to drown it out. Then I pulled into my favorite car wash to give our SUV a much needed bath. When I have the kids with me, I always make sure to add the rainbow-foam feature because I know my little ones enjoy it.
As we pulled in, my middle child exclaimed, “Yay, I love the car wash!” As if by design, the song “What’s This?” from The Nightmare Before Christmas started playing. As the car rolled through, rainbow-foam blasted us from all sides. Our middle child yelled, “I got pink foam!” The youngest shouted, “I got green! My favorite color!” and I chimed in, “Oooh, Momma’s got blue!” My two little ones squealed and laughed as Jack Skellington crooned through the speakers. Hearing my boys having fun brought back my own memories of going through the car wash as a kid, and how much I enjoyed it too. I turned to my husband, smiled wide and said, “This makes me so happy!”
It was at that point that those helpful “What IF?” questions flowed into my brain, which I was grateful for.
What IF you’re not a “bad mom” for denying your kids ice cream?
What IF ice cream is not what makes the boys happy? What IF it’s the memories surrounding it?
What IF memories of having fun in the car wash are just as good as memories of getting ice cream?
What IF we can create new family memories that don’t revolve around food?
Once we got home, my husband and I fell into a food coma and took a relaxing 2-hour nap. When we woke up, I wrapped a few presents and we made dinner. The boys had completely forgotten about the ice cream and never asked if we could get some. This further convinced me that the “What IF?” questions I asked myself earlier that day were good ones, and that the memories we create as a family are more important than the food associated with them.
SIDE NOTE: The morning I wrote this, my kids ate doughnuts for breakfast because I was too tired to cook. You win some, you lose some! ???♀️?