Thankfully, I was driving. The kids couldn’t see my face. They missed the raise of the brow and the grit of the teeth. Of course, this moment was coming. I knew it would. But the timing was all wrong. My kindergartener sat directly behind me in his car seat wiggling his first loose tooth, which was hanging by the narrowest sliver of swollen gum. The jagged edge of his new tooth was already visible, poking through underneath. We’d been saying “any day now” for weeks. And in that timeframe, my little guy wondered so very many wonders: will it hurt? Will I be able to whistle? Will I get to see the tooth fairy? Will she take my tooth? What will she do with my tooth? What will she leave for me?
The purity and innocence of it all made my heart ache. This is my baby. The last one. We won’t have a discussion just like this one again. I’m not the kind of person who ruminates over moments lost never to return, but this one got to me. I couldn’t let his big brother rob him of the magic and mystery of it all. So I lied.
Like all parents of elementary schoolers, Andy and I have fielded our share of uncomfortable, squirm-in-your-seat questions. Until now, we have answered them with as much honesty as we believe they can handle. “How do two mans make a baby?” (They don’t, but adoption and surrogacy can turn loving couples into loving families.) “Why are all those people so short?” (It’s called dwarfism and it has to do with genes – not the blue kind with pockets.) “What did I look like when I lived in Daddy’s testicle?” (Very small and you weren’t actually you yet, just a half of who you would eventually be.)
But I denied the tooth fairy accusations up and down, refusing to fess up without a fight. It felt wrong even though I knew this particular lie has been told for generations and will continue to be told for many more to come. I then changed the subject before we wandered into Santa Claus and Easter Bunny territory.
But one little fib can be a slippery thing. Before I knew it, it happened again as I found my way into another questionable conversation. It was breakfast time and I’d pulled a bowl of pancake batter out of the fridge. The day before, I developed a recipe for bright pink pancakes in anticipation of Valentine’s Day. I tested the recipe and shot photos for Relay Foods (see the blog post here, which includes my instructions on working with pancake molds). The leftover batter was about to undergo the ultimate taste test.
I flipped fuchsia pancakes onto plates, drizzled them with raspberry sauce and fresh raspberries and watched the boys go to town. They loved them. They asked for seconds. I was smiling smugly until one of them said something about the raspberries giving the pancakes their color. I could have corrected them. Or at least asked them to guess again. I am not a vegetable hider. But instead I just nodded. A lie of omission. Should I tell them how my heartbeet pancakes with raspberry sauce got their deep pink hue? Nah. And then the wobbly toothed child bit into a crunchy knob. His face twisted slightly as he chewed the lump. “I bit into something hard that tastes like celery!” he said. I shook my head at him. “No celery,” I said, happy to speak truth. “More raspberry sauce?” I smiled. “How about some chocolate chips?”
Oh, the mothering mischief. These were lies of love, I reasoned, with only the best of intentions. It’s at this point in the story where a neat bow would be handy. It should be the place where I tell you the tooth fell out, that we had a frank discussion about what’s real and what’s just for fun, and that I came clean on the beets. But none of that happened. The tooth hangs on and my lips are zipped.
If you’re looking for a festive start to Feb. 14, give these pancakes a try. I took our family favorite, oatmeal buttermilk pancakes, and made a few simple adjustments. I ground the oats fine to make the batter smooth, then I added the puree of a beet. (Have you ever noticed that beets are sort of heart-shaped?) This batter lasts for a couple days in the fridge. As it sits, the color deepens to a spectacular magenta.
But wait folks, there’s more. I have another offering for those demanding more traditional chocolate treats. I made a batch of Jennifer Perrillo‘s chewy bittersweet brownies this weekend with the boys. They are perfectly moist and chocolatey with just a hint of salt. They are also just the right consistency and thickness for my 3-inch heart shaped cutter. What Valentine could say no to heart-shaped brownies? Not one that lives here, I assure you.
Once again, I’m including a musical pairing. The simplicity of these lyrics is striking and powerful. Andy and I danced to this song at our wedding. The words still ring true: Your love is better than chocolate, better than anything else that I’ve tried. And that, my friends, is no lie.
Musical Pairing: Sarah McLachlan, “Ice Cream“