Playtime: The marshmallow tantrum


Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA

Maraya Steadman

I started drinking today at 4:30. Normally I don’t drink, but it’s Christmas time.

I was so tired of baking cookies and frosting cupcakes and listening to my kids fight over nutcrackers that I opened the fridge, took out some bottle we opened for dinner who-knows-when and had a cold glass of not-that-great wine, turned on some Christmas music and made more frosting.

While in the midst of frosting cupcakes my 3-year old walked into the kitchen and asked for hot chocolate. I think this was all a part of my stay-at-home, mother-of-three fantasy life. The part where it’s the holidays and the Christmas lights are twinkling, I’m home with my children on a chilly winter afternoon baking cupcakes for the third school party that week. So in an effort to capture what is good and right about having to frost another dozen cupcakes, I said sure, we can make hot chocolate.

So I moved her “standy thing,” which is a thing she stands on, into the kitchen. We poured the milk in the pan and added the hot chocolate mix, and we stirred a bit and poured it into mugs. And maybe it was the stale wine, but I was starting to relax and enjoy myself. Starting to think that making hot chocolate on a chilly afternoon with my kid was good and it did feel right.

“Where are the marshmallows?”

“I don’t have any marshmallows.”

Emma throws her head back and wails, like a Graeae would wail when she doesn’t have the eyeball and she wants it and the other sisters won’t give it to her. So I guess it was more of a mournful, bellowing shriek, “Marshmallows.” “I want marshmallows!”

I try a trick I learned in some parenting book.

“Well, sweetheart, the thing is, I’m not magic. I wish I were. If I were magic I would wiggle my nose and we would have marshmallows. But I’m not magic so I’m sorry, we just don’t have any.”

I guess on most children, those falling within the normalcy spectrum, or at least those in the control group, this strategy works. With my kid, I get her attention, she does look at me, pauses for a moment, thinks about what to do with this information, and then accelerates her efforts and starts jumping up and down throwing a full-blown tantrum over marshmallows.

She is kicking and screaming and spinning herself around the kitchen floor. I’ve gone back to the wine, and I’m thinking I probably shouldn’t be the one driving to the Christmas party.

I tried to buy marshmallows. But they don’t sell them at Trader Joes. Not even fancy, big, chunky ones that you buy in a plastic container like they sell at Whole Foods, instead of normal ones you buy in a bag.

I know because I asked. The woman at the checkout told me they didn’t sell them. And then she said, you know, with my kids I don’t even know why I bother with the hot chocolate. I might as well just give them a cup a marshmallows. We both laughed.

I told her that the kids just had us fooled into thinking it was about the hot chocolate, what they really wanted was the marshmallows. We decided that, really, it’s not about the hot chocolate, it’s all about the marshmallows.

Or is it?

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. She can be reached at

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