The Playroom: A healthy start

Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA

Maraya Steadman

I’m making a “healthy breakfast” recipe I pulled from the New York Times. I core the apples, slice them in thin circles, cover the slices in peanut butter, layer them on top of each other, sprinkle them with brown sugar and cut the apple slices in half. I get out my favorite dessert plates and put the apples on the plates. Grateful to The Times for this great idea, I then garnish the plates with strawberries and grapes. The coffee is brewing, the dog has been out and fed and he is now asleep in the front room, the heat works and I’m happy. I’m having a good time, until my kids show up.

My youngest who, at age 6, cannot manage to decide on an outfit and get dressed without intervention has been awake forever and she’s still in her night gown. She takes a bite of her toast and ignores the apples. My son slides onto his stool at the foot of the kitchen island and doesn’t eat.

I tell him, “It’s an apple with peanut butter on it. You eat apples and peanut butter all the time; just eat it.”

He flicks the grapes off his plate and says, “I don’t eat grapes,” before he reluctantly takes a bite. My tweenage daughter just slumps in her seat and stares at her plate. I politely encourage her to eat her breakfast because she needs to get ready for school. She responds in a way that makes me think of calling an exorcist.

The same morning I found the healthy breakfast recipes, I read an article in the New York Times that stated adults raising children are less happy than adults who choose not to have children. The article presented that children are, among their other talents, fun-suckers who can suck the fun out of anything, even a healthy breakfast. I think about this as I’m thinking about an exorcist.

After my children finally leave for school and it’s quiet, I’m left with the dirty dishes to clean, just as I am every morning. I pour myself another coffee and decide the surveys the author used are measuring happiness in the wrong way. Having more money in our bank accounts, traveling, having more private time together as a couple to talk about grown up stuff like retirement plans, driving a clean car, not yelling so much, living a more peaceful and selfish life seems appealing in the abstract. But here, in my messy kitchen, happiness isn’t about what I have, but what I’ve given up. Sometimes, that’s a healthy breakfast nobody wants to eat.

A friend once gave me the advice that I can’t expect my children to react to things the way I want them to, it’s good advice, simple, yet I make the same mistake over and over again. I’m always preparing a healthy breakfast and expecting them to like it, to appreciate my effort and remark on the fruit garnish and the china plates. They aren’t going to.

Later in the morning, after the dishes are done, I post on Facebook:

“Anyone out there have a number for a good exorcist?”

A friend immediately responds:

“Yes, but my daughter ate him.”

For breakfast, I’m sure.

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. Her website is Email her at