(istock)

When my husband announced that he wanted to make Saturdays “Pancake Morning” for our twin 7-year-old boys, my eyes lit up. What a great idea, I thought.

I well remember pancakes from my childhood: Mornings filled with the aroma of batter sizzling on the griddle. My plate puddled in syrup even after the last bite was inhaled. A stuffed but smiley feeling afterward.

While my memories were happy, I understand now that they also brimmed with mega-calories, mega-sugar, and an eating style that led to butterball-size younger me. As a relatively health-conscious adult, I sniffed: My family will dig into pancakes a little differently.

Nutrition will rule the day. “Oatmeal, pumpkin, zucchini, all kinds of fruit and nuts — the sky is the limit when it comes to healthy pancakes!” I said.

My husband, Alex, politely nodded as he pulled from the pantry a colossal bag of chocolate chips, handed me a cup of coffee and motioned for me to sit. This was his quiet way of saying, “Don’t let the spatula hit you on the way out.”

Well.

So I watched as my husband mixed a basic batter; I was dying to demonstrate how to beat egg whites and fold them into the batter for a fluffier result. But me? A pest? I was keeping ye old lips zipped. That is, until I couldn’t stand it any longer:

“Bunnies! We’ll make bunnies, dinosaurs and alphabet-letter pancakes!” I said. “The boys will love this!”

My husband quietly dolloped simple round cakes onto the griddle.

Watching as he dropped chocolate chips onto each round, I gingerly asked, “Like a smiley face, right?” Nope, he just scattered them on.

I sighed. “But we’ll at least take a family walk after we have pancakes, okay?”

Uh, no, he explained. He’d already promised the boys that after pancakes they’d play video games, a relatively rare treat.

I was bummed. I’d pictured whipping up beautiful coconut-quinoa pancakes shaped like hearts with a family walk to follow. Memories galore, right? But when it comes to partying with pancakes on Saturday morning, my husband was clueless. All Alex wanted was white pancakes sprinkled with chocolate and drowned in syrup, with a video-game fest to follow.

Clue. Less.

I was miffed. Clearly my needs weren’t being considered. And what about the boys’ health? Show me the kid who needs more sugar. And what kid wouldn’t love a snowman-shaped pancake? It verges on child neglect not to give a kid a snowman-shaped pancake. And how hard is it to make three circles with a top hat and a carrot nose? Maybe some pine trees?

True, I’d been salivating over — I mean reading — Pinterest for years, but I was far from being a bossy Martha (Stewart). I was simply keeping the kids’ brunch interests in mind.

Until an afternoon the following week when my heart went into free fall: One boy danced in his seat while eating lunch — bouncing up and down and back and forth — and asked, “Is Dad making pancakes again on Saturday? I can’t wait! That was so fun, right, Josh? Wasn’t that so fun? Playing video games after? Wasn’t that so fun?”

Josh — with a full mouth — nodded that pancakes had been “so fun.”

Bam. And just like that, I woke up.

It hadn’t occurred to me that while I spend 24/7 with the kids (we home-school, so yeah, it feels like 24/7), Alex works a jillion-hour week in the IT-hospital world and doesn’t see the boys nearly as much as I do. Every morning I whip up blueberry smoothies and whole-wheat apple muffins; not to mention tracking the kids’ activity levels while slipping in fun moments here and there. I smiled remembering earlier in the year when I stopped at a fast-food place and ordered a dollar cone for each boy at the drive-up window.

“Ah, the first ice cream of summer,” Josh said, and I wrote down his darling comment the moment I got home.

Where was Alex when the boys were having their “first cone of summer”? Likely in a building, in a cubicle, in front of a computer. Definitely not having ice cream with his little guys.

So here we are several years later. It’s Saturday and at one end of the spatula we have white pancakes — as round and basic as basic gets — waiting to be freckled with chocolate chips, drowned in syrup and sprayed with whipped cream.

And at the other end of the spatula we have a dedicated parent, in his robe with serious bed head, happily refilling plates of pancakes for his boys, and reaching for the game console after.

Nutrition? Zero. Heart-pounding autumn hike? Nope. Hallmark photo op of wholesome family life? Not exactly. Time with Dad on Saturday mornings? Easily the best ingredient of all.

Wendy Irvine is a freelance writer living outside Atlanta with her husband and sons. Find her on Twitter @WendyIrvine.

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