02 October 2006

Self-Limiting: The Saga of the Flower Cake

Last weekend, we had HVAC installed in our house, and so to both get out of the way of the tradesmen, and to take advantage of the gorgeous weather, we headed north to Napa. One of our favorite stops there is the V. Sattui winery. Not only are their wines fabulous, but as far as wineries go, they are very child-friendly. Many wineries are so interested in adult appeal that they forget that frazzled parents may be some of their best repeat customers. V. Sattui has a very nice deli, for the purchasing of lunch, and a big, grassy, wildlife-filled picnic area, for the kids to burn off of energy and general enjoyment of the outdoors. The deli is packed with little containers of amazing gourmet food. It's a dazzling array of shapes, colors, textures, and smells, many of which are at reasonable eye-level for a four year old. We moved very slowly through the aisles and displays, having long discussions about the various food items, why some things were more expensive than others, what things tasted like, why different people have different tastes, which things might make for a good lunch. The discussion naturally ranged over topics of human sensory capability, cooking techniques, colors, numbers, economics, sustainability. an amazing smorgasbord of conversation, set off by little jars of gourmet mustard. Rowan has a corn allergy. Consumption of corn, which is nearly ubiquitous in the American diet, turns his generally thoughtful and four-year-old appropriate behavior into uncontrollable fits of flailing and screaming rage. It's a dramatic transformation, and one that we've been observing, and teaching him about, since he was two. We've considered several approaches to dealing with this issue, and we have come to trust Rowan to feel what's happening in his own body, and to limit his intake of things that "make him crazy." Not only has this served to teach him about himself and give him sovereignty over his own body and his own decisions, it's laying excellent groundwork for the future. A kid who can control exposure and face temptation at age four is a kid who can navigate the murkier waters of adult temptations later on. Rowan knows to ask if a thing has corn in it, and to come up with a plan for managing his behavior, should he "get crazy." Usually, that plan involves wrapping himself around me or his Papa, and hugging until he stabilizes. At V. Sattui, they have a dessert case. Gorgeous, gourmet little confections, tiny works of art in sugar. So I was not at all surprised when the case caught Rowan's attention, and he stood there, overwhelmed, trying to choose. He asked about corn, and I confirmed that yes, chances were high that every single morsel in the case had some form of corn in it. He walked away. And walked back. For about fifteen minutes, I watched my son take two falls out of three while wrestling temptation. And finally, he asked me for the flower cake. The flower cake was a single white cupcake, fabulously covered with sugar frosting flowers in an array of primary and pastel colors. It was a delight, and someone in the bakery staff had obviously put a lot of energy into it. Also a lot of artificial coloring, another problem substance. A quick consult with the woman at the counter confirmed the presence of both cornstarch and corn syrup. We had a quick huddle, while I explained all of this to him. He nodded with each item, but still insisted that he wanted that cake. He confirmed that "hugs are for when I get crazy", and seemed totally prepared to take it on. I mentally rearranged my itinerary to allow for dropping everything and heading home when the inevitable meltdown occurred. We sat down at the picnic bench, and devoured our lunches. Rowan took out the flower cake, and with a plastic fork, carefully, delicately, with the care of a professional surgeon, removed one small flower from the top of his cake, and ate it. Savored it. Let it melt on his tongue, leaving a glorious purple streak in its wake. And then replaced the lid on the container. "Are you sure you're finished?" I asked him. With the blissful look still on his face, he replied "yes, I'm sure." He only wanted the one flower. There sat a confection to entice gluttony from the most staid of souls, and my four-year old limited himself to the one flower. Back in the car, more stops, more errands. And the return home. Whereupon he asked for his flower cake again. Again, the ritualistic removal of the container lid, the surgical removal of just one sugar flower. Which he presented to me. "Thank you, Mama. Have some flower cake." His Papa and his baby brother also received single gorgeous sugar flowers. And then the lid went back on. That cake has been in our refrigerator for over a week. Every day, a little more of it gets eaten. But only a little bit. If there's someone in the room with him, he offers to share a bite. And then carefully, back into the fridge it goes. My son still reacts to corn. But he also reacts to autonomy, to faith, and to trust. Here. Have some flower cake.

6 Comments:

At 10/02/2006 06:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is so sweet - no pun intended! Gives me hope for my not-quite-4yo to come back to the self-limiting and sharing she used to do.
Totally corn-free hugs and a virtual flower to Rowan (and his parents who raised him that way AND are aware enough to recognize his achievement)!
FR

 
At 10/03/2006 01:36:00 AM, Blogger LadySeduction said...

oh my god....

this is so amazing?! Wow......that is more than most of us grownups can handle, being that in touch with our bodies.

Will you be my mama and teach me how to do that? ;)

 
At 10/04/2006 02:46:00 PM, Blogger Moira said...

What a great kid!! and great parents also...
my hats off you all!!

 
At 10/06/2006 11:20:00 PM, Blogger Rose said...

Beautiful!

 
At 10/09/2006 11:33:00 AM, Anonymous Nana said...

Ok, not fair. Here I sit crying again. Rowan is quite the little man. I am awed at him. And the fact that he is that way when with other people thrills me. When he went with me shopping, he would ask first if he could touch, and when told he could have only one toy he didn't whine or cry for more just made his decsion on the one he wanted.

 
At 10/10/2006 11:25:00 AM, Blogger jenni said...

what an amazing family you all are!

 

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