Michael Stoll: Making breakfast (with a toddler in the house)

Published 6:30 am Saturday, February 6, 2021

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If there is one thing that parents can agree upon it’s that even the simplest of tasks can become monumental feats when a toddler is around. Having to focus on both the task at hand whilst keeping an eye on the little one can prove a challenge, particularly for those lacking in multi-tasking abilities. But even those with superior multi-tasking skills (and I am not one of them) can still find it difficult to accomplish much when an energetic toddler demands their attention.

Yes, I am one of those parents. Since my 13-month-old son started walking, the time it takes to perform routine tasks has increased drastically. Despite all of his toys, his focus is getting a hold of that which he is not allowed to have, particularly in the kitchen. This naturally cuts into one of my favorite past times: cooking. Such was the case this past weekend when I was attempting to make breakfast.

To clarify, when I say breakfast, I don’t mean the full smorgasbord of pancakes, eggs, bacon/sausage and hash browns. No! That could never happen if it was just my son and I at home. In this context, “breakfast” is actually a microwavable breakfast burrito stuffed with eggs, sausage, cheese and peppers and consumed with a generous application of Tabasco or Cholula hot sauce (mmmmm, hot sauce). The entire microwaving process takes one minute and 30 seconds. Throw in the time it takes to remove it from the refrigerator, unwrap it and get a plate, the whole preparation process takes no more than two minutes.

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Enter the toddler.

First I open the refrigerator. Naturally, my son wants to see what is inside, so he stands in front of me. Unfortunately, the burrito is behind several items, so I have to move them, giving my son ample time to begin grabbing items at his level out of the fridge door. Hands full, I am thus forced to put said items down so I can prevent him from grabbing more things. This then results in using one hand to clear the path to the burrito and the other to stop my son from playing in the fridge. In the end, I am ultimately successful in getting the burrito,

Time elapsed: About 30 seconds.

I am next able to get a paper plate from the pantry and bring both burrito and plate to the counter without any issue. I then attempt to unwrap the burrito, only to see my son trying to open the trash can. I tell him “no” and lead him away from the trash can only for him to immediately return to it. I tell him “no” again and he stops, turns around and walks away from the trash can. I tell him “good choice” and he smiles happily. I then turn my attention to removing the burrito’s wrapper, only to once again see my son heading back toward the trash can. The same process is repeated – me telling him “no,” him turning and walking away, and me telling him “good choice” only for him to return to the trash can – about six or seven more times. It was then that I realized he was purposely doing it so I would praise him when he listened. And in between each incident, I would tear at the wrapper little by little until it was finally ready to be microwaved.

Time elapsed: About one minute.

I then place the burrito in the microwave, but before I could key in the time, my son is making haste toward our dog’s water bowl. He has spilled her water before, and since we have hardwood floors, I do not relish the thought of them getting soaked with copious amounts of water. So I ask him where he is going, prompting him to stop, turn and walk in the opposite direction. And I tell him “good choice.”

If you guessed that the next thing he did was turn back around and head towards the water bowl, then you are paying attention and on the ball. Good for you!

As before, this occurs several times.

Time elapsed: About 45 seconds.

My son finally heads into the dining room and I am able to key in 1:30 on the microwave. As it cooks, I am able to properly keep an eye on him.

Time elapsed: One minute and 30 seconds.

I head back into the kitchen to remove the burrito from the microwave, but this does not happen because I hear the familiar sound of washing machine buttons being pushed over and over. I go into the laundry room and tell him “no,” which he finds objectionable and begins to cry. Thus follows a series of fruitless efforts to console him before I resort to moving him into the living room so he is out of reach of what is apparently his favorite toy: the washing machine.

Time elapsed: About three minutes.

I head back into the kitchen and finally remove the burrito from the microwave. This is followed by more sounds of washing machine buttons being pushed because I forgot to close the baby gate.

Scratch off another 30 seconds before I move him back to the living room and finally get the hot sauce, sit down and eat my breakfast burrito.

Total time: 7 minutes and 15 seconds for what is normally a 2-minute process.

Perhaps if we could break this down into a mathematical formula, we would have to account for the normal time for the process (nt) and the amount of distractions (d) to determine the adjusted toddler time (att). It would be a simple expression: att = nt + d. But age (a) could be a variable, perhaps att = a(nt + d). Throw in toddler speed (s) and it could possibly become att = sa(nt+d).

Figure it out, mathematicians.

They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I never thought it would be when I get in most of my daily exercise.