Get Out of the House


When Crème Brulée Isn’t Good Enough

Rebecca Meekma

There are the milestone moments that we think are the important days of our lives:  graduations, weddings, anniversaries, etc. We photo document the event and now we Facebook or Tweet it while it is still happening, as if it is so important that everyone must know what we’re doing. “At Timmy’s kindergarten graduation. So cute!”


Yet, when you’re in the midst of parenting, the days that end up being memorable usually don’t happen on the big milestones. They happen serendipitously and have true meaning for you and your family. Ask me about “Butt Magic” or “the family stay at the sex cabin” sometime. Way more interesting than any birthday or baptism or baby-naming story.


We had one of those moments last week.


It has been a long summer. July was great – some fun camps, some fun days at the beach, work on the computer for me while the girls vegged and watched movies and manned lemonade stand with friends. Pretty idyllic. Except for the bickering. But, that’s to be expected, I figured.


Forward to early August. Still good. A trip east to visit family and friends also included judging the differences between the beaches in Bridgehampton and Laguna (no winner – both are great). Surf camp. Drama camp. And, more bickering and whining. “No playdate today?! Grrr.” “But she touched my book so I had to kick her.” That type of thing. All husband and I could do was referee, send them to alone time, get apologies out of the offending party and try not to pull our hair out.


Then last Thursday it happened: the crème brulée moment that will stay with us forever.


It was Maggie’s seventh birthday. Summer birthdays can be a bit of a drag because oftentimes friends are away; there’s no hoopla like school-year birthdays. I had taken care of that this year by being Crazy Mom and throwing a birthday party for Maggie when she turned 6¾. So, nothing too big was scheduled for the actual day.


I planned a dinner treat, a Teppan dinner where Japanese food is cooked at your table by a chef who does shtick and catches eggs in his toque. The girls had never tried it and it is not something husband and I do that often.


We headed to Dana Point’s Mahe. And that’s when the fun begins. Izzy is not pleased that we are celebrating Maggie’s birthday. She’s serious. Why does Maggie get two celebrations? She’s gets everything. I get nothing. You know this story.


Husband and I kept our cool and didn’t let Miss Cranky ruin our evening. She pulled out of her funk to smile at the onion volcano of fire. And she really liked the food.


Then it happened. The waiter brought out the complimentary birthday dessert: crème brulée with berries and a candle. We sang happy birthday and, before digging in, explained that the dessert was fancy vanilla pudding with a crispy sugar coating on top. We showed the girls how to crack the topping. Yum. Maggie gleefully ate all of the raspberries and dug in. Izzy tasted. And tasted again. And then it happened: “I don’t like this: the top is too sweet.”




Did our first-born child just reject a perfectly fine crème brulée? A dessert I didn’t try until my age was twice hers? Was she really complaining about a dessert being too sweet? This from the person who will dunk her fork in maple syrup just to eat more maple syrup. Who asks for chocolate for breakfast? Too sweet? Really? Really.


I paused and looked at my spouse. Who was smirking. He calmly mouthed over their heads, “See, babe, if she can complain that the crème brulée is too sweet, what can’t she complain about? Proves none of it means anything. Just words.”


So we now have a new parenting code phrase: crème brulée. Crème brulée reminds us that life can be confusing if you’re 7 or 9 (or 27 or 39…) and sometimes the only way to voice your feelings is to whine or complain or slug your sister.


So, happy birthday Maggie. And next year, in the spirit of equality, you only get one celebration.



Rebecca Meekma is that friend who always knows something fun to do and the Calendar Editor for Parenting OC. She reminds everyone to wear broad-spectrum sunscreen all summer long. Follow her blog at

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