In Defense of Eating Cereal for Dinner
“Thirteen going on thirty”—that’s how my parents described me as a tween. If I had to guess, I was probably one of the only newborns on the planet that exited the womb dreaming of toddlerhood. By age eight, you could find me regularly stuffing two plump water balloons into my bikini tops and applying Dr. Pepper chapstick in front of the mirror as if it were the perfect shade of red.
Make no mistake; my childhood was still that—a childhood. I played with Barbies and baby dolls and ran through sprinklers with the best of ‘em. I used binoculars to spy on my younger brother and made forts in the living room with my best friend. I collected toys from cereal boxes and every time I ate Lucky Charms for breakfast, I saved all the marshmallows for last.
But even as a child, I daydreamed about adulthood often—about all of the elusive magic and freedom it promised. From the time I was in junior high, my internal vision board was filled with pictures of high heels, a perfectly decorated cubicle (dream bigger, little self!), swanky dinner parties, and, naturally, a dashing husband.
I pictured all of the pros and none of the cons, completely oblivious to the realities of grown-up responsibilities. In my sweet little naïve mind, being an adult was one thing: glamorous. Being a grown-up meant wearing a real bra and real lipstick, staying up till midnight, and setting my own rules 100% of the time.
Fast-forward to age 30 and adulthood has, more or less, been punching me in the face since 2004. Like that time we saved up all our money to put down 20% on a brand new house…..in 2006…..in California (you know how that story ends). Or like that other time we bought a new car and two days after I drove it off the lot, someone crashed into me at a red light. Of course, there are plenty of other stories that don’t involve insurance claims or thousands upon thousands of dollars lost. We’ve changed jobs and moved houses and experienced devastating loss; we’ve walked with friends through cancer and rushed our own babies to the ER. Underneath the big stressors and emotions are hundreds of little things constantly weighing on our minds: the unopened mail, the dead rat in the attic, the refrigerator light that needs to be replaced, the preschool forms, the never-ending stacks of dishes/laundry/bills.
This is adulthood.
And, come to find out, there is actually nothing glamorous about it.
The weirdest thing about being an adult is that one day you blink and all of a sudden, you just are one. You don’t go through a training program or receive a certificate. Sure, I graduated high school and college and have the diplomas to prove it, but nobody ever taught me how to sew a button on a shirt. I still do not know how to properly prune a plant, and don’t even get me started on stuffing that damn duvet insert into the duvet cover.
I swear it was just yesterday that my parents were paying my cell phone bill.
How did I even get here?
I wanted to be an adult my entire life, and now I am one, and all I want to do is eat Lucky Charms for dinner and save the marshmallows for last.
Dinner, for me, sometimes feels like the last straw. After adult-ing all day—caring for two tiny humans while running a business and keeping the house from catching on fire—I open the refrigerator and adulthood punches me in the face once again.
There’s a loaf of moldy bread staring back at me. A package of questionable chicken. Some expired yogurt. I suppose if you were a great cook or a creative Martha Stewart type, you might peruse my pantry and find an old box of risotto and be able to combine that with frozen vegetables and call it a meal, but I am not that person.
And this is where cereal for dinner comes in.
Cereal for dinner always sounds good to me—quick, easy, no clean-up. No pots or pans or spills, just one bowl and one spoon to throw in the dishwasher. I’ve graduated from Lucky Charms, and the cereal I buy now is mostly full of vitamins, so I don’t have to feel too guilty about it either.
Cereal’s always been there for me, you know? It’s my comfort food. I turned to cereal at 3am during both of my pregnancies when I suffered from horrible insomnia. I cannot tell you how many nights I sat alone on my couch in the dark with a bowl of Special K perched on my belly, with tiny baby kicks rattling the dish.
There’s something so effortless and simple about a bowl of cereal, and I find myself gravitating toward it for that very reason. Amid the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities of being a wife and mother and business-owner and friend, skipping a fancy cooked meal in favor of cereal is often a welcome breath of fresh air at the end of a long day.
I like to think of eating cereal for dinner as the best of both worlds. It sort of feels like I’m giving the middle finger to adulthood (screw you, kale), while simultaneously enjoying the very freedom of being a person who is old enough to decide to eat cereal for dinner in the first place. Eating cereal for dinner is kind of like being a kid and a grown-up at the same time--a little vacation from my responsibilities back to the childhood I wanted to escape because I was so fixated on adulthood. It's permission to coexist in two identities, a magical way to be two places at once.
And perhaps that is where the elusive magic I dreamed about during childhood existed all along—in that sweet spot between responsible and irresponsible, sensible and spontaneous—right there in my dinner bowl of Kashi Cinnamon Harvest.