Horrible behavior aside, most people are familiar with what is arguably Bill Cosby's funniest stand up comedy bit about feeding his children chocolate cake for breakfast. For those of you who have never heard it, Bill Cosby talks about being forced to get out of bed at an early hour to cook breakfast for his children. Angry about being woken so early, he goes downstairs and his children convince him that he should give them chocolate cake instead of eggs and milk. Convincing himself of the brilliance of this plan, he slices up some chocolate cake and a cup of grapefruit juice for each child and they have a breakfast celebration. That is, until his wife comes downstairs and has, in his words, "a conniption" and sends him up to his room.
As a kid this was always hilarious and even as an adult it holds up as being a classic for a reason. But as a mother this joke causes a twinge of sadness in me every time I hear it. Not because he is angry at getting up early, because I can absolutely understand that. As much as I love having a preschooler I am very much looking forward to the days when she wants to sleep in until noon. It causes a twinge of sadness in me because I know why Camille (Cosby's wife) was so angry that she had a conniption. Not just because she wanted her children to eat something with some nutritional value, though she certainly wanted that, but because he made her out to be the heavy.
Now the kids have a "fun" experience with Dad at her expense. She is cast as the bad guy who destroys everyone's good time by trying to be a good parent and it is just that much more cemented in her children's brains that dad is the fun one and mom is the strict one. She has missed out on a moment of joy that could have been a family event! What mother wouldn't love to see the light in her children's eyes as they get such a treat so early in the day? Who among us hasn't sneaked our child a cookie before dinner or given up something we really wanted to buy the perfect gift for our kid? And knowing that your children had that moment isn't a bad thing, but knowing that this moment is completely based on not letting mom find out because she is a big spoilsport makes your heart hurt just a tiny bit. You are happy for their joy but sad that it came at your expense. I remember the scene from Mrs. Doubtfire where Sally Field explains to Robin Williams that his need to take all of the fun bits of relationships and parenting and leave her with all of the responsibilities is too much for her to handle and she is filing for divorce and it is completely understandable. I consider myself so lucky because my spouse works hard at his job and is a wonderful parent and I know that he and I will each have fun moments with our child without the other and that is a really good thing. I feel so appreciative that we both take our turn as the disciplinarian and the clown, but most especially I appreciate that we respect one another's decisions and if one of us says it is time to do something responsible the other doesn't respond with, "Pssht...who needs that? Let's go eat candy and light fireworks!"