Routines are very important in our house. Ryan is most definitely a creature of habit, and whatever routines he has at the moment are repeated daily. The thing is, sometimes the routines change, and when they do, it’s like the previous routine is completely forgotten.
For approximately the last 10 years, Ryan has eaten Eggo waffles for breakfast nearly every weekday that we are home. What’s interesting about this routine is that he’ll deviate from it in certain contexts — if we are traveling, for example, he’ll eat something different. A few years ago we got a Belgian waffle maker for special occasions and “weekend waffles” were born. We have those almost every Saturday and Sunday (also, when we’re on vacation). Ryan recently added bagels to his morning meal menu, another major milestone.
But it always comes back to Eggos. Ryan has had approximately eleventy billion of them in his young life, the majority of those either plain or blueberry flavored. But no matter the variety, he always eats them plain. No butter. No syrup. No nothing.
Some time in the last year, he consented to trying his weekend waffles with butter and syrup, and discovered he liked them that way. But no matter how many times I offered, Eggos continued to be consumed plain.
Until this morning.
I watched Ryan as he got his waffles out of the toaster oven and put them on a plate. He looked around as if expecting something.
“What?” I asked, puzzled. “Do you want butter and syrup?”
It was a joke. I’ve asked dozens of times. The answer is always the same: no.
“Sure,” he answered, without hesitation.
“Really?” I replied, stunned, before realizing the smarter play would be for me to shut up and serve them to him before he changed his mind.
Waffles appropriately buttered and syruped, Ryan sat down to eat, as if it were no big deal that he had just broken a routine that had survived through literally thousands of breakfasts.
Moments like these are so unpredictable, which is also what makes them so memorable. There is no outwardly obvious buildup; Rather, they appear as spontaneous changes in course.
But of course there is buildup. Sudden changes in routine are a small part of the arc of a greater narrative: Ryan’s willingness to be more flexible in order to explore and experience more of his world. Different sports. Staying after school for extra academic help. Eating food outside. Even expressing self-awareness and self-advocacy.
You may eat your buttery, syrupy waffles with a shrug, kid, but it will never be a small deal to me.