Gluten-free muffins – Friday 5 February 2016

Milo is not overwhelmingly in favour of gluten-free muffins.

While strolling through a particularly gluten-intolerant neighbourhood of our city this morning Milo and I happened upon an organic cafe which specializes in ethically-bartered quinoa and nude-harvested linseed.

As we were on the move we were in the market for some one-handed food to share; Milo was in one of his famous ‘wander aimlessly and dangerously and certainly not in the pram’ moods. With limited choice we settled upon an oatmeal, apple and funkleberry muffin; denuded of all gluten.

Milo was suspicious. With no gluten Milo knew the muffin must be held together with trickery and broken promises. Still, he was hungry so he began stabbing his little finger at the withered, shrunken little pseudo-muffin accompanied by an insistent rendition of his ‘jack-of-all-phrases’ “moremore”.

So, while we were waiting for our change I brought the deflated nugget of mischievousness to his lips. His little mouth opened expectantly as I nudged the gnarled muffin-top toward it. Just as he was clamping his limited but highly effective teeth upon the apologetic morsel our waitress returned with a beaming, organic smile upon her face saying “I hope you enjoy it”.

Well, as soon as the gravelly, drab, slice of mediocrity touched Milo’s tongue his mouth immediately fell open. The look on his face was a mix of betrayal and incredulity as the muffin crumbs tumbled out of his mouth, somersaulted off his chest and fell upon the pristine wooden floor-boards, which of course had been hand-pummeled in order to look less pristine.

Milo then began scraping his tongue with his fingers with quite some urgency, to ensure every sawdusty fragment was expelled from his mouth immediately. Once satisfied with the physical expulsion Milo began blowing rather wet raspberries with his tongue, one after the other, spitting out the last now semi-liquid specks of oatmeal and funkleberry until his chin, his tshirt and the floorboards directly below him were covered in a thin film.

Satisfied, Milo wandered off to inspect a small succulent growing in the cafe’s window-box. Our waitress and I were aghast, paralyzed by social convention. I quickly popped the rest of the muffin into my mouth in an overt show of support for the organic cafe, and gave an embarrassing wink and a little fist pump to nobody; I don’t know why I did that. I collected my muffin-soaked child and strolled casually but swiftly back to the anonymity of the street.

Milo’s reaction was spot-on. All of the life had been sucked out of that poor little muffin; it was like eating river-sand and apple skin, wrapped in ineptitude. The organic cafe had received some valuable feedback from the only honest customer they would get that day, perhaps resulting in a tweaking of the recipe, a little introspection, and maybe even some genuine enjoyment for the poor gluten-intolerants of the future.

It got me thinking; when and why do children stop behaving with simple honesty? When do social conventions begin to overwhelm their instincts? And when it happens to Milo, will it be our fault?

Here are a few things that Milo does now that will likely not be acceptable on year 7 camp:

  • Milo chews food, removes it from his mouth and offers it, with genuine sincerity, to his parents to eat;
  • When the electrician comes to visit us Milo stares at him then runs frantically in the opposite direction until he finds a leg to hide behind;
  • When somebody Milo does not know well tries to ruffle his hair he slaps their hand away and scowls at them;
  • When Milo does something he is pleased with, like jumping on the spot or smelling a flower, he claps himself with genuine admiration;
  • Milo identifies shoeless strangers in the park, carries their shoes to them and insists, blank faced, that they put them on; and,
  • If Milo happens upon a co-traveller in the lift with their sunglasses atop their head he will insist the glasses are worn on their eyes, appropriately. The frustrated, and growing insistence often continues long after the co-traveller has stopped laughing.

There must be a moment when Milo realises behaviours like these are not common among fully-functioning adults; and he will instead choose to swallow the dry, banal muffin, smile and assume his dishonest yet polite position in society.

Questions like this baffle me as a parent; how to craft a polite, respectful, yet free spirited, confident boy. One who doesn’t take a hair ruffling when he doesn’t want one but who also doesn’t spray muffin-mist everywhere when he doesn’t like the taste. One who claps others but also himself when he does something especially clever, and one who is prepared to stand up for what matters to him most; like everybody wearing shoes, all of the time.

The streets of organic-town

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