I should have known: not only can’t you buy love with food, you can’t show love with food either.

This weekend my daughter celebrated her 8th birthday with a sleepover and yesterday morning, hoping to earn the greatest-mother-ever award, I made banana chocolate chip pancakes for my daughter and her 3 BFFs – all 4 of them suffering from the 8-year-old equivalent of a post-party hangover, having stayed up late into Saturday night, giggling and eating candy.

Now, I’m not normally inclined to let my daughter eat candy when she’s supposed to be counting sheep, but as I said, I was on a mission for an important award.  Best-mother-ever doesn’t come easily. Plus, 2 of the girls had come prepared with candy bags, and who was I, I quickly decided, to disrupt the fun.  Anyway, back to breakfast.

Breakfast began OK, but only if you count the beginning of breakfast as the time they came running into the kitchen, washed their hands, saw the pancakes and got excited.  After that, things got a little sticky.

For starters, the little bowls my husband had given the girls for syrup-dipping (the syrup-delivery system they had all requested) weren’t up to par — too boring.  Greatest-mother-ever however had a solution: pull out the fancy crystal bowls.  Success, and smiles all around.  I’m happy. They’re happy.  All is good.

Time for the pancakes.  I’m happy.  They’re…not so happy and all is not so good.

One child took a bite and declared the pancakes “weird.”  Another child took a bite and said she didn’t like bananas. The third child turned every pancake over and over, looking for evidence of its “eatability.”   My daughter, thank goodness, tucked in with gusto.

Now, I’m a pretty good cook and I have to admit, these pancakes weren’t the best I’ve ever made — remember, I too was operating on very little sleep — but they were pretty darn good.  But, I realize not every dish will be a hit with every diner.  What’s more, I had had an inkling this might happen when I considered running the menu by the girls, but then I had thought: who doesn’t like bananas and chocolate chips?

I could see my award slipping from sight.  I frantically began offering alternatives.  Me: How about toast with peanut butter? Them: Yuck. This peanut butter tastes bad. Me: How about some jelly to sweeten it up? Them: Ew, apricot preserves.  Me: Cereal?  Them: Too plain.  Me: Peaches? Them: Disgusting.  Me: Cantaloupe? Them: No.  Me?  One shriveled ego crumpled on the floor.

So maybe I wasn’t the best-mother-ever, but I had tried and I figured that had to count for something. Right? That’s why, when the meal was finally over, I suggested the girls say “thank you,” to which one of the girls replied, perhaps with a tad more honesty than was warranted,  “Thanks for the breakfast which I didn’t eat.”

Enough said.  You can’t show love with food. In fact, trying to do so tripped me up in a couple of predictable ways:  I allowed too many sweets, prepared unhealthy food, offered way too many alternatives.