The Look of a Satisfied Child

I am writing this post at 11pm. I have one child sleeping soundly in bed and another puttering in his room with Legos. Both are pretty happy campers.

We had dinner at an Italian buffet, called Cinzetti’s. They tout 14 stations, each with a different kind of food–pasta, pizza, ice cream, salads, meats… you get the idea. While I had been to this buffet many times with colleagues for lunch (it’s near my old workplace, Avaya), I had never taken my kids there. As an adult, I take for granted having lots of choices around things like food, clothes, activities. I forget that as a child, your choices are limited to what your parents give you access to–whether it’s television shows or Game Boy games or who you can call to come over for a play date.

My kids were pleased to see the large menu of beverages. My 10-year-old proudly ordered a root beer. My 12-year-old pondered the wide range of choices before shyly asking the waitress for a Sprite. They both noticed that the beverage menu declared "Bottomless Supply of Drinks." My younger son, wanting to confirm his good luck, asked the waitress if this meant free refills. He was pleased to see her nod yes. I could see that both kids were beaming.

I gave the kids a tour of the 14 stations. They stopped at the pans of what appeared to be square-shaped hash browns. They usually have to wait for me to be in a good mood to fry up frozen hash browns at home. More delight at seeing mashed potatoes, bread sticks, and pizza. I have never seen my kids eat so much, so happily.

The boys marveled when the waitress brought refills of their drinks, *before* they had finished their drinks. Andy exclaimed, "Mom, I didn’t even have to ask and she came with another drink!" This was almost too good to be true–the equivalent of me offering up extra Game Boy time when his daily ration wasn’t even half gone.

The best part of the meal was dessert. We usually have dessert once a week, on Saturday night–a simple brownie or a bowl of ice cream. Here, at the buffet, dessert consisted of chocolate souffles, chocolate-dipped strawberries, bread pudding, cannoli, cream puffs, apple crisp and 8 different kinds of ice cream. And those were just the recognizable desserts. All you have to do is grab a plate and go for what appeals to your eyes and stomach.

Andy, the greedier of the two kid eaters, put every possible topping on a bowl of cookies and cream ice cream. It looked like a huge dirt mound but instead of being covered with dirt, the ice cream was covered with small chocolate chips, chocolate dusting, bits of oreo cookies, and some unrecognizable multi-colored dots. It actually looked disgusting to me but Andy was eyeing his creation with pure joy.

Half-way through the ice cream, I could see Andy’s eyes glaze over. He was getting full and he had only tried one dessert. He has an astonishingly large stomach for sweets, given how small he is, but even this was too much. He was starting to look like the guy in one of the Monty Python movies who is dining at a French restaurant and after an evening of gluttony, is encouraged by the waiter to have just "one more bon bon." It is both painful and hilarious to watch the ensuing carnage. I am not so malicious as to try this out with my kids.

Luckily, Andy took a break from what must have felt like Christmas morning and watched the rest of us eat. I could see the wave of relaxation come with digestion and then his determination to try a few more desserts.

In the meantime, my older son was finishing off his fifth chocolate-dipped strawberry. Several more desserts later, both kids had the look of a satisfied child–knowing that they had gotten the experience of choosing and eating exactly what they wanted.

We should all be so lucky to know satisfaction so deeply and so simply.

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