The two Lindt chocolate bars have been sitting on the kitchen counter for a week. By my count, they’ve each been sniffed, held, gazed at, and slobbered over by my children at least six thousand times. It was a long wait, but that wait is over.
The chocolate gene had been passed to them by me and then multiplied tenfold. My kids love chocolate. And they adore Lindt chocolate. Which makes it the perfect reward for a job well done, whether it be a good report card or the completion of a few extra chores.
Or in this case, the end of a school year.
So when they pretty-pleased me at the store a while back, I said sure. On one condition—they had to wait until the last day of school to eat them.
The motion was carried and passed with the stipulation that the candy bars not sit in the cabinet until that time. The kids wanted them out in the open. Eating them was one thing, they said. Savoring them would be better. That way, it would almost be like they could eat them twice, once with their eyes and once with their mouths.
Today is the magical day. Last day of school, first chance to eat the chocolate. My son tried to convince me that morning that a candy bar would make a fantastic breakfast. My daughter agreed, using the good-not-great argument that chocolate is technically part of the dairy group. No dice. Wait until the afternoon, I said. At snack time. It’ll be perfect.
My son may have been the only child in history to start the last day of school crying. Not because it was the last day of school, but because he couldn’t start it with a candy bar in his stomach.
But he muddled through, of course. My daughter, too. And when they arrived home happy to begin two months of homework-free life, they were even more happy to know they could kick it off in style—on the front porch with sugar.
Which was when the trouble began.
Snacks are an important part of my daughter’s daily life. As a diabetic, she needs small meals between bigger ones to keep her insulin where it needs to be. A little chocolate in the afternoon does just fine. Assuming her sugar isn’t high.
And on that last day of school, it was high. Very. With all the emotion involved in saying a temporary goodbye to friends and teachers, her body was thrown out of whack.
The good news was that she was home and thus better able to cope. The bad news was she couldn’t eat her candy bar.
My son, however, was in the clear. He could eat all he wanted. And after spending a week sniffing and slobbering over the chocolate bar on the kitchen counter and being denied it by his mean father that morning, he was hungry for it. He deserved it. And he was free to eat it. He had the right.
He snatched the candy bar and headed toward the porch, hands raised in victory. But his one-person parade route took him past his sister, who sat on the sofa teary-eyed.
The two locked eyes for a long and moment. Nothing was said between them. Plenty was thought.
My daughter was thinking about how wrong it was that she had to suffer through such little moments of big unfairness. After all, she’d waited just as long for her candy bar. It wasn’t her fault that she was sick, that her pancreas didn’t work right and so she was doomed to forever be a slave to her body.
And my son was thinking of that unfairness, too. That just as she was powerless sometimes, he was powerless to help her. But just because he couldn’t fix things forever didn’t mean he couldn’t fix them for a little while. Pain is more easily borne when it’s divided in two.
“I don’t want this now,” he said. “I’m gonna wait until later when we can eat them together.”
All that happened a few hours ago. Things are better now. Both of them are in the rocking chairs on the front porch. Their dinner was good. Their dessert is better—chocolate bars. I can hear them talking and laughing, and it makes me nod and smile.
I have good kids.
One is strong enough to endure what she cannot understand, to take her lumps as they’re given and then get up and play and laugh and dream afterward.
The other is strong enough to know that sometimes having the right and the freedom to do something doesn’t mean you should.