The art of giving up

Cupcakes with birthday candles, one in each

There is an art in parenting, I think, in recognising the time at which you would do better to stop. There's a time when it would be prudent to realise that continuing to do for your children is pointless, and just leave well enough alone.

I am a lousy judge of such a time.

Today was our youngest junior recipe tester's birthday. He has finally reached that all important age that will allow, nay compel, him to go to an institution of formal education next year. He has reached the ripe old age of five.

Unfortunately, the day dawned with him feeling a little average and so we decided he'd be better to stay away from his current place of education (preschool) and be at home. By the afternoon he had picked up significantly and I was beginning to wonder about the wisdom of having him at home after all. The myriad cupcakes I had cooked to take to preschool to share with his friends sat forlornly in a container on the bench. "No matter," I thought, "they can go tomorrow."

Birthdays signify choice of dinner. His wishes were accommodated and preparations were made. Given that he'd had an average start to the day, I reasoned we could make up for it with a celebratory dinner. By the time we sat down to said dinner, he was again looking a little peaky. We jollied him along, determined that we would have a fitting celebration.

Perhaps one bite into his dinner, he started to look miserable. We cut it up for him, valiantly highlighting the most delicious features that he had, after all, selected. It didn't take long before he began to cry. His feet were itchy. With not the first clue on how to remedy itchy feet, the senior recipe tester and I focused on what we could do: conduct a celebratory birthday dinner.

I offered to assist him by feeding him, and he agreed. The itch, and therefore the tears, intensified which resulted in gagging. Some dinner landed back on the plate. Other bits went other places.

I consider myself fairly determined. We ploughed on with increasingly shrill chatter about how exciting it was to be five. There were new adventures to have, delicious dinners, such as the one in front of you, to eat, a new bike to ride, and perhaps just another few mouthfuls would help you make it to six.

Eventually, he howled that he wanted to go to bed.

There is an art to knowing the moment at which to give up. I am a lousy judge of that moment. Tomorrow, we will take cupcakes to the doctor.