Donuts saved us. Well, we weaponized donuts to save ourselves.
When I was on the hunt to find the right senior care community for my mother (Mimi to our kids), Lindsay and I toured bunches of communities. Not knowing what to expect on the first one, we brought the kids along. What a mistake.
It was a Saturday morning, Lindsay and I both wanted to be there and we couldn’t find a babysitter. Ever brought young kids furniture shopping? It was like that but worse. Our daughters are generally well behaved but on this day they were heathens–on the edge of losing their minds at every turn. Due to some sort of miracle, I didn’t lose mine so we had that going for us.
The point of contention between our lovely daughters that day was a donut. Yep. There was a small kitchenette just off to the side of the main lobby of this assisted living facility. As we were walking in the front doors it took Emma (our middle, 7 years old at the time) less than a second to spot the purple and orange of the Dunkin Donuts box on the counter of the kitchenette. It was some serious donut radar. “Can we have a donut?!?!” she yelled enthusiastically as her hands were touching at least half the contents of the box. Her sisters quickly joined in the chorus. “Sure” was our response as we looked over our shoulders to see who saw Emma mangling every donut in the box to find the one she wanted. .
We’d just been out to breakfast but thought the donuts might pacify them ….and give us a shot at making the tour a good use of our time. Wishful thinking. There was only one chocolate covered donut in the box–promptly setting off WWIII between the girls. Who gets a dozen donuts and only includes one chocolate covered? That’s beside the point I guess. We muscled through the tour and the captive sales pitch by the well meaning community sales rep and got out of there. Lindsay and I swore that we’d never make that mistake again.
Kids Get Bored
Looking back it’s funny to recall how quickly the receptionist’s face went from a warm and welcoming smile to looking like she was choking back the scent inside a port-o-potty on a hot summer day. Ultimately we didn’t choose that facility for Mom (not out of embarrassment…I swear) but as luck would have it, donuts and other baked goods in common areas are a regular occurrence at most assisted living communities on the weekends. So we’ve learned.
There’s only so much for the kids to do at one of these places. They love Mimi and enjoy spending time with her but she’s not as engaging with them as she once was because of her condition. While sad if I let myself dwell on it too long, it’s the reality and it’s not going to stop me from having the kids visit regularly.
Boredom is Annoying
Shortly after we got Mom moved in, it was time for the kids first visit to Mimi’s new home. Knowing the donut situation at her community and still scarred by our maiden voyage with the kids, we had a family meeting. About donuts. The message was simple: “Don’t expect a donut every time we visit Mimi”.
On the first visit, it worked for about 10 minutes before the dreaded boredom set in. At that age, the words “I’m bored” are contagious like a virus–as soon as one utters the word the others are infected. Wanting to help Mom move some stuff around her apartment I handed over my phone for them to watch a burst of Netflix. That kept them busy but defeated the purpose of the visit. Their noses were in a screen instead of hanging with Mimi. Can’t win.
Tool for the Job
In the grand scheme, this was a small thing but it hung around in my head. I was annoyed and a bit sad. Why can’t they just sit and visit and enjoy? It means so much to Mom. It means so much to me….but they were 10, 7, and 5 years old. That’s why. I needed to think of something.
It was important to me to set the precedent that visiting Mimi was just part of what we do–just like it always had been. I thought about it and came up with a plan–to weaponize donuts.
The next morning, a Sunday, I declared we were going to see Mimi after church. All of us. And the girls could all have a donut. Under certain conditions.
- They’d receive their donut after we’d been there for 15 minutes
- They’d eat their donut while hanging out and talking with Mimi
- Anything less would revoke donut privileges
That was the deal. Feeling just a touch (seriously not a lot) guilty for the straight up bribery, I tied all of this to the moral of “Have You Filled a Bucket Today” by Carol McCloud. Giving Mimi attention and telling her about your day or asking about hers makes her feel good and makes her happy. This should make you happy.
Do You Believe in…Donuts?
Nothing short of a miracle, that Sunday’s visit was awesome. The kids were ‘present’ with Mimi the whole time. She LOVED it. I loved it. It was fantastic all around.
I’m not too proud to say that donuts have become a commonly used tool during Mimi visits. But the result has been worth it. When we’re there, it’s great, engaged, quality time between the kids and Mimi.
Mom’s different now but seeing her face light up and stay lit throughout the visit gives me a feeling that’s indescribable.
As for the kids, I’m proud of them and appreciative. So what if it took weaponizing donuts to get there.