When my daughter Sarah finished her first full year of preschool at age four, it was time to celebrate. I let her decide between a trip to a nearby park or homemade ice cream sundaes, but I breathed an inward sigh of relief when she chose the sundaes. It was one of those ridiculously hot afternoons in late May when spring plays hooky and lets summer take over.
First came ice cream, then chocolate sauce. Just a dab of sauce for me, a little more for Sarah. Why not—we were celebrating, right? Then whipped cream in a can. Sarah giggled when the spray cream made its usual silly noise as it billowed magically onto her sundae.
“How do they squeeze the cream into that can?” she asked.
“I have no idea,” I answered, thinking to myself that I really didn’t want to know. I reached up into the cupboard for the rainbow sprinkles.
Sarah, who had been sitting on the kitchen counter watching me build the sundaes, stretched past me and grabbed a plastic jar. “I want this kind.”
Thinking she had recognized her beloved rainbow sprinkles on the shelf, I didn’t take time to check the bottle she gave me. I just unscrewed the cap and shook the jar generously over her sundae. I took a hard pass on the sprinkles, so I secured the lid and put the jar back in the cupboard while I made sure my daughter got down from the counter safely. She busied herself rifling through the silverware drawer for her favorite spoons with Snoopy® heads on the handles, all the while belting out the “Teamwork” song from the Wonder Pets program that was starting on the TV in the living room.
I carried our sundaes carefully to the plastic mat we had spread on the carpet in front of the TV—and that was when the calamity happened.
I bit into my ice cream, relishing the cold, delicious bliss, and expecting a sigh of contentment from my daughter as she tasted her perfectly decadent sundae.
“Mommy!” Sarah wailed. “It’s yucky! It tastes like … sh—” She gagged, then started sobbing.
“Sarah! What’s wrong?”
“It tastes like …” Another gag. “Sugar!”
In preschool, Sarah had learned more than how to count to ten and distinguish her colors, which had resulted in a few serious discussions and word substitutions at our house, and I knew my distraught little girl wasn’t talking about the sweet white crystals I stirred into my coffee every morning.
“Oh … don’t cry … let me see.” I took the sundae from her, and after one sniff, I knew. “Sarah, I put garlic on your ice cream!”
“Garlic is awful!” my daughter sniffled. “You ruined my sundae!”
My heart sank. I had wanted to make a perfect celebration sundae for Sarah. A sighted mom would never have mistaken rainbow sprinkles for minced garlic. For that matter, I would never have mistaken rainbow sprinkles for minced garlic if I had taken an extra second to feel the shape of the bottle and sniff its contents. But I’d been so sure Sarah would recognize her sprinkles and hand them to me, I’d cut corners, and now I’d ruined her sundae, ruined her celebration, ruined everything. She didn’t deserve this.
“Mom?” Sarah said in a small voice as she took my hand. “You look sad. We can get more ice cream.”
“Sure we can.” I smiled, jolted out of my pity party. This was an easy fix. I set my dish of melting ice cream on the TV stand where my guide dog couldn’t get it and carried Sarah’s garlic sundae back to the kitchen. We rinsed the evidence of our goof-up down the sink, built a new sundae, complete with a generous helping of rainbow sprinkles, and settled down to watch the Wonder Pets save the day with teamwork.
Even now, five years later, we laugh about garlic sundaes when the topics of miscommunication or cooking disasters come up. Because guess what? Mistakes aren’t the end of the world—not just for moms whose eyes don’t work, but for everybody. Mistakes are nothing more than glitches to be gotten through and gotten over. My daughter and I both learned a lot from that garlic sundae—about grace and teamwork, about bouncing back and remembering what really matters, and about how chocolate ice cream and rainbow sprinkles can make any situation a little better.