Pass the Cheerios: How cereal helps me ease into adulthood

I grew up in a house divided by a centuries-long debate — is breakfast for dinner acceptable? My mom, my brothers and I were pro-breakfast for dinner. My dad was on the other side, where noon marked the end of waffles and sausage.  

My dad may have been outnumbered, but his opinion became law. Breakfast was banned from our dinner table. However, he failed to monitor our dinner eating habits when he traveled for business. When my dad left home for a couple of days every month or so, our house became a pro-breakfast-for-dinner paradise.

Pancakes and waffles became the traditional dinner whenever my dad had a meeting outside of town. “Dad’s not home tonight” was synonymous with “Do you want chocolate chips or blueberries in your pancake?” I always went with chocolate chips — obviously. 

Connie Dai | Senior Graphic Artist

When I was a child, I thought my dad was unaware of our controversial dinners. The whole meal felt secretive and fantastic. In hindsight, I now understand that breakfast was quick and easy for my mom to make while taking care of three children by herself. Shockingly, my dad did not care if we enjoyed bacon at night. 

As my brothers and I grew up, breakfast-for-dinner nights became fend-for-yourself nights. Code word for mom will not be making anyone anything tonight. 

While I wandered downstairs to construct my meal, I typically found my mom still partaking in the breakfast tradition, with a bowl of cereal in her hands. More times than not, I joined her. 

She now reminds me of how many times she called a bowl of cereal “dinner” in her early 20s — and how much she loves it.

In my sophomore year at Boston University, I decided to move off-campus — consequently removing myself from any dining plan. The idea of this sparked joy, as I was struggling to find meals I enjoyed from the dining hall. I also missed the freedom and fun of making my meal.

I love scouring my favorite sites for recipe inspiration, strolling around the local Trader Joe’s weekly, and taking the time to cook for myself. Never once in the year have I wished that I remained on a dining plan — as my brother warned me I would. 

Day after day, I make great meals, save the leftovers, pack lunches, prepare my breakfast and think nothing of it! It subconsciously fuels my personal feeling of independence and adulthood. I am truly self-sufficient! I am not sure if it is much of an accomplishment for a 20-year-old girl to be able to properly feed herself. Nonetheless, I am proud I can do it.

After a couple of weeks of building this “I am so righteous and responsible” attitude, I always hit a wall. Perhaps I spent the whole day studying for my midterm and couldn’t find the time to grocery shop. Between classes, work and my extracurricular activities, I sometimes found myself too tired to cook. Occasionally, whatever I planned to cook suddenly sounded unappetizing. 

No matter the situation, I end up awarding a bowl of cereal the title of my dinner.

My honey nut cheerios swimming around in a pool of almond milk never fails to humble me. It is a gracious reminder that I am still in that bizarre transition-to-becoming-an-adult phase. I am not sure if anyone really escapes that phase. Whether it is my mom enjoying her bowl of cereal, or my grandma, who I recall occasionally calling a nice serving of popcorn her dinner. Or my dad, who will never fall victim to breakfast for dinner, but will — in a fit of hunger — order take out when the dinner obligations land in his lap. 

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