Dad Matters: Sappily Ever After

Dad Matters: Sappily Ever After

- in 2023 Editions, March 2023, Parenting

Breakfast is the best meal. It has the stickiest carbs, richest proteins, and —if you’re doing it right — enough coffee to wake Briar Rose.

Coincidentally, it’s also the only meal I’m qualified to cook. My kids have watched me burn pasta but my pancakes are like a prayer. My eggs benedict is a benediction. My bellinis are blessed.

Most importantly, whatever’s on our plates (waffles, an omelet, oatmeal,) we douse it in maple syrup.

And we take that syrup seriously in my family. I got that from my mom. I’ve only known her to be prissy about two things in her entire life — tea and maple syrup. If you give her some corn sludge in a plastic bottle with a squeeze top … well, she’ll pray for you.

My mother’s pretensions come honestly. She grew up in the village of Burton where farm-to-table was a short jaunt. I don’t know if she’s ever purchased a gallon of syrup from someone she didn’t know personally. And, yes, she bought it by the gallon. Pints are for hobbits.

My mom and I experienced drastically different childhoods. She sprouted an only child in the country — real country, not the suburbs disguised as rural. Her neighbors were mostly Amish families who might need to borrow their barn phone or rely on my grandpa as an ad hoc ambulance when a buggy wouldn’t be fast enough.

Meanwhile, I grew up in Garfield Heights – the third of between four and 400 kids, depending on how many cousins and friends were staying for dinner. But our childhoods were sweetened the same way.

I’d never considered what I put on my pancakes as a tradition, but what’s a tradition anyway? Something that you get from your predecessors that you pass along to your progeny. So, yeah, our tradition is sappy. 

Consequently, my family and I go to Lake Metroparks Farmpark every year for maple syrup weekend. We restock and learn about God’s favorite condiment.

“You collect the sap at the beginning of spring,” I tell them, as if I don’t give them the same monologue every year. “That’s when the sap starts flowing through its xylem – its tree veins. When we tap the trees, the buckets fill with sap – not enough to hurt the trees, just enough to share.”

My kids and I taste the sap. It’s barely sweeter than a swig of spring water. Then we watch outside as volunteers reduce the sap into syrup. Have you ever tasted just-boiled maple syrup? It’s warm and sugared without being treacly. The scent wafts into your nostrils and makes you think of waffles.

But it’s hard work to make. You need 40 quarts of sap to make a quart of syrup. That’s a lot of figurative blood and sweat and plenty of literal sap.

I’m not much for symbolism, but my mom’s parenting style could be described as maple syrup. She gave of herself – forty times more than we ever saw. But, by the time it reached us, all we noticed was a little extra sweetness.

So when I drizzle syrup on my kids’ breakfast, I’m sharing the blessings of nature, the traditions of generations, and giving them a little bit of myself and their grandma too.

And that’s all pretty sweet.

About the author

Jason Lea has a son, daughter, and a full-time job at the Mentor Public Library. He also blogs for Northeast Ohio Parent in his nonexistent free time. You can find this East-sider on Twitter at @jasonmarklea or read his blog at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *