Make These Cute Holiday Desserts and Feel Better Instantly

What is it about parenting and holidays that has us wanting to make adorable pumpkin-muffin turkeys like these? Or sugar-cone tepee treats likes these? And, did you know you could create delectable, bite-size Plymouth Rock cookies that every child will love? It’s true.

My own bout with making food items that tip the cuteness scale started back when my son was about two. We’d just moved to Berkeley, California, from Boston for my husband’s year-long, academic sabbatical, and I’d left my job to stay home with our toddler and prepare for our next baby. One morning, compelled by a force beyond my control, I started decorating our son’s breakfast pancakes with a banana-slice smile, strawberry eyes, and red-grape nose. Never having been the crafty type, I wasn’t sure what had come over me.

But I was sure of this: My kid would never forget it. The love telegraphed through those strawberry eyes would infuse him with everlasting feelings of warmth and completeness. He would know from that banana smile that he was cherished. And, though he might not literally remember the grape noses, their underlying message of my steadfast love would seep into his unconscious and stay with him forever.

Or something like that. The truth is not only does he not recall those smiley-faced pancakes, he doesn’t even remember the house in Berkeley or anything about the year we lived there. Worse, now that he’s nearly nine and frequently voicing strong opinions (i.e., mouthing off), there are times when I’m not sure he senses the everlasting nature of my love for him or his own inner completeness. In hindsight, I’ve come to realize that sprucing up those pancakes was really about my needs, not his.

In part, I was compensating for the fact that they were Eggo pancakes, straight out of the box. But I was also making up for a harder truth — that I was an ambivalent new mom who didn’t want to spend every waking moment with her child. Though I loved my son madly, going to the weekday toddler tumbling class, wherein the parents were expected to do the Hokey Pokey too, made me want to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. So I stopped taking him to that class, sought more balance on the work-life continuum, and decorated the heck out of those pancakes to make up for it all.

I don’t think my experience is unique. With Thanksgiving nigh and the December holidays fast approaching, it seems that much of our frantic lead-up to this season — the crazed shopping and Martha-Stewart-esque wrapping and all-hours-of-the-night baking — are behaviors not unlike my urge to make those happy-faced pancakes.

Maybe the truth about all these adorable holiday foods is that they’re really just opportunities to atone for not living up to the image we have of our best selves. What we lack on the personal- and family-relations front all year can perhaps be made better, in some weird way, by whipping up a batch of Corny Cookies. To which I say, bring on the M&Ms and green fruit leather. It’s time to prepare an array of sweet-candy corn husks for the ones that I love. My family may not understand what a festooned pumpkin muffin has to do with self-forgiveness and eternal devotion, but I feel better already.