I know there’s a huge difference between my childhood and my children’s childhood but I’m still having a hard time coming around to the whole “snack” thing.
We just got back from a lovely beach vacation and I am not sure how much money we spent on snacks for our kids between the drive to the beach, sitting on the beach, and other vacation lounging but it was a lot.
Looking back on it, I thought more about what to get for their snacks than I did their actual meals.
I know at school and daycare, their snacks are regimented. But on vacation (and in the car, traveling), it was basically the Wild West of Snacking.
At one point in the vacation (and after they ate $25 worth of snacks in the car on the drive down), I turned to Nat and asked, “Did you eat snacks in the car growing up?” And he said, “No.” (It was a brief exchange because he was probably busy in the kitchen getting food for the kids, an activity that constituted 75% of our vacation.)
Growing up, we didn’t eat snacks in the car and we definitely did not have iPads so we had to sit there and starve and look out the window. FOR HOURS.
My memories are of my mom pulling out those pre-packaged peanut butter crackers or a lint-covered mint from her purse whenever I would complain of starvation and that would be it. My mother was not packing up bags of apple slices and water bottles and dried apricots for a car ride. No sir.
Meanwhile, my kids have something like 14 water bottles between the two of them.
I got my first water bottle at 20.
How did this automatic dishing out of small food stuffs become such a huge part of parenting? A friend today was saying it’s pavlovian. That once they get in the car, they automatically become hungry (because somewhere along their development, we all made the terrible error of introducing food in the car). It’s also practical: We packed a lot of snacks for the beach because we didn’t want to be bothered by their whining on top of catering to their every whim (sand castle building! Hole digging! Wave jumping! Swimming! Boogie boarding!).
Snacking it also a way to take a break. As in, after 30 minutes of digging numerous holes in the sand that would immediately wash away, you can say, “Hey, let’s go eat a snack.”
Speaking of Pavlovian instincts, I spent so much time in their very early lives making sure they ate enough and were full that if they now tell me they are hungry, I automatically go and get them food like a loving Zombie because that is what parents do. We feed them. But now I’m seeing what I sowed: It’s children walking around in an almost-constant state of whining that they are hungry.
Are we raising children to be constant snackers? Because we have no willpower to say no to them? Does the snacking end when they get older or will I forever be packing bags of Pirate Booty and water bottles in the car until they go to college? Every time they now get in a car, will their stomach constantly scream to their brain, “WHERE THE FUCK ARE THE CHEESE STICKS!” until they die of obesity?
Until then: Snacks.