When I became a mother I knew the role would require me to fulfill certain tasks, but I never realized how it would be a full-time job keeping my children satiated. Children everywhere around me appeared to be hungry at all times and it was a given that I should prevent my kids from understanding what hunger felt like. As I looked around and learned from other parents in my environment, I came to understand that full stomach = good and forgetting to load diaper bag with equivalent to wartime food drop = bad. Being hungry – even for a second – was not an option. Emergency provisions were to be available and within arms reach at all times, and upon landing on Earth, aliens from galaxies far and beyond would believe that human children were born attached to bright plastic bowls of toasted O’s. The message was clear: If you’re even thinking about becoming a parent, start clipping snack cracker coupons now.
I was guilty of Unnecessary Snacks for many years. When my daughter was an infant I went through several hundred diapers, a breast pump or two, 4 strollers, and 16, 229 zip-sealed snack bags. I had several bags in various states of fullness on me at any given time. I couldn’t go anywhere without my glasses, my wallet, or sliced grapes and dry cereal.
When I decided to stop the snack madness I started slowly and tentatively, because I didn’t want to cause an unbridled crisis. I limited our initial “snack-free” outings to a 5 foot safety-zone, by first venturing to the living room without our standard tag-a-long cooler of yogurt tubes. Then we tried going to the park with only one snack and a water bottle. It worked! No one perished and when my son said “I’m hungry!” 10 minutes after the breakfast dishes were cleared, I responded with “Hi, Hungry! I’m Jeni and it’s nice to meet you.”
Why are we so afraid of hunger? We live in one of the wealthiest countries on this blue spinning ball, and for most people who live here, food scarcity is not an issue. I certainly don’t advocate a starvation diet for children (or anyone for that matter) but what is with this notion that our children must be completely topped-up full at all times? Are snacking crackers and banana slices the new Mother’s Little Helper? The hardest words for some parents to say are not “I’ll be right down with bail money,” but “You can wait until dinner.”
Reasonable snacks are just that – reasonable. I enjoy snacking as much as the next person but it doesn’t need to become the focus of an outing and if your child is old enough and physically capable of eating three meals and a reasonable snack per day then I think (even without medical credentials) that it is probably okay to let them wait for food for up to three-hour intervals. My son has asked for “something to eat” three times since breakfast today and it’s from boredom, not genuine hunger. I know this because when I offered the option of raw onions or dry bread he disappeared back outside. Real hunger would have taken a raw onion sandwich and it would have liked it. Fingers to mouth is almost a reflex now, but I’m making him wait until noon when he can instead feel the weight of a fork in his hand.
I AM A MANIAC, AND I AM SICK WITH POWER.
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