My kids love snacks. On the go, I stock my bag with a variety of treats to rival the selection at a convenience store. At home, I'm pestered for snacks before, during, and after meals. My husband can attest that as soon as we've cleaned up from a meal, my kids are asking for snacks. There is always a dish to wash, a yogurt container to toss, or a bag of cookies to resist because I'm constantly serving and cleaning up from snacks.
So, when I read an article about ways to simplify life with kids and the first tip was to do away with snacks, it had my attention. Had the author hidden a camera in my home? It sure felt that way. She wrote:
"Does your child complain at meal time? Is he picky? Do your kids snack all day? Do you spend all your time in the kitchen? Then just stop snacks for a while. When things start to spiral around here, I cut out snacks. My kids don’t go hungry, they just actually eat during meal time. And then, wait for it, they appreciate my cooking and the hard work that goes into it."
But, how do I cut out the snacks? I'm not disagreeing with her advice. I think she's right, and I'd like to support snack abstinence, but I want to know how the hell to actually do it. As I write this, my three-year-old and almost-two-year-old are literally eating snacks. It's what lets me steal 20 minutes of (still interrupted) time to write, pay bills, or send emails.
If I wasn't always preparing and cleaning up their mini-meals, maybe I'd have more time to take care of this stuff anyway, so I'm game for trying, but I'll ask again. How? Do I do it cold turkey? Do I somehow wean them? Am I supposed to create a damn reward chart for this behavior modification, too?
This is the thing with a lot of parenting advice. It sounds great on paper, but it's still up to us parents to figure out how to implement it in a way that works for our families. What this really means is that parenting is all trial and error.
For instance, I'm sure you've heard the advice to offer toddlers choices to encourage their cooperation with what you want them to do. I've done this; I do this. Nine times out of 10, my three-year-old makes up a third, ridiculous option. "Darling, do you want to wear the pink pants or the blue ones?" "I don't want to wear pants." We're back to square one, and I'm ad-libbing just to get a freaking pair of pants on the kid.
It's the same with the snacks — I say no to them, especially when dinner time is near. In fact, on the day I first used the phrase, "No, you'll spoil your dinner," I clutched my neck to make sure a pearl necklace hadn't magically appeared from a 1950s housewife fairy, asking myself, "How did it come to this?" But, when my kids are hungry, they are hangry, and this makes it extra hard to hold steady against the snacks.
They are little and learning impulse control, and they become animals foraging for food. They will climb on the counters to open cabinets. They will rummage through my bag for the snack stash. They will pull on my shirt and hang on my leg until their needs are met. They don't understand the irony that correcting their wild behavior delays me in getting any kind of food in front of their faces. They just want their damn snacks.
While some of you may be nodding your head in solidarity, I'm sure others are shaking it in disapproval, so I'll pause here to let you judge my kids' and my behavior. Go ahead. Take your time. It won't bother me because I know that my kids are sweet, well-intentioned, active, and healthy, and I know my husband and I are raising them well. We live by the motto "Everything in moderation," and they're not overindulged.
I also know that I like snacks, too. I get hungry between meals, and there's nothing better than a good snack that hits just the right spot. So, maybe I'm not cut out for cutting out the snacks, even if I'm shooting myself in the foot in the long run. I'll eventually figure out how to rein in their requests or just ride out this phase like all of the others before it. We'll see how it goes. Parenting is full of little choices like this, and the only judgment that matters is our own.