Thursday, January 22, 2015

Latest Installment of "Mean Mom"

Brad analyzes the restocked pantry after every trip to Costco.

"I NEVER had crap like this in the house when I was growing up. NEVER."

By crap, he means granola bars, fruit snacks, and individually packaged chips and treats.

"Neither did I, but that's all for kids' lunches," I always reply. But that's not quite true. They break through the back door at the end of school each day claiming they're STARVING, and although I try to have a snack ready for them each day, that habit has been difficult to maintain while I've been in school myself. The three of them find their places at the desk, homework on the table and backpacks, lunchboxes, and shoes and socks scattered on the floor around their chairs. One of them, usually Hyrum, will kindly and quietly ask, "Mom, can I have a school snack?" More often than I should, I acquiesce. In that moment, all three of them bolt from their places and head for the pantry, returning to the table laden with Doritos and Nutter Butters instead of cucumbers and sliced apples.

I've let it slide more and more often over the past four semesters. I've let it slide so many times that I usually don't hesitate when they ask, and I rarely think about the healthy snacks I used to make them each day.

Until last week.

I spent my Tuesday morning wandering the aisles of Sam's Club (closer than Costco but not exactly the same), picking up bulk milk and bread, apples and spinach, cereal and pasta. And a few cases of snacks for "school lunches." I carefully unpacked the cases, with fruit snacks in one basket, granola bars in another, and chips and cookies in another. Brad came home for a quick PB and J while I was unpacking, and he repeated his annoyance: "I NEVER had crap like this in the house. NEVER." I hardly hear it any more. I kept discarding boxes and organizing all the "crap."

Kids came home a few hours later--same routine, different day. Little crinkly bags and wrappers littered the table as they did their homework before heading out to play. I didn't think anything of it.

Friday night, Brad and I came home from our date just before 9 pm. The little kids were in the family room, piled in blankets watching "Star Wars Rebels." I heard some quick scuffling as Micah called out, "You're home!" Brad hurried them upstairs while I turned off the TV and picked up blankets and pillows . . . and dozens of little crinkly bags and wrappers hurriedly hidden from parental view at the sound of the opening back door. Wrappers shoved under the coffee table and under the TV. Wrappers discarded in blankets and on top of pillows. I was annoyed. There would have to be consequences, I thought. Instead, I headed to bed.

Early Saturday morning, chores were in full swing. Lily and I wanted to watch "American Idol" while we cleaned the kitchen, so I returned to the mostly straight family room to look for the remote. Did I find the remote? Eventually, but only after discovering EVEN MORE little crinkly bags and wrappers shoved under couch cushions and in chairs. The annoyance from the night before was becoming something a little more intense. I headed downstairs to see if the remote had somehow accidentally ended up down there, and what do you think I found down there? EVEN MORE little crinkly bags and wrappers (and two apple cores and some discarded orange peels). We have very strict rules around here--no eating in the family room (which does get broken occasionally but is still enforced) and absolutely NO food in the basement. I wish I'd counted all of them, but if I were to guess, the estimate would be somewhere between 20 and 30. THIRTY????

That was it. Instead of exploding in a rage as I might have a tendency to do, I waited until all of the kids were busy and elsewhere, and I found the biggest garbage bag we have.

Notice anything unusual in the pantry?
Maybe you need me to zoom in a little.
No fruit snacks. No granola bars. No chips or treats or little crinkly bags or wrappers. None.

Micah walked by as I was working. Concerned, he asked, "Is that all garbage?" I had hoped to accomplish my task in solitude, but I was caught. I honestly answered, "I don't know, but they're all getting put away for a while." I walked him over to the crinkly pile on the kitchen counter, and without a word from me, I watched understanding and a touch of shame creep across his face.

Two weeks, I told them. It was all gone for two weeks.

Their lunches have been much the same:
A juice pouch, a sandwich, a fruit, a vegetable, and instead of a treat, a few Goldfish or pretzels or a little trail mix.

I thought there might be frustration when kids came home each day, what with no treats in their lunchboxes and no treats in the pantry. There have been no complaints, which really surprised this "mean mom." I haven't missed the wrappers everywhere, and I can reapportion the "treat" real estate in the pantry easily.

We may become that household of Brad's and my youth--that house without the crap. This may be just what I needed to refocus some energy on good after-school snacks, and the rest of that crap can go back to what it's supposed to be--a treat, which, by definition, means "an item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure."

Not something that Mom finds hidden in the crevices of the family room furniture on a daily basis.


  1. And think about all the money you will save not buying "crap" snacks.

  2. I hear you! We have EXACTLY the same problem. In fact, my hubby read this post before I did, and he sent me a link and said, "sounds like our house."

    1. I don't know what shocks me more--that someone else's kids are this sneaky or that Ryan reads my blog.

      It's Ryan reading my blog. By a loooooong way.

  3. Good for you! They will enjoy better health without all the crap.

  4. Well done, Jen. I'm afraid I let my kids eat too much crap when they were young, and now their eating habits are not the best. Not that I think it's good to entirely deprive them, either. But it seems like you are finding the right balance.