“We’re hungry. Do we have any Ritz crackers?”
“No Ritz. We have Wheat Thins, pretzels, cereal bars, popcorn, fruit… carrots. What would you like?”
“How about smoothies? Or maybe you can take us for ice cream? And can Lisa stay for dinner?”
“Can’t you eat something here? How about walnuts and dried cranberries? And Lisa can’t stay because you have basketball practice at 6pm.
“What about mac and cheese? We would both like some, please. We’re going outside. Let us know when it’s ready. Thanks!”
And so goes the back and forth banter between my daughter and her parents about the post-school snack. With a friend over at least three days a week, my 13-year old offers our entire kitchen in an effort to entertain the starving masses of her middle school.
With us serving as personal chefs, drivers and apple slicers (with honey or peanut butter on the side, of course), my daughter pulls out all the drawer stops, emptying our shelves of everything nutritious or not. Mi pantry es tu pantry.
Yes, there are still after-school cookies and milk though more likely the milk is almond and the cookies are gluten-free. With the Food Network on 24/7 and every bite on Instagram, our children are no longer satisfied with some Oreos from a box. They want 30-minute meals around the clock.
While I eat leftovers for lunch and my wife tries a new Greek yogurt, the kids engage in a neighborhood snack competition. If one mom is making homemade granola, then my wife better come up with homemade lemon squares. Gelato on Tuesday at Gigi’s means pizza at our house on Wednesday. And we’re left holding the crumb-filled bags.
One day, as I jumped off a conference call to pick up my daughter at a friend’s house, the cell phone rang.
“Dad, when you get here, can you take us to Pinkberry? Lizzy really wants some frozen yogurt. We can drop her back at home after.”
“Where’s Lizzy’s mom?” (I mean, this is Lizzy’s house. She has snacks today.)
“She’s out. Let me know when you’re here so we can be ready. Love you daddy!”
What the heck is going on? She expects me to pick her up from a friend’s, take them for overpriced yogurt with toppings (on the other side of town) and then drop her friend back home all because her friend is in the mood for Pinkberry? Do I have “schmuck” written across my forehead? (Please don’t answer that.)
And it’s not only snack time that needs to be one from Column A and two from Column B. They want choice for dinner, as well. My wife is one of those soon-to-be extinct moms that actually cooks supper, and does it well. Soup to nutty quinoa.
But for my gastronomically savvy girls, why exist on meat and potatoes when spicy tuna rolls are just a phone call away? Or maybe a quick trip for tacos and quesadillas? After all, who doesn’t like a nightly fiesta?
When I was a kid, my mom made pot roast and lamb chops, veal cutlets and roast chicken. And that was just the beginning of the week. We had fresh vegetables and salads, oven-baked potatoes and rice pilaf. Nothing from a box except for Saturday nights when my parents went out and we begged for TV dinners.
And we ate it all – or at least faked it – because what was on the table was our dinner. Period. No popping things in the microwave or dialing with dollars from dad. No ransacking the refrigerator racks. No discussion, no debate, no dinner for one. It was all or nothing. Eat it or leave it.
Maybe this year, we’ll put our foot down… and not on the gas pedal toward another food run. Instead, we will step away from the suburban snack-time smorgasbord of overindulgence and push-over parents, returning to the days when cookies and milk and an episode of Batman was as good as it gets. Wouldn’t that be sweet?
(Ah, who am I kidding? I love those snacks from Trader Joes as much as the kids. Kids, get in the car! There’s a Robeks right next door.)