Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mom Magic

Ben is part turtle. Have I mentioned this? If he stays up late, I have to wake him in the morning, and watch as his head retreats from his pillow, disappearing under the mounds of blanket shell on his bed. This is usually just a winter problem, but rainy school days are a close second when it comes to not wanting to get up.

Wednesday morning he was a snapping turtle: when I lovingly whispered, "Ben, honey, time to get up," I was greeted with "Mom, get OUT!" before his vanishing act. He didn't even open his eyes.

I could hear the rain beating on the roof. The thermometer said it was 48 degrees outside. Inside, I was thankful that I didn't have to go anywhere. In fact, I could even go back to bed after the kids left if I wanted to. That is to say, I felt his pain. So I knew that if I was going to get Ben out of bed, it was going to take bribery.

My husband likes to try to tempt Ben with a race: who can get dressed faster? Sometimes he'll ask Ben to feed some scraps to Bailey the dog, something Ben loves to do. But this morning, Ben was unresponsive to any and all attempts to lure him.

It was time to pull out the big guns.

Usually, when it comes to bribing Ben, all you need is something sweet. But it was also rainy and cold, so it would have to be something sweet and warm. Honey Combs weren't going to cut it, and neither was peanut butter on toast. No, it was time for GIANT PANCAKES WITH SYRUP.

Of course, with 30 minutes until the bus and Ben still under the covers, there was no time for even Bisquick. So I pulled out some big, fluffy pancakes I had made on the weekend and froze for just such an occasion. Four minutes in the toaster oven, and breakfast was served.

He chowed, I packed his lunch, he brushed his teeth, I gathered his coat and shoes and he was out the door right on time with a smile on his face and a big hug for me.

Yes, it was a shortcut. But like all moms, I choose my battles and cut corners where necessary. And I learned long ago that, with Ben, when the going gets tough, it helps to have a sweet trick up your sleeve to get the tough going.

Funny thing is, I was never much of a magician until I became a mom. I guess discovering new things about yourself is just one more part of the magic of parenthood.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dessert Police

When I was a kid, cookies were always kept in the house. Sunshine Hydrox, my dad's favorite, never ran out, and much to the delight of my brother and me, were kept in an easy-access cupboard. Maybe my mom thought this would promote our self-restraint. After all, we knew the rules: dessert AFTER dinner. Only TWO cookies apiece. Got it.

But once I became a teenager and life got harder, nabbing four (or five or six) Hydrox cookies after school or after dinner (or both) seemed to help my mood. Not that it helped my teeth--they were filled with cavities before I went to college. The lesson I learned was that you can't keep sweets in my house and expect me to have any restraint.

Today, I try to impart to my children the lesson I *should* have learned. That is, we have a limit of two cookies because more than that is unhealthy for your teeth and your body. This is why we don't get dessert every night, and when we do, it's usually a small treat. Some might say I'm pretty strict about desserts today. (OK, maybe just my kids would say that.) But I'm starting to think they have good reason.

One recent evening at a scout meeting, snack time rolled around. One of the dads was in charge this week, and he put a package of individual cookie packs on the table that was surrounded by eight or nine kids. The package had Nutter Butters, Oreos and Chips Ahoy cookie packs in it, and I think it was expected that each boy would take one package. Notice, I say "expected" and not instructed.

I watched as my son took a package of Oreos (six cookies to a pack), each of the other boys also took a package, and then some also grabbed a second. One actually was stuffing the first pack in his mouth and had two more packages in front of him. His mom was chatting with the other moms, and I wouldn't be surprised if his goal was to eat as many cookies as he could before being discovered and stopped. He is seven, after all.

Once I got Ben to give up his Oreo pack after we negotiated that he could have three cookies, I went around the table and told all the other boys "one package per scout." When they protested, I turned to the room of moms and said, in a voice that I thought was rhetorical, "Hey Moms, would any of you object to your boys eating 10 to 12 cookies tonight?"

They kind of hemmed and hawed, but no one really answered.

Maybe they didn't get my joke. Maybe their not as fanatic about dessert rules as I am. But I was surprised to get barely a reaction to my question, and so I told the boys "one package each unless your mom tells you differently," and left it at that.

Don't get me wrong. I'm sure Ben would have eaten as many packages of cookies as he could have if I hadn't been standing there, and would later have complained of a stomach ache. But That's OK. I'll take the 'bad mommy' rap now, if it means that my kids will learn self-restraint, and that I can be there to point out when they exhibit it. Maybe I'm depriving them of cookies, but I hope I'm giving them some useful tools in their stead.

If nothing else, it means less vomit for me to clean up while they're young.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It's A Grill Thing

I've come to believe that kids are born knowing things instinctively, and adults later prove them correct through research studies and testing that requires a lot of money. Take grilled meat, for instance. My kids--carnivores both--have an aversion to any meat cooked this way. They love hot dogs, cheeseburgers, steak and sausage. Unless it's cooked on the grill. Then, they're asking for leftover pasta instead.

At first I thought maybe it was the smoky flavor they objected to, making the food taste, well, different from what it usually tasted like. But on further interrogation, it turns out they don't like the grill marks. This is not a visual thing; they don't like the charred flavor that grilled meat takes on, and any sign of grill marks will send them running for a knife and some ketchup. Jacob sometimes refuses outright to eat grilled food.

"Great," I thought, "another day in the life of irrationally picky eaters." But as it turns out, apparently they know something I didn't: that eating a lot of grilled meat actually increases our risk of getting cancer.

I'm not saying my kids are brilliant, or even that this isn't coincidence. But Ben has eschewed processed food since he was born, and would rather eat a bowl of steamed spinach than a plate of onion rings or chicken nuggets. Like most busy moms, having ready-made foods that don't take long to cook is something I've come to rely on. When you're rushing from piano lessons to boy scouts, and picking up kids at tennis and wiffle ball, the one thing you always run out of is time. Unfortunately, for most families that lost time is taken from time spent on meal preparation. So we cut corners on the very fuel our kids need to do their best in all of these activities.

What it means to me is that I need to budget my time better. That way, I can do all the things I need to do during the day, including smart, healthy meal planning.

Parents complain about their kids' eating habits, but maybe our kids are really trying to tell us something important. What makes my picky eaters easier to live with is this: the foods they are turning up their noses at are actually the foods that aren't really that good for them anyway.

Well, except for dessert. Hey, they are kids, after all.