For R. & L., who are ready to pop any day now, and for M.’s sister in March.
HB and I were lugging our bulging baby bag and baby to the park one day when he was about 11 months old when we saw a dad climb out of his car with his undiapered, upright-walking, speech-enabled sons of 6 and 9. (Ages given in years.) This father had a bottle of water in his hands. His cell phone was in his back pocket. And that was all.
It blew our foggy, somebody-in-the-house is-teething, sleep-deprived little minds.
“Did you see–all he has–one bottle? of water!?!” HB sputtered.
Whereas our diaper bag that day also doubled as our earthquake preparedness kit. Where was that man’s extra diaper, extra set of clothes, sweater in case it got cold, hat, wholesome whole wheat cracker spread with sugarless organic soy nut butter snack, carefully julienned non-choking grapes, orthodontically-correct sippy of fresh spring water, log of string cheese nestled next to the cold pack so nothing perishable would decay and poison our child with botulism, earth-friendly wipes for hands and butt, phthalate-free teething thingie so dog-poop coated stick or random rock from the great outdoors would not be used, giant poncho for discreet public nursing/staying warm while chest is largely naked, snack-sized bags of pretzels for low-blood sugar mommies and daddies who forgot to eat (and hungry nursing mommies), and giant, hip, multi-pocketed diaper bag??
(We might as well have had a solar powered/hand-cranked radio, some flares, a thermal blanket, and a propane stove in the damn bag too.)
Back then we wondered: was it true that parenting eventually became less like being your child’s personal sherpa (on this day the Cutie Nubbin was accompanied by TWO personal sherpas) and more, well…like normal human existence?
I laugh and point and make fun, my friends, only because I AM THAT PARENTING CLICHE. I have so been there. I have so lugged that diaper bag up everest. And labored to buy and make Politically Nutritionally Correct snacks. (Still do.)
Anyway, the memo I’m referring to is a simple truism of parenting that is so powerful it has become my religion.
SMALL CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF 6 REALLY DO NEED A SNACK EVERY 2.5 TO 3 HOURS OR SO. That works out to 5 small meals a day.
Pediatric nutritionists will say it over and over in their books. Small kids with small stomachs simply cannot eat enough at one meal spaced at 6 am, noon, then 6 pm to adequately sustain a level of blood sugar that makes them tolerable. Oops, I mean, that is enough to sustain their high-metabolizing, fast-growing bodies.
Yet I’m always surprised at how often I see parents with small children and those parents do not have a snack anywhere on their person. Not that correlation is evidence of causation, but later I notice those same children whining, crying, falling apart, losing their shit, screaming, or otherwise unhappy. They are often having a low-blood sugar moment, in addition to being trying because their little brains are missing important things like judgment, impulse control, and the understanding of cause and effect. (Low blood-sugar, then meltdown. CAUSATION!! CAUSATION!!) Did these empty-handed parents not get the memo? Did they get the memo but then mistakenly believe it only applies to infants and not toddlers/preschoolers too?
Immature brain: can do nothing. only time helps that one.
Low blood sugar: GIVE THAT CHILD A DECENT SNACK. And I don’t mean a donut.
It also works nicely on cranky parents. Feeling an unreasonable amount of rage at being asked a nonsensical question with no logical answer for the THOUSANDTH time? Eat a snack, take the edge off. Yes, the unending nonsensical interrogation by a three-foot tall Samuel Beckett character is unreasonable, but it’s not worth World War III.
Now this is where I believe parents have to own parenting. By that I mean, as the one wearing the watch, as the one who is able to tell time, MAKE A NOTE OF WHEN YOUR CHILD LAST ATE and offer a small meal 2.5-3 hours later. I’m not saying that kiddie meltdown is your fault. Lordy no. (Do I want hate mail?) But I am saying, do yourself a favor and HEAD OFF THAT MELTDOWN AT THE PASS. That part is on you.
And don’t forget to have a snack yourself, in between wiping drooling chins, scrubbing the floor underneath the high chair, whipping out your boob for the umpteenth time that day, or hosing down the high chair tray (or letting your dog scrub it with his tongue–I make no judgments).
I didn’t say, have a slice of cheesecake or five. I said, have the same nutrient dense, healthful snack you’d give your kid. Portion control for you, the adult. If your kid is moved to eat a thousand brussel sprouts as his snack, well, go ahead and let that freak of nature happen. You, you lucky thing, you can have a handful of brussel sprouts.
I’m convinced we’d be that much closer to world peace if only we could convince everyone on the planet to stop and have a whole wheat cracker smeared with organic soy nut butter, some hummus with pita, or a slice of cheese and a handful of almonds at key moments during the day.
Enjoy your darlings. You’re going to be fine.