Maybe your kids aren’t like this, but mine seem to always want something.
It’s Book Fair week at the school, so every day, we’ve had a request for books. I am not opposed to buying books (obviously; you should see our overstuffed shelves) but I’d like to be there to see what they pick out. Phil and I will take a spin through the book fair on parents’ night to find them something they want because I’m not a monster and books are my weakness.
Also, they always want food! I mean it’s not enough that I provide three meals a day, but the snacking is a major deal. Especially now that they’re both in school all day. I knew on the first day of school that they would be hungry when they got home, so I let them pick out a special snack from a couple of cookbooks and we bought what we needed and I made them their special snack.
It was a hit! And then they wanted a special snack the next day! And I knew there was no way I could keep up this streak for 180 days, so I had to come up with a plan. Could I give them a snack every day and make it special without busting our grocery budget or spending a ton of time on it?
The entire first week, one of their first questions off the bus was, “Did you make us a snack?”
There was such hope in the question that I couldn’t say “no” and disappoint them.
But then came a week where we had a bunch of responsibilities and planning a snack, in addition to planning food for church events, and food for our own meals, was too much. So, I tried an experiment. I made a “special” snack from stuff we had in the house that wasn’t very special at all! (P.S. Do not tell them my secret!)
One day, I slathered some celery sticks with peanut butter and cut up some carrots and put ranch in a bowl. I set them out on plates at the counter, and the kids ate it up! The next day, we were going to have to take a snack with us because we had errands right after school, and the only pre-packaged stuff we buy is for their lunches, so I needed to improvise.
I made a snack mix out of a variety of nuts we had in the pantry. I cut up a fruit twist and a Twizzler and dumped in a bag of cinnamon sugar pretzels. I mixed it all up and gave it some kind of qwirky name and presented it as their special treat for the day. They were skeptical, and some of that stuff they wouldn’t eat on its own, but together, they tried a few bites. They didn’t end up finishing it that day, and that’s how I learned the secret of what my kids really want.
It doesn’t so much matter what I give them for a snack after school. But they want to know that I was thinking of them long enough to make an effort. On the days when I throw out a few options without an apparent plan, there is more grumbling and complaining than when I put something on the counter already prepared. A few days ago our daughter was complaining that she doesn’t like the taste of the baby carrots anymore and doesn’t want them in her lunch. I’m wondering what will happen if I put them out as a snack with a ranch or honey mustard dip. I’ll have to let you know how that goes.
What do my kids really want? I think they want what everyone wants: to be seen and known and heard and loved.
I fail at providing those things all the time, but I see the difference it makes when they know that I was thinking of them.
Maybe that’s all that really matters in any of our relationships: not that we get it right or perfect or that we make it special all the time, but that we make an effort to see and know and hear and love, in all of our imperfect ways.
I’m willing to give it a shot. Are you?