Last week, I took the boys, as usual, to piano lessons, which take place at our piano teacher’s house. Over the years we’ve been going, the kids’ lesson times have changed — we’ve been there on Fridays before dinner, Wednesdays immediately after school, and now, midday on Saturdays. While one of them practices in the sunroom-turned-music-room off our teacher’s living room, I sit in the living room with the other kid.
I always implore the kids to bring something to do while they’re waiting — homework, a book, a word search (James went through a bizarre phase of wanting me to buy those cheap word-search magazines at the supermarket — the kind you see Stanley using on The Office), whatever.
But I never bring food. Reason #2 I never bring food to the piano teacher’s house is that I disagree that kids need Goldfish crackers as a distraction, or even, at my kids’ ages, that they can’t deal with a spot of hunger if it’s just before or after a meal. (More on the snack culture later!) And reason #1?
IT’S NOT OUR HOUSE!
We are sitting on (white) couches in our piano teacher’s living room. Where she lives. With her family. I would never presume to eat in her home without invitation. But when we showed up last week, we saw this hand-lettered sign on her coffee table:
I asked our teacher about the sign, and it turns out — surprise! — she’s getting tired of cleaning cracker crumbs and popcorn bits out of her couch cushions, mopping up spilled drinks and, this is the kicker, scraping old gum off the underside of the coffee table.
Dear God. Really? Gum?
I’ve railed against the snack culture before — from the time, when my boys were a baby and a toddler and we showed up for a bookstore story time, at 10 a.m., and were the only family there without a lunchbox full of snacks — to recently, when I glanced around the poolside while I watched the kids’ swim lessons, and saw parent after parent, chatting with each other, reading, or texting, and pulling bags of Cheerios and chips and crackers and Goldfish out of their bags for the younger kids. I do get that toddlers’ tiny tummies require more frequent filling, but come on.
The other issue I’ve been outspoken about (but maybe not enough!) is the notion that no group of children can come together for any reason without a snack. Girl Scout meeting? Donuts! Sport? Don’t get me started!
No. Wait. Get me started, because I gotta tell you something cool. Soccer season just started again, and this year, again, James’ coach is his dad. I was getting geared up for my usual job as Mrs. Coach, which means making sure hubby emails everyone (and proofreading the emails); checking the roster; and organizing the snack schedule. Traditionally the snack parents are responsible for half-time fruit (orange slices are popular); and an end-of-game treat. Munchkins, chips, cookies, juice.
So. Not. Necessary. And kind of depressing to see these kids who just spent, what, maybe all of 30 minutes actually exercising (given sitting on the sidelines and daydreaming in defense), double-fisting Munchkins. It always seemed like a crazed feeding frenzy; I would imagine a nature-documentary voice-over: “you’ll notice that one child uses the basic hip check to be sure he gets the last chocolate donut. Now watch the younger sibling nearly get decapitated trying to enter the snack scrum…”
For me, the parent who allows either one or zero desserts per day, the post-game Munchkins meant no treat after dinner (a rule my kids understand, but what they don’t know is I may have wanted to, say, take them out for ice cream later — I like ice cream, too! — but not after they mainlined that much sugar earlier).
Here’s what I (well, we, because Coach Dad, an exercise scientist by trade, is behind me on it) suggested: Snack parents’ only task would be half-time fruit. Everyone should bring water for their kid. And that … would be that.
Bracing myself for parental push-back (aw, let the kids have a treat! They work hard!), and kid whining (where are the Munchkins?!) I started preparing my arguments.
Didn’t have to use any of them. No one pushed back. Which leads me to think, I had more allies than I thought. You need me to be the bad guy? I’ll take it.
And you gum chewers? Please. Stick your wad in your pocket when you’re done if you don’t have a tissue or something.