I’ve rarely agreed so strongly with a fellow writer, but Jennifer Steinhauer hit it perfectly in the NYT ‘s food section : We give kids too many snacks. The average 3-year-old needs 1,300 calories a day . There are 360 in that bag of Doritos that kept her quiet in the grocery cart and another 420 in that six-pack of Oreos from the gas station. Toss in a 120-cal Juicy Juice and a few bites of sandwich and she’s pretty much good for the day. A nation of parents complaining that our kids are “picky” eaters who barely touch their dinners need look no farther than the mandatory after-school snack. But at least there are three hours between a 3 p.m.school release and a 6 p.m. meal.
Like Ms. Steinhauer, I’ve provided snacks for hourlong toddler programs and two-hourlong field trips, and every one of my kids has a daily morning snack between their 7 a.m. breakfast and 11:30 a.m. school or preschool lunch. When did this start? There was absolutely no morning-snack routine during my ‘70s/’80s schooling. Suddenly, we’re convinced that any child who goes an hour without a food hit will enter blood-sugar meltdown, so we sate them constantly with our little offerings. Last week I took a kindergartner home from school to play, and had to stop her mom, who was leaning into the car, from giving her a orange for the (five minute) ride. She rolled her eyes a little at my no-food-in-the-car rule but let it go. At last check, mother and child survived the ordeal.
The parents quoted in the Times piece offer various excuses. One mentions the 7:30 p.m. snack, offered because “our kids didn’t care much for what we provided for dinner.” Another notes that she let the kid buy something from a post-activity vending machine once, so, of course, now she has to say yes every time. Can anyone out there imagine her mother saying either of those things? I know what my mom would have said (it’s what I try to say now). A little hunger won’t kill you. You’ll spoil your dinner. You had dinner, now wait for breakfast. I don’t care what we did last week, I said no. Because that’s what she said, when I wanted something she couldn’t afford, or I didn’t need, or she didn’t want me to have. No. Why? Because she was the mom, and she said so. My mom wasn’t perfect, but this article reminded me that there are times when we all need a little piece of that.