“Mom, I’m Hungry!”

There are all kinds of food moms out there. Non-GMO moms, potato chips crunched up on the high chair tray moms, we-only-drink-water moms, and moms that toss a can of soda into the lunch box. There are moms who prepare every meal from scratch and others who who are on a first name basis with the Chick Fil A drive through representative. We all mom it up in different ways. But if there is one parcel of common ground remaining in the mommy wars, it is that we are all in a constant state of food deployment for our children. I firmly believe the that approximately 95 percent of parenting is keeping those tiny bodies from withering into oblivion. And it’s not just the shopping for food, cooking of food, cutting of food, getting-out and bag-opening of pre-packaged food, and packing the lunches, it is also the mind games that go along with the food. Mind games? My kids? Yes. And every other kid ever. Raise your hand if any of of this has happened to you, and be honest:

1. Dinnertime, Shminnertime: In my house growing up I distinctly remember five meals being served. Hamburgers, Tacos, Spaghetti, Barbeque Chicken, and Meatloaf. We might go to Red Lobster on the weekend or for a special occasion but then the rotation would repeat. We ate it. Every time. My mom was a smart lady. She found something that worked and stuck with it. In my house today there are four variations of each of the above five meals that could appear on any given night. Take spaghetti night. One child likes the noodles and meat sauce, but separate (no touching- a sacrificial carrot may be used as buffer). One child likes the noodles and meat, but will only do the meat without the sauce, so the meat portion for her is removed before adding the jar of sauce to the pan. And my husband, who is legit because he is a Type 1 diabetic, eats only the meat sauce out of a bowl like bland Italian chili. I am the only one who eats spaghetti like a normal person, but the joke is on me. I know I should have started serving normal spaghetti plates nine years ago but since I did not start out that way I now spend my nights serving up custom variations of spaghetti from behind our kitchen island like a line cook whose customers complain often and never tip.

2. Restaurant Roulette: You pile the family into the car. You sit down and get excited for someone to actually wait on you for a change. You don’t have to dream up a menu, cook it, or clean it up. It’s a good day. You play a little tic tac toe on the back of the kids’ menu and maybe sip on some wine. Everyone orders. Thank goodness they have chicken fingers. The chicken fingers arrive but are met with discerning glances. The chicken fingers are deemed “weird.” They pick at the chicken fingers. A little more tic tac toe. You tell them that they need to eat the chicken fingers because there will be NO snacks at home, hear me? So you pay the $76.98 plus tip for the bill and load everyone in the car and head for home. No sooner do you place the key in the lock and turn off the alarm you know what is coming…”Mommy, I’m huuuungry.” And since I am a pushover as you can see from #1, I unscrew the peanut butter cap while silently bemoaning the fact that my one night not to prepare dinner became another night of you guessed it – preparing dinner.

3.Snack Pack Attack: When my kids were younger and I would pick them up from daycare at 5:30 they were always ravenous. I don’t mean just “Mommy I’m hungry, and I sure am excited about what you might have up your sleeve for dinner” ravenous, but hair-pulling, seat-kicking, knock-down-drag-out hangry. Instead of driving mach 2 through our quiet neighborhood to get to the refrigerator, I started keeping the “snack pack” in my car. It was just a reusable grocery bag filled with pre-packaged pretzels, fruit snacks, and the occasional oatmeal cream pie, but to me it was salvation. They would buckle in like champs and rummage happily through the snack pack on our 2.5 mile journey home. Never mind that the back seat of my car looked like a couple of rabid raccoons had turned over a trash can, it was five minutes of peace in the car and at least 10-15 minutes at home to prepare the four variations of spaghetti. Which no one would eat because they were full of the cream pies.

4. Not So Smooth(ie) Moves (aka the Double Drive Through): These days we’re done with daycare altogether and its more about the feeding frenzy after dance and sports practices. After all that running, jumping, and carrying on, there is nothing that sounds better than an ice cold smoothie for dinner. I have fallen for it many times. “Mom, can we just have smoothies for dinner?” Sure! They are nutritious, easy, and I also like them, especially on a hot day when I don’t feel like firing up the old oven. So we pull into the smoothie place and situate our $7 smoothies into the cup holders. They are gone in, like, two seconds. “We are still huuungry, ” they cry. So against my better judgement, I do the Double Drive Through, because the only thing better than a smoothie for dinner, is a smoothie for dinner and chicken nuggets for dessert. Please tell me there is someone else who does this.

5. Grocery Games: I don’t like taking my kids to the grocery store. Let me repeat. I don’t like taking my kids to the grocery store. Also, I am pretty sure that other people don’t like me taking my kids to the grocery store. But sometimes, it just so happens that I have to take my kids to the grocery store. One wants to help by pushing the cart (right into someone’s ankles), someone else has the grand idea of placing three kinds of chocolate “cereal” into the cart. Everyone is cold because why ever would you listen to your mother when she tells you to bring a sweatshirt because it can get kind of chilly in the grocery store? Of course, they are hungry in the store, so we are sampling samples and getting the free cookies. And of course they are hungry in the car and need to open up some of the groceries on the ride home. And of course, once they get home, they are – you guessed it – hungry.

6. Lunch Box Hero: I feel so accomplished when I manage to pack a carefully balanced lunch for my kids. Carrots with ranch in a bpa-free container. Deli turkey roll ups. A handful of cashews and the healthy kind of popcorn. I toss a piece of candy in as a little treat and seal the thing shut with smug satisfaction. All day I feel good that my kids are getting a healthy and protein-packed lunch. Brain food, I tell you. I can almost smell the scholarships rolling in. But on unpacking that lunch box after school I find that all of it has traveled home again. Except the candy. Epic fail.

I understand that these kids are growing, and I want to provide them with what they need to do just that. And I’m thankful that I’m able to provide three meals a day (sometimes four if you count that smoothie incident) plus copious amounts of snacks for my children. But sometimes you just have to vent a little about things to get through the day when you are a mom. Maybe I’m just whiny because I’m hungry. I think I’ll grab a snack…

Kelly Barbrey is not sure what kind of food mom she is. It kind of depends on the day. Her refrigerator includes organic milk which is sometimes paired with powdered chocolate drink mix that is probably just sugar and preservatives. At least they’re full- until five minutes from now…🍎

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