It didn’t take me long to discover that my two kids require feeding when I pick them up from school. Even when I lived in Palo Alto, and home was about ten minutes away, they couldn’t wait. Eden especially, if I don’t catch her the moment before irreversible sugar-low crabbiness, will refuse to eat and make it complicated to bring her back to an agreeable (read: manageable) mood.
I have taken to bringing with me sandwiches, fruit, candy, cookies, cakes. For a while the kids loved bagels with cream cheese. Then it was pretzels from Esther’s Bakery. Uri had a donut period. Apples came and passed, then came back again into fashion. Popcorn. Girl scout cookies. Baby carrots which Eden devoured by the bag. But every so often I’d bring something they didn’t care for, and thunderous silence battered me from the backseat.
I wondered, am I feeding the children into pleasantness? I sometimes offer a treat when they are upset, but even as I do, I cringe. I can’t believe I’m teaching my kids that food can cheer them up. Yes, eating is enjoyable and fun, but I’d like my kids to have other methods to relax. I’d like to argue, however, that more than a calming after a long day eating binge, the after-school snack is an important transitional aid, shifting the children’s focus and energies from school to home.
For the past few weeks I’ve participated in a parenting class through Hand in Hand. Hand in Hand philosophy says that a parent needs a place for releasing the emotions that parenting brings, a listening partner that gives whole-hearted support and no criticism. The idea is that in order to really listen to and be there for our children, we parents must be listened to in our turn.
According to Hand in Hand, children need tantrums in order to let go of feelings and upsets. In the last class, we were talking about tantrums that happen during transitions, and how sometimes it is good to leave some time to allow the tantrum to happen. I instantly thought about the moment of school pick-up. I’ve been hurrying the kids away from school, giving them their food in the car in order to be on time for our after-school activities, but perhaps I could plan for a few moments to sit and have a treat at school. Then again, I can’t say I’m eager for tantrums in front of all the other moms....
Without doubt, this parenting business is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. At so many turns I hit a wall, and so often I feel like any choice I make will be a bad one. However, just as I feel better after I cry, perhaps so will the kids. And after their tantrum, maybe they’ll finally have their snack, become grounded again, and we could move on to have fun.