Aside from the classic catch phrases “no” and “I don’t want to,” there are few words I hear from the Twins more often than “snack.”
It doesn’t matter what time of day it is or even if they’ve just finished a meal–if they’re awake, it’s snack time. In fact, it is not uncommon for either of them to scowl for 20 minutes at the meal we’ve prepared them–adamantly refusing to take even one bite–and to then make a beeline for the pantry door as soon as we let them down from their high chairs.
They each have their preferred methods for snack requests. My son, for example, likes to hang a single hand from the doorknob like a shaven ape and ask with a sort of singsongy Gregorian chant:
“SnaaaaaAAAAAaaaaack. SnaaaAAAaaAAAAaAaAck. Aaah-men.”
My daughter, on the other hand, is much more direct:
“Something else for eat. Open dis door. Snack. Open dis door, Daddy. Pleeeeeease.”
My wife and can expect these performances at any moment, all day, every day.
I’m not sure what it is about the snack that makes it the perpetual Disneyland that it is for them. Perhaps it’s because on some level we give them a choice. (“Sure, you can have those peanuts or those raisins, but no cookies.”) Maybe it’s the idea of not having to sit at a confined table and being able to eat while simultaneously playing Legos, doing puzzles, or body-slamming a sibling. Or maybe it’s just the independence toddlers crave–the ability to recognize and remedy their hunger all by themselves (with just a liiiiittle help from Mommy and Daddy).
Anyway, because it is always snack time in our house, my wife and I make an effort to stock up on healthy snacks. We’re not stinky hippies or anything, but we do try to keep the kids (and ourselves) away from processed foods and unnecessary additives. One particular reason for this is the dietary preferences of a certain little boy in our house. While my daughter typically requests snacks like carrot sticks or string cheese, my son loves his carbs–crackers, pasta, cookies, donuts… It’s like the kid’s constantly trying to carbo-load for a marathon. He’s not at all overweight, but my wife often (half-)jokes that he’d better enjoy exercising when he gets older.
Naturally, my son’s affinity for carbohydrates inspires him to loiter at the pantry when jonesing for a snack, while my daughter tends to camp out at the fridge. Lately, however, we’ve been trying to break my son’s cycle.
In an effort to get more wholesome goodness into him, we’ve been bringing him to the fridge when he asks for a snack and offering him a smorgasbord of fresh choices including apple slices, yogurt, and cucumbers, but unsurprisingly, this typically ends in one of his award-winning flipouts, as he insists he wants a “snack” (pointing at the pantry), and not what’s “in dare” (pointing at the fridge).
“Buddy,” we insist, “Strawberries and cheese and grapes are snacks, too.” This, of course, goes over fantastically well with a headstrong two-and-a-half-year-old, evoking a resurgence of toddler rage.
But finally, this weekend, I got to the bottom of his frustration.
While making dinner, I accidentally left the pantry door open–something I never do because if it were up to the Twins, they’d sit at the threshold all day, ripping packages open and ultimately create their very own breakfast cereal wavepool.
Noticing the open door, my son strutted into the kitchen with a big grin and told me, “Daddy, the snack is open.”
“That’s right, Buddy. The pantry’s open. It has snacks in it.”
He looked at me like I was nuts, and again pointed at the exposed pantry. “No. The snack is open.”
“Right. The pantry is open and it has snacks in it.”
“No, Daddy,” he insisted. “The snack is open.”
Wait a minute…
“Buddy,” I asked, pointing at the pantry, “What’s that room called?”
“Snack. It’s open.”
It was then that I realized why he’d been getting so frustrated when he asked for a snack and I planted him in front of the fridge–he thought the pantry was called “snack.” I have to admit, I can see how he’d made that connection. A good portion of the snacks come from the pantry, and every time he asks for a snack, he runs to the pantry door for his shaven ape Gregorian chant.
“No, Buddy, that’s not a snack. That’s called the pantry. Snacks are all types of foods. Some snacks are in the fridge and some snacks are in the pantry. See?” I proceeded to show him various snacks in each location. “This pear is a snack in the fridge…but this granola bar is a snack in the pantry…”
He mulled this over for a moment and slowly repeated, “Pantry.”
“That’s right. That’s the pantry. And look. Now Daddy is going to close the pantry because Daddy is making dinner and we’re going to eat it in just a minute.”
Having shut the door, I returned to dinner preparations.
Moments later, my son was looking up at me, smiling expectantly:
“Can I have a snack in the pantry? No want snack in the fridge. Want a snack from the pantry.”
“Nice,” chuckled my wife, who had been watching the whole interchange.
“Well,” I thought aloud. “At least now he knows what a pantry is.”
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If not, can I interest you in a snack from the pantry (NOT from the fridge)?