Being the Perfect Mommy, I have an after school routine for my kids: they get the mail, have a snack, talk about their school day, and settle in for homework time. Snack is usually fresh fruit, yogurt, or whole grain (no sugar) cereal. Everyone shares the best and worst part of the school day, grabs their assignments, and gathers at the kitchen table so that I am available to help while I go through the mail and (endless, multiple copies of) school notices. No homework? You may read, practice math facts, or color quietly at the table with the rest of us. That's been our routine since the first one started Kindergarten a few years ago. A little boring, maybe, but effective and predictable.
This year, that routine lasted all of a week. On that fateful day, the girls raced to the mailbox to find a package from their Uncle Brian, who lives in Montana and always sends the COOLEST things (Hello Kitty fruit snacks! MSU tee shirts! A cowboy hat! Pictures of the dogs on a 14-mile hike up a snow-covered mountain! In July!). Ripping open the envelope, they found Disney Princess Pez dispensers...and EXTRA Pez refills! Pink and purple sugar pouring out of their favorite Disney characters! You'd have thought he sent them a million dollars, they were so excited.
Now, normally I would not allow candy right after school, at least not before a nutritious snack balancing fiber and protein for optimal brain power. But on this particular Monday, Slacker Mom had invaded my body. So when the girls' screams of, "Can we eat it? Can we eat it NOW?" pierced the humid air, I gave in.
If it's fruit-flavored, it must have some fruit in it, right?
And I discovered that the world didn't end, that homework got done (albeit a little more slowly, since it's hard to draw the state game bird while clutching Snow White in your sweaty little hand), and everyone still ate a (mostly) nutritious dinner. But the joy on their faces when they saw that gift from their beloved uncle, the simple pleasure of a bit of candy for no reason other than he loves them and was thinking of them, made me think: why do I have these rigid rules about things that, just maybe, don't really matter all that much? Does it really make a difference if they have the "perfect" snack every day after school? Would allowing a little more junk food be detrimental to their academic progress or their overall health, if they eat well the rest of the time? I think the answer is no, it wouldn't - but it might mean a little more fun with my kids after they've been away from me all day. So now, if they want a little ice cream in the afternoon, I'll top it with fresh fruit and let them go to town. Every so often, we'll split a Snapple instead of skim milk, and there's nothing wrong with a little Cookie Crisp cereal now and then, either.
Slacker Mom Says...question the rules. Rules were made to be broken. Shake things up and let them do their homework outside, in their bathing suits, with the sprinklers waiting for them as soon as they are done. Serve cake for breakfast on their birthdays, even if it's a school day. We only have a few short years to enjoy our kids. We're building memories that will last a lifetime, and someday, our kids will tell their kids, "Once, when I was 5, your Gramma let me eat an entire tube of Pez that Uncle Brian sent me. It was awesome!" And your grandkids will think you're awesome, too. Then you can let them eat chocolate ice cream for breakfast, and your kids can't say a word about it.