Wednesday, May 25, 2022

There was a time when my kids tried to convince me that they had no friends at camp because I wasn’t sending them Gatorade in their lunchboxes. Forget bullying, social skills, athletic ranking. It was plain and simple. Nobody would like them if they didn’t have the “poison drink” (it is lovingly termed this in our home because it consists of many poisonous substances).

“What’s wrong with water?” I asked. Apparently it wasn’t cool enough.

“Well, if people don’t want to be your friend because they don’t like your drink, then they’re doing you a favor. You wouldn’t want to be friends with that kind of person anyway.” My advice fell on deaf ears. The kids still wanted to be friends with people who supposedly judged others on the contents of a lunchbox. And they still wanted Gatorade.

For an upcoming trip day, I splurged and bought mini-Snapple bottles. Feeling extra generous, I also threw in a small bag of gummy candies, leftovers from an older Shabbat treat, and also going against my usual “snacks for camp/school should be filling, semi-nutritious, and not detrimental to your health” guidelines. As the kids rifled through their lunch bags in the morning before the trip, their eyes lit up at the goodies. “You’re the best mom!” they cried, hugging me, wrapping their arms around my torso. And then one kid came over to me and helpfully advised me that most kids would get a bag “puffed” with candy, but she was still very happy with what she had.

“Why do you always have to be different?” they admonish, when I pack them multi-grain tortilla chips for school, and tell them I will likely never buy Gushers. “Why can’t we just be like everyone else?” The irony is, I have spent my whole life trying to be different, to be unique, to define myself as something distinct from others, and so, to me, it feels like a compliment and less of a criticism. I wouldn’t want to be “like everyone else.” I tell them this, but they are too young to appreciate my specialness. They just want the junk.

And I don’t view “everyone else” as Laffy-Taffy senders. I actually think that most moms try to send nutritious food, judging by the plethora of healthy food blogs that exist. Clearly I am not alone in this endeavor. For the record, I should state that I send two non-fruit/vegetable snacks for school (in addition to produce), so it’s not like I am the evil mom who sends raw zucchini ribbons with a splash of sesame oil for morning recess. I think Veggie straws, pretzels, or graham crackers are a fair compromise.

Recently, we started a “Happiness Wall” where every day we write on different colored post-its things that made us happy, and our color collage grows with our positive thoughts. Nobody actually wrote, “Thank you for keeping me so healthy by sending me water instead of Gatorade,” but my healthy snack choices did cause a very contented moment. “I was so happy that I didn’t have to share my snack with Matt on the bus today. Every day he makes me to give him my food, but he doesn’t like pretzels, so I didn’t have to share.”

Not quite what I was hoping for, but I’ll take what I can get….

Sarah Abenaim is a freelance writer living in Teaneck. She can be reached at [email protected]

By Sarah Abenaim

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