Sometimes really late at night or early in the morning, when your subconscious is creeping into the periphery, you find yourself thinking, “Who the hell are these people I’m living with? They could be anyone. They’ll be old one day, with pants they paid for themselves. Jesus what is happening. How did I get here.” And you’ll think those things because honestly, living with kids is weird.
There are workarounds to these potential frustrations and jarring moments of clarity. We’ll go over a few of them and hopefully you’ll share some of your own and everyone will feel much better about the smears all over the glass doors.
Previously: How to Live With Kids: Toys & Entertainment
Food & Cooking
Much like you and me, kids need food to survive. The smallest of all kids — babies — need food every hour. As they age, thankfully, the time between feedings grows and so you’re more able to find something to read or possibly leave your house for an extended period of time.
You’ll be expected to provide these kids who live in your house with food. This can be a daunting task, given that you’ll likely be able to think of no less than 30 things you could / should be doing that don’t involve pots, pans or plates. The trick is to anticipate when the kids will be hungry and plan ahead. While no two kids are exactly alike, it’s been my experience that kids typically need food at these specific times:
+ upon waking
+ immediately upon arrival from school
+ the exact moment you sit down for the first time all day
+ when you’re in the shower
+ 15 minutes after they said they weren’t hungry
+ at 3:00 a.m. (relevant only during sleepovers)
This is like the opposite of the Play-Doh Rule, which states that some age-appropriate things must be made off-limits in order to increase their value. Implementing a snack box (that’s just what we call it — you should probably come up with something more creative, like The Hexahedron of Vital Nourishment) ensures that only pre-approved foods are readily available at any given time.
Fill the container with dull healthy things, like fruit leather and homemade trail mix, maybe the occasional bag of pistachios if you’re feeling generous. Your bag of PMS Doritos should be kept well out of reach, along with the Milano cookies, strawberry Twizzlers, rosemary bread and anything else their tender palates couldn’t possibly appreciate.
Having an Accomplice
Not every food experience has to look pretty, and I’m guessing you reached this conclusion about two weeks after your child came through the front door. Personally, my number one feeling is appetizers, and I’m fairly certain it’s because I was exposed to Mermaids in my formative years.
Make appetizers an ‘acceptable’ meal the same way you make peanut butter & jellies and cheese plates (or the vegan equivalent) acceptable: adding fresh fruits and vegetables. The way I see it, you can feed these short people almost anything, as long as you serve it next to some grapes, a spinach salad, carrot sticks, or whatever whathaveyou etc.
Knowing When to Retreat
Set aside at least two days a week when you won’t be the one cooking dinner. Maybe this means you go to a restaurant or a friend’s house (if they truly are your friends, they will periodically feed your children).
If you have some extra time on Saturday or whatever, you could strategically cook way more food than you need, in anticipation of reheating / revisioning it later in the week. This can be super low-key, like making a huge lasagna and having leftovers a couple of days later. Or you can get ambitious and prepare all the meals for the week in one day. Also Rachael Ray and about a million other people have some feelings about this.
Breakfast For Dinner
You just won. The end.
Things Kids Can Do in the Kitchen
The thing to remember about kids is that, while at first they seem totally useless in the kitchen, they’re actually perfect for a small variety of things. Not only that, but they’re usually wildly idealistic when it comes to household duties. It’s your job to exploit their enthusiasm and naivety for your benefit.
Does your short person know how to make their own sandwiches and put items into small containers? Teaching self-sufficiency is literally your job. Literally.
If you have a lettuce knife and a salad spinner, you’ve basically turned salad prep into Romper Room and now you can finish reading that article on how to organize your inbox to its fullest potential. Or you know, whatever.
My dad taught me how to make coffee using an electric percolator when I was 9. Nine, you guys. What a fucking genius.
I don’t know, kids love to stir things. Don’t squander this passion on bath water.
What are your feelings about keeping kids fed? Are your kids on special diets? Do you sometimes just throw jellybeans at their heads and pretend like it’s lunch?
Next week we’ll discuss how kids need to do chores and what you can do about that.