Okay, I have to confess. I love that my kids always have playmates because we are the “fun” house in the neighborhood. There are always a bunch of their friends from our street coming over and staying to play. But I am always running out of snacks! Every time I turn around they are asking for snacks or even helping themselves without asking. Their parents don’t send them here with food, it is always up to me to feed these hungry kids. What do I do?
Dear Lunch Lady:
I know it’s not lunch but it’s the image I have of you, wearing a hair net and doling out food as a line of children shuffles by. Meanwhile you’re also hemorrhaging money, because you have to keep buying food to replace the items the swarm of local kids are devouring.
But is it such a terrible price to pay? I mean, think about it. How many kids are we talking here, 2? Three? Ten? As they get older, I know they eat more, but they are also likely to get into more trouble. If your kids are playing at home because that’s where the fun (and snacks) can be found, then you are more able to keep an eye on them and find out what is going on in their lives. It won’t last forever, so if for now you need to keep your cabinets and drawers stocked with chips and cookies and freezer pops, it shouldn’t be a big deal. Just make sure to head to a big discount store and buy them in bulk for a reduced price!
Even though it might feel icky to ask, I’ll bet the other parents would be relieved that they can do something to contribute to your ad-hoc daycare.
It’s a tricky line to walk. If you yank the snacks and become the “mean mom” will the kids disappear? In that case, are they coming for your children’s company or just for the food you give them? Since when did you start running the local free snack shack? Try limiting the snacks to healthy or less expensive items, or just one snack per kid per visit, and see what happens.
What concerns me more is the kids who don’t ask first. If they are old enough to be hanging around at your house all the time with your children, they are old enough to ask politely for a snack. Rummaging around in your house for something to eat is not cool. I would give their parents the benefit of the doubt and assume they don’t know this is happening, and maybe mention it to them when they come to pick up the little bugger. It’s worth letting them know so they can have a conversation at home about manners and being a gracious guest.
Speaking of these parents, why not invite them to share in the burden of feeding the children snacks? If one of the kids has a favorite, ask him to bring some to share next time he comes over. Let his parents know you’ll be rotating snack duty. If I was that kid’s mom, I’d be grateful he had a safe place to play and be out of my hair for a while, and I would happily pile snacks or reimbursement into your hands. In fact, even though it might feel icky to ask, I’ll bet the other parents would be relieved that they can do something to contribute to your ad-hoc daycare.
Another idea – why not institute Snack Time? At a set time, put out snacks for as many kids you have in-house at the moment, but no snacks before or after? You’ll still get some “I’m still hungry” whines, but this might minimize the amount of serving you feel compelled to do!
Bottom line: suck it up, honey, and remember that they won’t be young forever. Yes, I sound like one of those people who assures you that your baby will eventually sleep through the night. But this time I know I’m right.
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