Pick your battles. That's what everyone tells you to do with your kids. But sometimes, it's hard to decide what battles to pick. And sometimes, you pick a battle only to discover that like the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, you've become mired in an endless conflict with no conceivable winner and no perceivable end. It's during these battles that you want to press play on John Lennon's "Imagine" album, yell "Give Peace a Chance," and just make it all stop. But peace is elusive, and extraction from war a near impossibility. This is especially true when your foe is as formidable as the vending machine at the Augustus Brown Swimming Pool. For readers outside Juneau, the Augustus Brown Swimming Pool is our downtown community pool. School children use it for sports and recreation and adults use it for classes and exercise. It's a nice community gathering spot that's been the subject of recent funding issues, and folks who enjoy downtown access to swimming have vocally championed its continued operations.
I personally avoid swimming pools at all costs because it feels like bathing in battery acid to me (see prior post titled "Skin Deep"). But I force both of my children to take swimming lessons so that they'll stand at least a ten percent chance of surviving an inadvertent tumble into the icy drink surrounding Juneau on all sides. Paige now swims after school, when I'm mercifully at work and thus immune to pleas for vending machine snacks. But Isaac still has evening lessons, and each of these lessons ends with "The Battle of the Cheesy Crackers." This is the battle in which Isaac begs me for Cheesy Crackers a.k.a. "Cheez-Itz." (They come in a mini-version too, and Paige once called a Baby Jesus in a Nativity scene "the Baby Cheez-Itz." But Jesus is the subject of a future post).
Anyway, I long ago decided that this processed cheese cracker was the lesser of all evils in this vending machine, which counts among its offerings "Grandma's Honey Buns," "Vanilla Creme Sandwich Cookies,"--and my personal favorite that I secretly inhale while Isaac is swimming--"Jalapeno Crunch Cheetos." After each lesson, Isaac stands with his face pressed up against the glass of this poisonous monolith to Monsanto, begging me for the only snack he knows I've technically pre-approved. My attempts to offer alternatives are all in vain. He turns his back on my "Food Should Taste Good" organic seedy crackers and hummus that I've brought from home, and will settle only for "Cheesy Crackers." I begin to resist ("They're so unhealthy, they're processed and gross! We're eating dinner in ten minutes!") and then I feel my will begin to falter. (Silently: "He's emaciated and won't eat anything--why deny him calories even if they aren't actually food? It's not going to kill him . . . I don't believe in food battles . . . It's only once a week . . ."). Smelling blood in the water, he moves in for the kill by lunging for my wallet, and I acquiesce.
This of course sends the message "everyone" tells you to avoid sending at all costs: that with enough begging and pleading, your child will get what they want over your objections. The only thing that gives me a glimmer of hope is that I used this approach on my own mother to great success. And today, as this blog demonstrates, I'm a fully productive member of society completely devoid of any problems, issues, or neuroses.