My children like to play this game called “Drive Mommy Slowly Insane By Expressing a Vague Desire and Then Rejecting Every One of Her Efforts to Help Me Meet It.” Otherwise known as: trying to figure out what to have for lunch on a weekend.
Perhaps your family has lovely, sit down, nutritionally balanced, impeccably plated meals all the time, in which case not only will you be unable to relate to this, you may find yourself mildly horrified. This might be the moment when you want to bail on this post and go check out Pinterest or refresh your email, especially if you’ve never called out to your beloved as you rummaged through the fridge, “Hey, babe, are these hot dogs still good, you think?” I’ll understand.
At Chez Hoffman, the weekends are a bit of a free for all. I can frequently be heard admonishing my fretful offspring to “Pretend this is an episode of Survivor Man and that all you have to survive with is this entire houseful of food and clothing and Netflix and other necessities of life.”1 And then Bob and I hand them some filming equipment, tell them we’ll be back with the crew to pick them up at the designated meeting point in five days, and disappear. Ok, no we don’t.
What follows is a charming exchange in which I suggest a variety of easy to prepare meal options (read: stuff they can make for themselves) or offer to give the teenager a few bucks to go hit up a nearby drive thru. With the car we bought him. I realize this sounds harsh, but children need to learn coping skills. If you do everything for them, they’ll never make it in the real world. Plus, sometimes you’re busy cleaning the house or streaming Narcos, and you really don’t want to break stride.2 Every suggestion is met with a slight grimace and an ennui-laden “Meh. I don’t really feel like having that.”
This is when I launch into my speech about how they don’t know how good they have it. “Your father and I used to have to make English muffin pizza with this stuff called Pizza Quick that came in a jar and was supposed to miraculously turn your round bread into pizza, but it was actually just spaghetti sauce and lies. I had to use American cheese, babies. None of this grated luxury. And you know what? WE LIKED IT.” My son decides he’ll just have a yogurt. My daughter wearily contemplates having a bowl of grapes or some dry Cheerios.
In their pampered, First World-y way, they are learning to check in with themselves. To figure out what they need or want, to weigh the opportunity costs, and to determine how best to meet themselves in the middle. They are learning that not even their mother can read their minds when it comes to what will truly make them happy, and that relying on external sources for satisfaction is just frustrating (and may result in lectures about ancient snack foods from the 1980s).
Also, this: it’s okay to not know what you want. It’s okay to give yourself time to work it out. And in the meantime, cold cereal is never a bad idea.
1 Note that I said Survivor Man. We don’t truck with that Bear Grylls bullshit in this house.
2 This is not an appropriate time to tell your children, “Don’t kill my vibe.” They will only regard you with a mixture of horror and pity.