feeding the monkeys

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I make my kids’ lunches for school. Nothing fancy…we’re not the Rockefellers, with the high-end Lunchables and the hoity-toity Capri Suns. We go basic, traditional. Sandwich as the centerpiece. A chunk of fruit for sugar. A bag of pretzels to make it a little crunchy.

Easy.

But not always simple.

When I venture outside of our collective comfort zone, my offerings are not as wholeheartedly embraced as I would expect them to be. Like on days when I add exotic and unexpected elements, like…I don’t know…carrots, maybe? The little, easy-to-bite ones, not the snowman noses with yellow hairs growing out of the ends. Or a box of raisins, something not-too-unhealthy to break up the monotony.

It’s always a dice roll as to how these things go over.

Sometimes the raisins are a hit, and the whole box disappears. The carrots almost never are; they come back in the lunchboxes untouched. Or maybe they’ve been touched and I just can’t tell…but I know they haven’t been so much as nibbled. And it differs from day to day, what gets devoured and what returns. Fruit snacks? Sure; they eat those things like candy (which they are). Yogurt sticks? Eh…depends on the flavor. Cookies? Well, duh. Double up on those suckers, please.

I’ve come to feel like I’m the monkey feeder at the zoo, guessing what their tastes will tend toward from day to day.

“Maybe they’re in a grapes-kinda mood,” I think. “Or celery…we haven’t tried that in a while.” I drop it all in, though I usually feel more like I’m holding it out in a cautious hand, passing it carefully through the bars while waiting for one of the little tailswingers to come bestow his blessing by taking it from me. This isn’t me challenging them; it’s sort of the opposite. Adding something without asking their opinions first is my way of averting my eyes to avoid seeming confrontational. On more than one occassion, I’ve come dangerously close to mashing up a banana and throwing in a twig or two in place of a spork, so they can pick at it until they decide if it’s a keeper or a tosser.

Monkeys seem to love that kind of stuff.

In our zoo, whatever comes back isn’t discovered until morning, when I fill the next day’s grub bucket. It’s a poor man’s adventure opening those things to discover that, no, grapes were not accepted as part of feeding time, though they had no trouble peeling the skin off of every last one. The celery was chewed and slobbered on but not eaten, and the crusts were torn from the bread and thrown back into the sandwich box. I take that one as a warning:

Hey, funny man – crusts off, or next time this is your fingers. Yours truly, the Monkeys.

Chilling.

It’s at moments like these – especially when they occur near the “three more weeks of school” mark – that I’m reminded of the fact that my kids are old enough to make their own lunches. If what I’ve packed isn’t acceptable, then they can choose whatever they want. They may not have mastered personal finance yet, or figured out to hold down a job in a fluctuating economy, but they know good and well how to spread peanut butter on bread and shove a handful of pretzels in a Ziploc. They can do it. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t.

Then I remember: we’re at the “three more weeks of school” mark. They’re another year older now…old enough to make their own lunches.

They already don’t need me to do it.

In a very short while, they’ll no longer want me to do it, either.

And after that, they’ll leave the zoo entirely

It’s one of those sigh-inducing Dad realizations.

So, for however long it is that they’ll let me keep bagging up their pretzels and peanut-buttering their bread, I’ll do it. I consider it an honor. And if the celery comes back a little chewed and slobbery, at least I’ll know they’ve tried it.

With monkeys, sometimes that’s the best you can hope for.

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6 comments

  1. One Monkey out of the house and one still here, only she has somehow has changed from a cute little monkey to a young lady and the other monkey is now a young man. How’d that happen?

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