I snapped a picture of my girls eating lunch in the car the other day, and posted it on InstaGram, tagging EasyLunchboxes because I'm an attention whore and love when Kelly comments on my stuff. *teehee*shared it on Facebook... and THAT got shared... and I became Worst Mom Ever for endangering my kids with choking hazards without adult supervision in a vehicle moving 70-miles-per-hour while taking photos while driving... Haha. Except clearly an adult is in the back taking a photo... and chances are good I can't do that AND drive!
There were lots of comments about how eating in the car is a choking hazard. And comments about how the foods in Baby's lunch were especially hazardous. And tonnnnnnnnnnnnns of comments about how messy it all would be. Plus the occasional "those meals are way too big," "eating in the car is a bad habit," "I don't use food for entertainment," and "meals should be spent together as a family."
I'm a monster!
We happened to have a little less than an hour between a doctor's appointment and preschool, so going home to eat would be a waste. Not only would I have to get everyone out and back into the car, but Baby would probably fall asleep while driving. So feeding her first seemed like the smartest move. But it was around 40 degrees outside, and no picnic tables in the parking lot. So we stayed warm and ate in the car. Plus no toddlers wanting to run into traffic. Win!
Even if we had been on a road trip, it would be far safer to eat in the car, even while parked, than letting them loose at a park or rest stop while the adults were distracted trying to eat as well. At this age, far better to all run around for a bit, then get in the car to eat. Especially in the perpetually chilly or rainy Pacific Northwest!
My 4 (almost 5) year-old loves to eat. Loves. To. Eat. For the past 4 years, if you asked her what her favorite part of preschool each day was, her answer was always "snack." Every. Time. Am I going to say, "No sorry. No healthy foods in my car!" No. Especially as we often didn't have time to go home for lunch in between activities. I'm the kind of person that if we don't have plans outside of the house, we sit in front of a screen all day.
But I *hate* the outdoors. Everything is trying to eat you, fall on you, burn you, freeze you, or kill you. And - surprise surprise - just like for Little Z, the sun is too bright for me and hurts my eyes too. So picnicking outside on a sunny day is torture for both of us! And rainy days are just too cold and wet. I don't like being cold. So we eat in the car. It's just what we do. We often eat together while parked. Sometimes I let the kids eat while I drive. Call the Mommy Police!
I'm trying not to get all defensive here, because I don't think I should have to be. We all do the best we can for ourselves, our families, and our kids. Some people are totally selfless and are happy to give up anything they enjoy out of life other than their kids. Some people are so selfish, they expect their kids to conform to their needs. Is either extreme ideal? No. But if everyone is getting fed and doctored when needed, then who am I to judge? I cut corners here and there. And I go the extra mile here and there sometimes too. We are all doing the best that we can.
Apparently I am an ace at trying to kill my kids!
I already posted Little Z's lunch here, so you can check out her "too much food" meal. And here is Baby's. When I pack, I plan for much of it getting thrown overboard. And this kid has a hollow leg sometimes, so I like having extras so I don't have to resort to convenience snacks to sate her appetite while waiting for Big Sis to get out of school.
Baby's Death Trap Lunch
I'll gladly take a little clean-up in exchange for giving my children tools for problem solving and independence.
And as far as eating somewhere other than the car, my 15-month-old only lasts about 10-20 minutes restrained at a restaurant or sit-down meal. So in a choice between chasing her down before she hits the parking lot or a street at a park or rest stop; versus vacuuming up dried rice in my car every week, I'll vacuum every time! And a choice between waiting 20-30 minutes and spending $20ish every meal to feed all three of us dye-free, gluten-free options from a restaurant (with the 15-minute attention span baby) or packing a fresh, healthy VARIETY of foods for a fraction of the price? No contest.
DisclaimerDoes this mean I advocate feeding your kids while you drive? No. Of course not. Know your kids. Both my girls teethed late (10 and 9 months, respectively,) so they had to learn how to suck on and mash foods with their gums if they wanted anything but baby mush. Which makes them ace at biting, chewing, and spitting out anything they don't think they can swallow. I've worked on teaching them how NOT to choke on things.
My eldest never choked on anything. Ever. Not grapes, not baby tomatoes, not hot dogs, not popcorn. Baby has choked several times on various things. And either coughs it back up on her own, or forcefully hurks it out, along with lunch and what's left of breakfast. So I'm confident that she'll puke it all up over her sister if there's a problem.
And if I feed them together, I have an almost-five-year-old spotter back there to warn me if anything looks wrong. Which seems far safer to me than having Baby in her high chair in the dining area while I work on dinner in the kitchen. Which, face it, is what's going to happen if she's happily amusing herself anywhere that doesn't involve me holding her!
Is choking a risk? Yes, of course. But that's the case no matter where they're eating. But a distracted parent at a picnic table trying to eat while keeping track of multiple kids isn't much safer, nor is a toddler running around with their food. So I've made an educated choice based on my children and me, and what works best for us.
But if you still think I should get the kids out of the car to eat someplace, you are MORE than welcome to come try and wrangle my little demon baby back into her car seat after. And chase her down in the street during. Because I guarantee, that's where she'll head. 153 times.
|Leftover brown sugar sweet potato coins, TJ's Coconut Chips, Van's GF crackers, guacamole, organic carrots;|
Salad: lettuce, cabbage, carrots, beet, strawberries, raisins, sunflower seeds, hemp hearts, and raspberry vinaigrette
I keep the bags of raisins, sunflower seeds, and hemp hearts together in the bread basket near my lunch station, so it's easy work to find them all quickly. I usually pack the night before and put them in a Mini Dipper to keep them dry (and the dressing in a Smidget,) but I was able to toss this together during our "lunch hour" between Z's preschools, and would be eating it right after I dropped her off, so I went ahead and mixed everything in first. Left more room for salad!
It was quick work to punch out a few carrot and beet flowers with a flower veggie cutter to fancy my salad up, chop the rest of the carrot into sticks to dip in the guacamole left over from the packet I shared with Z's lunch, toss in the leftover brown sugar sweet potato coins from dinner the night before, and add in some crackers. Plus some Coconut Chips for dessert! (Normally I would have used a silicone cup to keep them separate, but I was going to eat these soon, and Hubby was out of town, which makes dishes harder to do as often. I was running low on clean muffin cups!)
The AftermathIf I haven't shocked you enough, here's an "after" photo of Baby, asleep clutching the remains of her lunch - that I let her work on while driving the 15-minutes to Z's preschool. Notice that the grapes were in a little silicone cup. Had she not finished them off first (or chucked them all at her sister. Same thing.) the cup makes it easy to remove them from her lunch before I get in the driver's seat. See? I'm not a total moron. I think stuff.