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Fruit Snacks and Other Things That No Longer Bother Me

By Hildie Westenhaver

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I sat in Sacrament meeting, watching the mother in front of me rip open a bag of fruit snacks. Five years ago I would have mentally tsk-tsk-ed and thought about how inappropriate it is to feed children in the chapel. I always prided myself on getting my children to behave without stuffing their mouths with snacks. I also prided myself on feeding my kids breakfast before we arrived at church, not during. I loved to turn up my nose at parents who treated Sacrament meeting like a little picnic.

Somewhere along the way, though, I realized that it really doesn’t matter if you break out food at church. Yes, it’s pretty unlovely to let your kids grind cheerios into the floor, but it doesn’t mean you’re a worse mom. Five years ago I would have disagreed from up on my high horse. Now I just smile at the mom in front of me with her five kids under age six and think, “do what you have to do. If fruit snacks are going to keep all seven of you from going ballistic at church then go for it.”

Now I have a houseful of teenagers and I am appalled at the things I used to sweat when my kids were little. So much of it did not matter. Maybe I just cared about things I was good at to pat myself on the back and feel better about my parenting skills. I used to feel torment—torment!—about whether my kids were academically advanced enough. Were they reading earlier than their peers? Were they in the gifted and talented program? Now I realize that pretty much the most important lesson my kids need to learn in school is the importance of working hard even though the stuff they have to do is dumb or boring. Because isn’t that just one of the most valuable lessons you can learn in life? Sometimes kids will be challenged in school and sometimes subjects will be easy. But working hard without being discouraged or slacking off is truly the skill that will take them far in life.

Extra-curricular activities are another thing that I thought were so important but they weren’t. I was asking my 8 year-old son about playing soccer when he was in kindergarten and he couldn’t remember anything except his coach was mean. He couldn’t remember the kids on his team or whether he even liked it. At the time I thought it was so important that we would miss birthday parties and skip family dinner to attend practices and games. I’ve had similar conversations with my daughter and her various dance lessons. At the time all these lessons and teams seemed very important but it turns out they were barely a blip on the radar of my kids’ lives. None of my teenagers have any of the same interests they did when they were little. We would have made more meaningful memories sitting around and playing card games for an hour and a half.

Here are a few things that matter more than I thought they would:

Saying you’re sorry. When my kids were very, very tiny I came up with the idea that I shouldn’t force them to say that they were sorry if they truly weren’t. It’s a nice idea in the abstract—making sure your kids feel genuine sorrow—but it’s pretty unrealistic. Not a lot of 4-year-olds feel super empathetic. Now I have completely changed my tune. The importance of learning to say that we’re sorry can’t be emphasized enough; even if we aren’t sorry. The very act of apologizing requires humility; it can change our hearts even if we started out being not so regretful. Apologizing brings peace to nearly any situation. Learn to fake it even if you don’t feel it.

Tucking kids into bed. I hate this. Hate it. By the time bedtime rolls around I have had it up to here! I just want to get all the people away from me. A lot of my friends tell me that this is when they have their closest moments with their children. I’m not going to lie; I don’t want to have conversations at this point. But I do know the importance of putting the brakes on and connecting one-on-one with the little ones in my life. In my house they get a book, a song and a prayer and that’s it. There is so much sweetness, though, in having that brief, still moment when our hearts are in it together. I look at my teenagers who stay up with friends or at work til late and I wonder when it was that I tucked them in the last time. What was the last book I read out loud to them as they sat in bed? I can’t remember but it seems like forever ago. Like the old ladies always say, these moments pass quickly.

Cooking and baking. There are so many memories we have of family traditions and every single one of them involves food somehow. It is a blessing to be able to feed my children and create wonderful food traditions as well; and then to be able to pass those traditions on to my children. Even the simple act of making cookies every Sunday night is something that the younger children look forward to learning to do on their own some day. Being able to cook from scratch and helping my kids learn how to do it to has brought more satisfaction to me than I ever imagined it would.

What are some of your experiences with the importance of things changing as you grow older? Have your ideas about child-rearing or the way people raise their own kids any different than they used to be?

About Hildie Westenhaver

(Blog Team) was born and raised in Detroit, but is happy to call Austin, TX home now. She majored in Art History and Geography at BYU and graduated a week before having her first baby. There have been five more babies since then. Hildie is an avid baker and tries to fatten up the people she loves.

14 thoughts on “Fruit Snacks and Other Things That No Longer Bother Me”

  1. Hildie, in so many ways I think I may be your long lost twin. 🙂 I have come to many of the same conclusions. I remember when my oldest was barely not a baby and into playing with matchbox cars. We kept them in an oatmeal box and EVERY night after he went to bed I searched all over the apartment for those cars, counting them (there were 100) and if there were any missing I kept looking (or wondered if the neighbor boy had carted any home.) The idea of doing anything remotely like that now is totally laughable. I don't even know how many cars my boys own, let alone clean them up (that is THEIR job!)

    As for extra-curricular activities, I have had soul wrenching moments trying to decide how much to let my younger kids be involved in. My oldest two boys played baseball for a few years but the hours long practices and games about killed us and we finally dropped that sport in the interest of having more family time. Now my philosophy is for them to try a few things so they can be proficient (basketball and soccer) but not play every year. This allows us more time to just "be." So far none of them have pushed to play anymore than every other year or so, so in that we are good. We still do swimming lessons once a year (or so.) Once they hit high school and can transport themselves it is another matter. My older kids have all pursued band rigorously, cross country somewhat less rigorously and a handful of other things for fun (intramural basketball.) Every moment we spend sitting at a ball park or watching a game is that much less time we have to mess around together. It is a struggle to balance it.

    Here is where I swear we are twins: I also hate tucking kids into bed but we do pray, read scriptures and a read-a-loud book. After that they are on their own (as long as they stay in their rooms!)

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  2. I think God has given me the big smack-down too many times in parenting, but the result is that I realize that He is far more merciful than we give Him credit for, and that includes parenting–mine and other people's. I spent a good many years immersed in the natural parenting world (homebirth, extended breastfeeding, all that jazz). Now I don't want to pick on that specific world, because all parenting factions have the same problem of showing their way as the right way. So I hope people don't climb on a bandwagon of picking on that specifically, because that is not my intent. But for me, God laughed (gently, I hope). Oh, you might want to be into natural childbirth? Haha, you're not even going to be pregnant. Breastfeeding? Well, sister, you can give it every single thing you've possibly got, three times over, but it's not gonna work. Period. Because you need a little humility in your life. Because you will learn that it really is going to be OK. Because you will learn that in the grand eternal scheme of things it doesn't matter nearly as much as you think it matters. Think you have all the parenting answers figured out since you read 50 bajillion books on the subject during all those long years of waiting for kids? Well, I'm going to send you a child or two who will prove you flat out wrong. You are going to find out that you don't know *anything* about raising children.

    I've learned that we're all on a journey. All our experiences are valuable. All of us are muddling through. I was very self-righteous during my early years as a parent, and so were most of my friends. Now, for the most part, as long as you're not neglecting or abusing your kids, I'm good. I am still very opinionated on some things, but I don't care if those things aren't so important to other people. We can still be friends.

    The main challenging part is when other people's choices affect my family. We have a family in our branch who manage to sit behind us every Sunday. They bring lots of snacks and lots of not-so-quiet toys. That's fine for them, I wouldn't care, except that it causes so many problems for my own children, who want to eat their snacks and play with their toys. (This family is very eager to share… apparently they don't think we are bringing enough stuff for our own kids.)

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  3. Wow, thank you for sharing your wisdom! I am in the midst of little ones and I feel this is exactly the perspective I needed to hear today.

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  4. I can't fathom not being a fruit snack family. I cannot persuade my three year old to eat lunch 2 hours early, so it's a picnic in sacrament or to send a starving child to nursery. We're also too busy trying to keep track of my own children and their behavior, so when we offer your family fruit snacks it's in complete ignorance regarding your own fruit snack state and in effort to encourage sharing.

    I am not aware of any major philosophy changes in mothering since I began a whole three years ago, and I have completely forgotten most opinions I had before I had children. The one exception is I feel that babysitters ought to be very well paid, and I've kept to that.

    I guess one thing that has changes is I'm now more in favor of organized, paid activities for a preschooler than I thought I would be. After all, it's just burning through money better saved for college. We're starting our eldest born in formal preschool a full year earlier than anticipated. I thought I'd keep him in a home-based preschool co-op, but I have learned he needs more consistency than a co-op provides. I also thought I wouldn't ever pay for any "baby classes" or "baby sports," but now I have him in an /exercise/ class of all things. My child lacks academic, musical, or any quite inclinations and he's gifted physically and abounds in energy. "Gym class" gives him a place where his strengths are celebrated rather than discouraged.

    Well, and sticking the boy in classes means secondborn and I get some quiet to ourselves 🙂

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  5. Janell, in our situation it's somewhat beyond just being offered a few snacks. That I don't mind. It's tons of snacks, to the point where my 4-year-old can't focus on much else. They bring Matchbox cars for their son and then tell him to share some with my son, but Matchbox cars and other such toys can't be played with quietly for very long. We are more of a "paper and pencils" only kind of family in sacrament meeting. The real clincher is their children are wanderers and spend more time trying to come into our space and sit next to my kids rather than with their own family. This is distracting and disruptive for my kids. It is a zoo. In most situations I'd just turn around and say, "We're fine" when things were offered and redirect their kids back to their own seats, but this is one of those families that gets extremely offended all the time over small things (especially anything related to their children or their parenting), so we need to tread carefully.

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  6. I loved this piece. I especially liked your observation about finding things to care about so you could pat yourself on the back. When my kids were young and I was exhausted, it was so hard to feel I was doing anything well. I desperately needed reassurance and sometimes looked for it by comparing myself to others. This is the biggest thing that has changed for me as a parent. I've found the more I care about the needs of my children and making sure they feel loved instead of making sure I look like I'm doing my job well to outside observers, the better I feel and the less validation I need to feel good about myself as a mother.

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  7. A friend and I were discussing this recently, trying to make parenting choices based on love and concern for our children and NOT just trying to look like a good parent to those around us.

    I tell my children that each mom makes the best decisions on how to take care of their children. Many times those decisions look strange to us, but we need to respect each other's agency for how each of us decide to parent.

    This has come into play with our decision to homeschool. I try hard to teach my children to be tolerant and respect each family's decision on how to educate their kids. It probably bothers me more than it bothers my children when I hear negative remarks about our decision to homeschool, basically because I feel judged, but I am striving to combat that feeling and just choose LOVE. Although it really shouldn't matter what other people think (or say) it can be hard to not feel hurt.

    As far as sacrament meeting goes, we have been on both sides of the spectrum and I say 'live and let live'. I would wager that any family that comes prepared with a zillion snacks and toys is probably trying their best to survive through sacrament meeting without losing it, so let's all be tolerant and champion their efforts!

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  8. The first Sunday at my ward, I saw a mom set out basically a whole picnic lunch for her son. I thought it odd, but hey, maybe that's how they do things here. I later found out the kid has so many allergies and can't eats, that to get him to eat anything was a good thing. Glad I didn't say anything, because the mom and I are friends and I may have risked a good friendship.
    My kids are preteen/ teen, and there are things I miss about them being little, but the sense of humor we can share now (oh my gosh, my daughter has the funniest sense of humor), the conversations we can have, the hilarity of a marshmallow toss (yep, I tossed marshmallows at the kids last night. I think I got his mouth four times and her mouth once) cannot be understated.
    We've changed seats because I just could not deal with whatever the family near us was doing, and you know, the world didn't end. I'm sure people have changed to get away from us — and again, the world didn't end.
    As a parent, I don't actually compare my world against someone else's. Are my kids getting the grades I know they can? Do we generally enjoy each other's company when we are together? Am I teaching them things I enjoy, and maybe things I don't, but must be taught?
    Each family has its own style and rhythm, which is subject to change. And that's okay.

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  9. I'd rather clean up Cheerios or goldfish crackers than fruit snacks that get ground into the carpet. If all the fruit snacks get eaten, that's fine. I saw a kid eating a pop tart in sacrament meeting the other day, we have 1-4 church so that was odd. Still better than the time a lady in the ward started dishing up plates of spaghetti and passing it down the pew. They were in the second row so the whole ward saw it.

    I'm the mean mom who lets my kid have a pencil and notebook and has to take notes on the talks. She's 9 so we are past coloring and we are not a play games on your ipad during church family, unlike the family of teens sitting in front of us during stake conference. Yes, I judged them. It was very distracting and set a horrible example for my kid. If they had been in a class I was teaching I'd have confiscated them.

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  10. I do really hate when families get out a big picnic. Especially when there is much crinkling of wrappers. And it was torture when my kids were little and we had a strict no-food policy. It doesn't bug me as much as it used to, though. Although I do wonder at the families who practically bring an entire toy box to keep their kids amused. It's better than the ones who let their kids play with iPads, I guess.

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