I have a big family. 4 kids – the oldest just in kindergarten. We have to get in the car almost daily for playdates, shopping trips, appointments and family adventures. My van is almost always a disaster. Before I became a Mom, I was diligent about always unpacking the car after every drive. I hauled in my lunch dishes, coffee cup, work things, a gym bag and the daily mail. It was a habit and my car was always clean. However, these days, it takes me 3 trips in the house for JUST THE CHILDREN. So, whatever I brought in to the car to make the trip safe and enjoyable tends to get left behind.
It is a major stressor for me to pack the car, even a or a short trip. Every kid and their warm weather gear, baby carriers, water bottles and coffee cups plus spare clothes, diapers and wipes for 3. It is mind boggling. To go along with my goals of simplifying and consuming less, I recently decided to no longer pack snacks of any kind in the car. The idea was met with shock and confusion for the children. My kids have an almost Pavlovian response as soon as they hook into their car seats.
“Can I have a snack?”
“What did you pack for me to eat?”
“Can I have something that is individually wrapped that I will struggle to open while complaining, finally open, eat half of, throw the plastic and the leftover food on the floor never to be thought of again and then beg for more, different, sugary or salty foods that are almost guaranteed NOT tackle my hunger that I don’t really have anyways because I finished a meal 5 MINUTES AGO?”
OK, that last one is more what I hear than what they actually say. But seriously, goldfish crackers in the car are doing nothing for my kids besides giving them a tool to slowly create a bright orange layer of crumbs that is beginning to take over the van like a floor mat. A few months ago, I stopped using plastic baggies and packing snacks got even harder. Here I was, packing multiple snack packs in reusable containers with non-matching lids destined to end up underneath a seat never to be seen again. I began to envision this scenario with all 4 of them in a couple months and it was terrifying.
So, how does it work? It’s simple. I feed the kids snacks and meals at home. If we are away from home at meal time, I will pack them food that stays in a reusable shopping bag up front with me. And sometimes, they actually miss a snack or eat lunch an hour later than normal. As far as I know, no kid has ever been harmed by missing a snack. I know this to be true in my house because if I put on a movie, my kids will go HOURS without asking for food.
I can’t explain to you how lovely it is to put the kids in the car and instead of packing snacks, pouring an extra cup of coffee for me and enjoying the drive. It took 2 weeks for my 3 year old to stop asking and now she gazes out the window, listens to music and sings her heart out to Justin Timberlake on the Trolls soundtrack. Join me in reducing food waste, plastic baggies and a gigantic mess and turn your minivan (or family car of your choice) into your sanctuary. Your kids might revolt but then they will adjust, I promise.