“I Know What You Guys Do Secretly After We Go to Bed.”

It was one of those nice afternoons when the little one was taking a nap, the oldest was upstairs reading, and my seven-year-old daughter was playing quietly with her mystery blind bags in the family room. I was sitting on the couch folding laundry and enjoying a peaceful moment when she broke the silence.  “I know what you guys do secretly after we go to bed” she said slyly.

“Um, what do you mean?” I replied suspiciously. She looked up at me with a gleam in her eye and a smile playing at the corners of her mouth. “You don’t want us to know what you and Daddy do after we go to bed, but I know.” 

Unsure where this was going, I stopped stacking underwear. “Erm, what exactly are we talking about here?” I asked her. She was positively smug at this point. “I saw you guys one night after I was supposed to be in bed,” she said. “Tell me what you saw,” I replied carefully, keeping my face calm and neutral. “Well, I came down that night when I couldn’t find my water bottle, remember? And I saw what you were doing,” she said in an accusatory tone. “You and daddy were sitting on the couch watching TV! And eating SNACKS!” 

Oh THAT! {Nervous laughter}

The Big Secret

There was a time, before our third child came along and broke our will, when my husband and I pretended to our children that we didn’t eat junk food or watch TV. Screen time, chocolate, and chips of all kinds were bad for you. Those were just the facts. 

“What do you do after we go to bed?” my curious daughter once asked. “Work!” I whined. “Stuff I can’t do all day because I’m taking care of you guys! I have to clean the kitchen from dinner, pick up all the stuff that’s been left everywhere, check all the emails and respond to all the people who wrote me about all the things I have to do. I work all night until bedtime,” I responded with an exaggerated sigh, slumping my shoulders for proper effect.

In my defense, this was all true at one point. Once the kids got older though, I had more freedom to do things during the daytime and didn’t have to use my precious evening hours on chores anymore. But they didn’t need to know that. And they certainly didn’t need to know about the snacks that we retrieved from secret hiding places after they went down.

Over the years, my husband and I got sloppier and sloppier with our secret. The first time we ever slipped was when our oldest was a preschooler. We had accidentally left a jar of chocolate almonds sitting on the couch. The next morning, our son saw the half-full container and ran to pick it up. “Look mommy! BEANS!!” he shouted, cheerfully hoisting the heavy jar up to me. “Yes, beans! What are they doing there?!” I responded, patting him on the head and shoving the treats in the pantry. After that, my husband and I resolved to do a good sweep of the TV room before we went to bed each night.

Our sweeps were obviously not good enough. In the years following the “beans incident”, all three kids have commented on the bits of potato chips and popcorn kernels they’ve found strewn around the couch in the mornings. Now with three elementary-school aged children, we have succumbed and there’s a whole cabinet full of individually bagged chips and snacks that the kids have access to anytime. Oh well, we held out as long as we could. 

Sneaky Strategies

But for those of you with littles who are still trying to set a good example, I will share my pro tips for sneaking a bite of forbidden food during the day while still keeping a responsible eye on the children.

• Cereal box shields:: While preparing meals, arrange some cereal boxes on the kitchen counter and crouch behind them while taking bites of your favorite chocolate.
• Bowl of carrots:: Fill a bowl with your favorite chips and a few carrot sticks. Hold the bowl close to your mouth for best protection against prying eyes. When the children inevitably come to investigate what you’re eating, hold up a carrot stick and offer it to them.
• Childless car rides:: If you’re lucky enough to get away from the house without the kids, grab a treat for the car. Do not throw away your shot! However, be very careful not to leave wrappers on the console. Trust me. The lies you’ll have to tell…
• Running water:: Another good opportunity to sneak a snack is when you’re getting ready to wash the dishes. Kids can’t hear you telling them to pick up their toys, but they will hear a bag of chips opening from across the room. So, while the water is running, peel that bag open as quietly as you can and stash it amongst the dirty dishes on the counter while you enjoy a much-deserved little pick-me-up.
• Everything is spicy:: If they catch you red-handed, just make tragic faces while complaining, “Boy, this is spicy!! Terrible! Ugh!” If they are old enough to challenge you on why you would inflict pain on yourself, explain that it wouldn’t be nice to waste food. 

So maybe these strategies were slightly deceptive, but my goal was to always model healthy eating habits for my children when they were young, so that they can make good choices for themselves as they got older. Since they are now well-established in the practice of eating balanced meals, I have eased up on the junk food rules. There are no snacking secrets between us anymore. I can now enjoy my Cadbury chocolate and Miss Vickie’s Jalapeno Chips out in the open. Ahhh, the taste of freedom!

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Vicky grew up in Miami, graduated from Boston University, and moved to New York City to work in advertising. She and her husband then had a marvelous adventure abroad, which included the birth of their older son. After almost four years in Beijing, they headed to her husband's hometown of Houston. Their daughter made her debut a few months later and their younger son joined the ranks several years after that. Vicky loves family life and all the adventures, laughs, and lessons that come with it. Though busy raising three kids, she tries to sneak time to tend to her tiny urban garden and come up with ideas to continually make her home a haven. Vicky has been slightly obsessed with raising monarch butterflies in recent years. She’s a writer and communications consultant who dreams of days where she can simply sit by the pool reading a book and drinking lemonade.


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