Sunday, December 9, 2012

100th Post: Peanut Butter Jelly Time

100 Posts...and they said it wouldn't last.

Actually, I don't know that anyone said that except me. I thought, "How in the world can I have that much to say?" And yet...I have chosen at least 100 things to spew about. And some of you have chosen to read them. So thanks!

Without further delay...I give you Post 100. I'm sure it's worth the wait...

For years I have coddled the PBA by making their lunches whenever we needed to pack them for the day. They are fully capable of making their own and yet for some reason I continued to pack them. The ones they eat at home, they make for themselves.

Incongruous, right?

So I decided a few weeks ago that I was putting my foot down. They would have to make their own lunches. I'm so tough.

However my plans had a serious flaw. They (the plans) made the assumption that the PBA would be as forward-thinking in their lunch making as I had been/am (am with my own, mind you). I realized this immediately on the first day of this new policy when it was time to get in the car to leave for the day and no lunches had the PBA made or packed. I had my lunch ready to go. Not to brag or anything…but I was going to make sure I had something to eat. It’s more about necessity than anything else. If I don't eat, I get a smidge crabby...and NOBODY wants to see that.

Unfortunately my children are the same way, so after a rather mad (in both meanings of the word) scramble, and a few choice a calm voice I’m sure (once my head stopped spinning around)...lunches were thrown into bags and away we went.

Why do I always seem to forget that these children needs training? Now I am fully aware that it not simply “these children”… all children need training. They don’t come with instructions (yes, a GROSSLY over-used statement, albeit an accurate one, so I will use it again…) nor do they come with an innate sense of how to do much for themselves. Some are more “self-starter” than others but I didn’t even get 50% on that with the PBA; not a one of the two are self-starters. Maybe it is latent in there; I am just trying to coax it out. Occasionally I will see a self-starter behavior, but it’s typically just a little flicker I try to gently fan into something more. But it usually goes out completely.

But I am forging ahead anyway, certain it is a quality which can be taught...they have to be able to think for themselves on some level, right? And think beyond what is the thing right in front of them? They're not going to live at home forever, right? I wake up in a cold sweat sometimes thinking about that very thing. Much as I love them, I don't want them to live with me/us forever. 

This fear drives me a little harder. So I am diligently working on transforming them into self-starters: looking at a situation and asking themselves, “Hmmm…what needs to be done here? And what can I do about it?” or “Hey, let me think through my schedule for today or tomorrow (or...gasp...the week) and think about the kinds of things I will need to have prepared ahead of time so I don’t have to rush and/or mom doesn’t have to come unhinged when I’m not ready like I should be?”

It’s a process. We're not there yet. Not even close. But we’re working on it.

We muddled through that frustrating progress was made. So the NEXT week, I began the actual training…not exactly as I would have liked, and a little slower for my taste but I knew it was the pace they needed. I tried modeling it for them as I went…

For the first week, I made their sandwiches, and I bagged the veggies and pretzels; I did this all on Monday, while they were eating Monday’s lunch, no less, so they could see me doing it. All they had to do on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday was grab all the items and make sure they made it into the lunch box as needed.

I even pointed out to them that I was assembling all the necessary items ahead of time…on Monday…when there was no rush. This would make things go more smoothly on the other days, when we were already scrambling to get out the door on time. I got vacant looks and head nods…and not vigorous nods either; they were the kind when you know that the person isn’t really listening but they know they have to acknowledge in some way that you were speaking to them. But both parties are fully aware that the listener isn’t listening, and has not a clue what he was told.

For those of you who do not have the pleasure of boys, you may not know to that which I am referring. But if you have a husband, you might.

I realize this kind of seems like coddling, but believe me…it was progress. They had to actually remember to put things in the lunchboxes.

So the next week, I gradually tapered off the amount I did for them. And I did get one of them to make two of the necessary sandwiches at once. The other one insisted that he make his sandwiches one day at a time, the day he needed them. And we began each day with some weeping and gnashing of teeth, as he forgot to make the sandwich until we needed to be walking out the door.

Listen to me, children…I know about that of which I speak.

But by week number four,the tide had turned. On Monday afternoon, I reminded them once that they should probably consider making sandwiches today; not just one sandwich…THREE sandwiches each.

I watched, unable to contain myself, as the 11yo made the first sandwich, bagged it, then moved on to make the second. I knew in my mind that there was NOTHING wrong with the way he was doing it, but it wasn’t the most effective time management I’d ever seen. We probably all know that I am all about the time management.

I watched until I couldn’t stand it any longer. I grabbed the bread and pulled out four slices. I laid them out in pairs, with the bottom edges of the slices facing each other, so they could quickly be put back together by slapping (I mean carefully placing) one piece on top of the other. 

Pointing to the peanut butter, I ordered/instructed/coached him to put it on one slice of each pair. He did. Nicely done.

I pointed to the jelly and gave the same instructions. Again, he did this with little trouble. Fantastic.

Now slap them together and put them in the bags. He did.

(With such stellar directions as these, is it any wonder that my brief stint in technical writing didn’t last?)

Then, to my continued amazement, he put them all in the freezer (did you know you can freeze PB&J for a few weeks and they are no worse for wear? How is it different than those frozen “Uncrustibles” made by Smuckers. I’ll tell you how it’s different…I can make 11 sandwiches for the same price of a box of 4 of those sandwiches, which are half the size of a standard sandwich.)

And then he cleaned up the area, and put away the mat he’d put on the counter on which he made the sandwiches, as well as the necessary utensils, and the peanut butter and jelly. 

So with the same reserved spirit, I let the 9yo begin. Before he could touch anything, I made sure he washed his hands. Does this reminder ever end? I sometimes catch myself asking my husband if he’s washed his hands, or if he needs to go potty before we leave to go somewhere. Yeah, that’s not at all emasculating or demeaning, is it? I do not intend it to be; it is simply habit. The other y-chromosomes always need the reminder so it stands to reason that maybe he does too.

After ensuring that his hands were appropriately clean (or clean enough…it is his food), I instructed him to take out 6 pieces of bread. I tried to explain how to lay out the pieces, but he wasn’t getting it…you, the readership, may not be getting it either. Starting with three stacks of two, the top piece of each was lifted off and laid down next to it, as though there was an invisible hinge between them. Does that description help? I do this because I know that the bread will fit perfectly on top of the other piece if it is separated in this way. These kinds of things are important. Ok, important to me. I hate it when the slices of bread don’t line up. It’s a quirk, what can I say? I’m certain no one else in my vast readership can relate.

So I go through the same litany with him that I did with the 11yo, except we got to knock out all three sandwiches at once. And he did it perfectly, just like the 11yo.

I explained that it was called an “assembly line” technique, that you do all of one thing, then all of the next, and so on through the process. In a factory, each person has one job to do. It takes a lot less time to make a car when hundreds of people have worked on it, each doing a specialized task, than if each person made the entire car start to finish.

I kind of got a glazed look staring back at me with that explanation. I’m certain it was the student, not the teacher…I’ll try the explanation again later. I know he truly hangs on my every word and commits them all to memory.

He put his sandwiches in the freezer too, and set to work putting away the peanut butter and jelly, and all the used utensils:  knife and a spoon…the first time he made his sandwiches, he was confused and tried to use the knife to get jelly…that didn’t work too well; it’s a little slippery. I explained to him that not only does it not work well, but now you have peanut butter in the jelly. The result of this is not at all as good as “You got chocolate in my peanut butter!” and “You got peanut butter in my chocolate.” As with Ghirardelli, not one of my favorite commercials, but I do like the product!

Anyway, he progressed to a spoon and two knives. He was using one knife for the peanut butter and one knife for the jelly because he thought he couldn’t mix them. Clearly it escaped him that they mix immediately once the two halves of the sandwich are smooshed together. That’s higher-level thinking, for sure.

Such considerate young men, cleaning up after themselves. It may have had to do something with the fact that I was hovering over them, but probably not. 

It’s just quality parenting.


  1. And this is why we are friends. I can't stand bread that isn't aligned properly. However, your waste of utensils is making me shudder. Only one knife is needed. Do the jelly first, then wipe the excess jelly off on the soon-to-be peanut butter side, then do the peanut butter. No mixing in the jars, and only one knife to wash.
    And all of my kids have been taught how to do this. Even the littlest. Because I am just a touch obsessive about such things. Which is why we get along. :)

    1. To be clear...all I use more than you is a spoon. It's the 9yo which uses multiple or everything...we're working on it. And I do make them use the same pair of utensils as the brother before or set per round of sandwich-making...yes, I clearly run a tight ship.