A father’s guide to the kids ‘growing up normal’

A father’s guide to the kids ‘growing up normal’

Any of my three children would gleefully tell you how they were systematically deprived during their childhood by my grocery-buying habits. I wouldn’t deny that I never left much room for fluff on my shopping list. If an item was truly needed, it was always purchased. If it was not, however, the likelihood of that item making it to the cash register in my cart was slim.

That’s not to say I didn’t carry a mess of contraband — chocolate-chip cookies, candy bars, brownie mix, even ice cream — around in my cart as I made my way through the store. Kristin and the kids were all masters at slipping this type of illicit cargo into the basket while I was busy crunching numbers to determine the better value between 16 ounces of peanut butter at $1.99 or 48 ounces at $5.96.

While I may have been temporarily duped on occasion, I was pathologically vigilant and notoriously unforgiving at checkout. A kid could stuff those candy bars as deeply into the mishmash of fresh vegetables, mac-and-cheese boxes and canned beets as they liked, but in the end I would inevitably snatch them from the conveyor before they ever made it to the cash register.

As cruel as it may have seemed, life wasn’t all kale and lima beans for my kids. I did occasionally treat well-behaved children to the reward of one-fifth of a full-sized York peppermint patty if they made it through the entire store without begging or chicanery. Even today the kids recall the special joy of tasting a tiny sliver of chocolate-covered mint.

“Remember how Dad used to split one piece of candy among the entire family?” they say with a special fondness of heart. “How did we ever grow up normal?”

With the kids now out on their own, I’ve grown a bit complacent in my vigilance. Kristin shops for chocolate out of spite, but it’s possible all of those years of deprivation have skewed her judgement. The other day she came home with a 30 pack of family-sized, chocolate-covered Payday candy bars she’d found at one of the local surplus stores. Plopping the box on the countertop, she declared victory over my healthy eccentricities.

“They are peanuts covered in dairy products, John,” she declared in preemptive defense. “There’s literally nothing unhealthy about them.”

Moving with dramatic flair, she cracked open the box, peeled back a wrapper and sunk her teeth into the cigar-sized candy bar. Her effort was met almost instantly with show-stopping resistance. The bars had apparently arrived in the surplus store for good reason. They were petrified.

Never one to be easily defeated while trying to prove a point, Kristin persisted chomping ceaselessly on the small chunk she was able to break from the bar.

“So it’s a little bit of work,” she mumbled. “But the flavor is extraordinary.”

She spent the next few days performing all sorts of alchemy in the kitchen: heating the bars in the microwave, exposing samples to air and sunlight, trying to soften the billets with warm milk. Nothing came of it. Finally, she set the entire box aside in hopes of pawning them off on our youngest daughter, Sylvia, who as a camp counselor is still living the life of a starving college student.

The candy never made it to camp. Our dog Frankie discovered the box and — after almost instantly crunching down a half-dozen bars — landed in solitary confinement on 24-hour-a-day diarrhea watch. On a related note, Kristin’s root canal is scheduled for later this week.

And the kids wonder how they ever “grew up normal” under my watch.

Kristin and John Lorson would love to hear from you. Write Drawing Laughter, P.O. Box 170, Fredericksburg, OH 44627, or email John at jlorson@alonovus.com.