What's In My Lunch? is the new lunchroom gameshow. It was invented as a distraction for a preschooler having a major tantrum wanting to go home to mommy, and to not stay for lunch and a nap. I really, really, really didn't want the student to set off all the other young ones in a mass lunchtime tantrum. Even more, I didn't want the sobbing tantrum to escalate to the point of gagging, which is always an unpleasant possibility that is hard on my appetite and usually on my shoes.
Distraction is one of the greatest tools for managing small children. One hot summer day in 1982 I was beached like a huge pregnant perspiring inflatable manatee in a webbed folding lawn chair at Benson Park in Omaha for my mother-in-law's family reunion. Some competent and very distant relation was watching her two toddlers play nearby. The reality of impending motherhood was weighing very heavily on my mind and body, so I asked this related stranger about her secret to parenting. She answered, "Distraction and substitution." What other wisdom could she impart to my stewed aquatic mammal brain? This wise woman, this young part-time dental hygienist and mother I hadn't met before nor since, said, "Controlled choices."
I revere this elusive messiah who handed down the way I could keep my head attached to my body while parenting young boys. It helps me understand the John Frum cargo cult on the South Pacific island of Vanatu.
Controlled choices--Offer the child two choices, each of which are acceptable to the adult. Do you want to wear your striped shirt or your Ghostbuster jumpsuit? Do you want to select a yogurt flavor or a fresh fruit at the grocery store? Would you like to listen to the baseball game on the radio or have the "Little Mermaid" cassette playing while you go to sleep?
For my little students I ask if they would prefer to be a game contestant or to start eating their sandwiches. I usually pack a salad for lunch, and put in every possible item. That gives the contestants more chances to guess right or wrong. Today my salad had lettuce, carrots, almonds, sunflower seeds, tomato, celery, snow peas, red and orange pepper, mushrooms, cheese, ham, avocado, crumbled blue corn chips, and dressing. I usually make a yogurt dressing because many of the kids have yogurt in their own lunches. The more things to guess in my lunch, the more foods they add to their mental bank of acceptable edibles. The more guessing, the more distraction for the sobbing student. The lunch gameshow is a more appealing choice than crying until you barf on your Lunchable.
Back in the deep, dark, gray, black, and white cavern of 1950s television, I got "To Tell the Truth" mildly entwangled with "What's My Line?" Kitty Carlisle died April 19th at the age of ninety-six. She was a panelist on "To Tell the Truth" along with Polly Bergen, Johnny Carson, Bill Cullen, and Don Ameche. The show, hosted by Bud Collyer, had three contestants all claiming to be the same person. The panel asked questions to determine which contestant was telling the truth.
"What's My Line?," was hosted by John Daly. The panelists included Dorothy Kilgallen, Bennett Cerf, Arlene Francis, Steve Allen, Fred Allen, Ernie Kovacs, and Louis Untermeyer. Sometimes the panelistS had to don blindfolds. The object of the game was for four panelists to try to guess unusual occupations of contestants or a product associated with them.
To tell the truth, I'm losing weight on this nutritious role model diet.
© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder