My Kids Don't Like Kraft Mac & Cheese (& other confessions from post-expat life)

You know the blue box?  The one commercials tout that "kids love"?  The one that restaurants often choose to serve on their kids meals because "kids love" it?  The one that relatives serve because "well, I didn't know what your kids would eat and I figured everyone loves this"?

Yeah, well, my kids don't like it.

We couldn't get it when they were small and we lived in China & Turkey.   So one time in 2009, when we went on vacation to Egypt, I found a couple of the precious blue boxes and snatched them up, quick as could be.  Figuring, of course, that it was worth the premium imported price because "kids love it."

I mixed up the freakishly neon yellow-orange powder with the requisite ingredients, ready to serve the kids something I just knew they'd love, and they were just as excited to try this boxed treat we'd excitedly told them about.  It was the ultimate vacation convenience food & comfort food, or so I thought.

A couple bites in, we noticed that they were all picking at it, trying to be nice.  One of them wondered if the sauce tasted weird, musing that maybe it had gone bad.  At some point, one of them asked, "why don't they use real pasta in it?"    It was a total bomb.  Even when I tried to eat the leftovers, I couldn't get it down.  It had been years, and truly, the fake taste was overpowering.

We pitched the whole overpriced batch.

Our 7-year-old daughter Maranatha loves the creamy, gooey, elbow-pasta, homestyle macaroni and cheese... so she always has to ask, when we're out to eat at the rare restaurant, "mommy, is this REAL macaroni and cheese?  Or is the stuff I don't like?"

All the other kids just eschew macaroni and cheese altogether.  :)

Today I had a somewhat similar experience when I served an (easy-for-me) lunch of mini corn dogs and french fries.  Nearly every plate had more than half the fries left, and I hadn't served them very many.  It just occurred to me, we've never been McDonald's fans, we rarely eat out, they didn't start out their growing up years in America... they just don't LOVE and CRAVE french fries the way, well, the way *I* and probably most other Americans do.

I see a lot of other things in them that are just different.

  • They sit at the table after lunch and play games like "spin the globe and put your finger down on it while it's spinning.  Then, when it stops, tell as much as you know about that place."-- Then, they'll say things like, "That's where Uncle Han is from", or "that's the place we flew through to get to Thailand."   Certainly not your typical dining table conversation... at least not from any kid conversation I was a part of, growing up.  And they find it fun.  I've not even slightly implied that it's anything other than a total blast.  :)
  • They each take pride in having a birthplace that is different from all the others.  Virginia, Texas, Thailand, Istanbul (Asian side), Istanbul (European side), and @ home (not a hospital) in Texas.  
  • Each of us have "close friends" that live all around the world.  And there will basically never be a time until Heaven that we have them all nearby, collected into one place.  And even then, I'm still praying that that will be the destination for some of our dear friends.  Our friends are truly here, there, and everywhere.
  • They take an active interest in world news.  This week as we've marvelled over the protests going on in our old stomping grounds of Istanbul, I've heard things like "THAT doesn't look like Turkey!" and "That looks more like Egypt!" from my elementary school kiddos.  I am so thankful that their eyes are wide open as they look at the world.  Except for a vague interest in Egyptian mummies & such, my eyes weren't open to the world at their ages.  

I know many of you are also expats, or former expats.  What do you notice that seems unique or different about your kids?


Owlhaven said...

That's wonderful, all of it! My kids don't like store-bought tomato soup because I always do homemade...

Melissa said...

I love this! I have many friends who are current/former Ms and MKs; and they definitely have a more cultural-sensitive perspective of the world.

Janet said...

Sounds so much like us. We're on our first furlough in four years and we've had some interesting experiences, especially when it comes to food. They've spit out store-bought cookies, pudding, and pop tarts. We have stopped ordering fries all together. While travelling lately, Burger King was the only choice in the airport and my boys just said, "Ugh, do we have to?"

We have our "Americans" and "Asians": three born in America (Colorado, Florida, and North Carolina) and three born in Asia (India, Malaysia, and Indonesia.)

The "country game" is a favorite at dinner (A for ____, B for ____, and so on). Our daughter just showed me that she figured out how to set our American time and Asian time on her watch.

We love our expat life and the amazing world view our children are gaining!

julie said...

I think that parents that did not grow up as TCKs marvel seeing these things in their children...and TCKs who are raising their kids as non-TCKs have a hard time not seeing their kids growing up with the same interest in and knowledge of the globe {sigh!}. He has a time and a season for everything, but as a TCK I hope that my children will love and be interested in "the globe".

Kim said...

I am so happy you are back! Your blog always makes me think, or encourages me in some way. Thank You.
I am not an ex-pat, but my daughter doesn't like Kraft dinner either. My mom used to play the globe game with us all the time, and I can't wait to start.


Jessica B. said...

My kids are very comfortable with being the minority and not looking like everyone around us. We've been back in the states for 18 months and are settled in an area where we sometimes look different. But they're used to that and feel it is normal.
Their understanding of people being different from us is greater than a child who hasn't lived abroad, I imagine.
They also like to play passport control. When driving through 4 states recently in one day they didn't quite get why we didn't need our passports to get through the statelines.

Phyllis said...

Ours didn't like Kraft when they tried it either.

One thing I noticed recently was when I showed them a photo of a friend's daughter about their age. Their first question was, "What languages does she speak?" :-)