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Moms Talk: The Ice Cream Truck Cometh

How often should parents say yes to the ice cream truck? What if you see it every day?

While food trucks that serve Korean-Mexican fusion cuisine and mac'n' cheese with Kalamata olive dust may be the current trend among urban foodies, there's one food truck that defies trends: the ice cream truck.

This summertime staple seems little changed from the one that I saw growing up in Washington DC in the late 70's and early 80's. Sure, the SpongeBob and Dora popsicles are new, but there's still a good old-fashioned Chocolate Eclair and Rainbow Push-Up if that's your thing. And just as I did when I was a little girl, my kids go crazy when they see the white truck and hear the jaunty tune.

However, there is one difference between the ice cream truck that I remember from my childhood and the one that my kids see around town. When I was a kid, the ice cream truck drove through my residential neighborhood maybe once every few weeks. If you were home and you got to your parents in time to beg for money, you got an ice cream. It was a treat, not an everyday occurence. In Oak Park and River Forest, once the temperature climbs out of the 50's, the ice cream truck is everywhere. This time of year, the ice cream truck is parked (!) next to every camp pick-up spot, every Little League game, and every outdoor event. Sometimes I think that truck defies the time-space continuum and is in two places at once. (Okay, maybe there's more than one truck. I'm not 100% sure.)

The ubiquity of the ice cream truck creates a dilemma for parents. No one wants to be the Parent Who Ruined Summer by saying no to the ice cream truck. But I can't possibly say yes every time my kids see the truck. I would literally be spending $40 a week on ice cream and my kids' teeth would rot out of their heads. Like so much in parenting, how to handle the ice cream truck is an exercise in line-drawing. As parents, we strive to hold the line once it's drawn, but the exercise is seldom fun.

Before camp started, I reminded both my kids that we would not be getting ice cream every day. It was too expensive and not healthy. We would pick one day of the week to be our ice cream day. Both kids agreed. The first day of camp was Monday. Guess which day my kids wanted to be ice cream day? If you said "Monday," you must be a parent. Or a kid. Come Tuesday, everyone regretted having blown our ice cream for the week. The 7 year old understands and just looks longingly at the white truck every afternoon. But the four year old continues to struggle. Every day he asks, "Is today ice cream day?" Depending on his mood, the reaction to my negative response varies from dignified resignation to a full-out tantrum. It doesn't help that other kids are lining up for ice cream as I'm saying no, but then again, that's also part of the lesson.

I know that it is my job as a parent to say no and hold the line here. Kids have to learn the difference between everyday occurences and treats. But sometimes I wish the damn ice cream truck would just go away and make my life easier!

Jill Salzman June 22, 2011 at 07:08 PM
If the ice cream truck's music is on, I now tell my children that the music's turned on because the truck is out of ice cream.
Casey Cora (Editor) June 22, 2011 at 07:24 PM
Brilliant.
Jennifer Moore June 24, 2011 at 08:28 PM
So true, so true... that guy is everywhere all the time. My personal favorite is when on a seemingly DAILY basis he parks his dairy-filled and fume-wretching truck right at the school playground when the kids are coming out. Isn't there a law that he should be like 100 feet away or something? Maybe I'm confusing it something else.

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