The childhood habit lives on in me today.
An important part of being a kid at the grocery store with your mom was getting to decide which goofy cereal to commit to that week. My mom always let my sister and I each pick out our own box of cereal to enjoy for the next seven days, given that the first ingredient was not sugar. Back then, in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s, the Major Three (Kellogg’s, General Mills, and Post) were all about competing with each other by seeing who could give the coolest toy in the bottom of the box.
But aside from the rainbow colored oat bits, unnecessary marshmallows, and the free sticky octopus toy that would cling to the wall when you threw it, there was still that entertaining back of the cereal box to look at. Mazes, crossword puzzles, “can you find?…” pictures. Enough entertainment to stay preoccupied to the point that you almost forget your brother or sister is sitting there just a few feet away trying to find Barney Rubble hiding behind a Stegosaurus on the back of the Fruity Pebbles box.
Because without the barriers of those boxes in front of us at the kitchen table, that meant that we might accidently look at each other, or purposely look at each other, to “bother” the other person. As a kid, there were a plethora of ways to be annoyed by your sibling, and for some reason, being looked at was one of them. I thought it was just my sister and I that had to read the backs of cereal boxes so we “wouldn’t have to look at each other”, but after recently walking down the cereal isle at Publix with my wife, revisiting our favorite childhood cereals, I learned it was the same way at her house. So I can only assume this is an American phenomenon- an expected part of Saturday morning breakfasts.
Now as an adult, I still read the backs of my cereal boxes. Learned habit, I’m sure. I have to admit though, the back of the box of Shredded Wheat isn’t quite as fun as Lucky Charms always was. And of course, no free prize at the bottom of the box either.