Let me preface this by saying that I am not one of those moms who trawls the Internets in search of information about anti-vaccination, unlearning and rationalizations to never brush your children’s teeth. I’m sure there are plenty who see me as fairly fringe in my views, but where I live, I’m actually extremely…moderate!
One of my big rants, however, is about food — its production, particularly the predominance of corn byproducts in our food system. That’s all a diatribe for a different time, however. The simple point is that, from a food perspective, I try to feed my children as healthfully as possible. I wrestle with the idea of giving them sugar, yet also recognize that it’s important to expose them to all types of food, including (*gasp!*) junk food. I grew up in a mostly sugar and tv-free household, which was great… until I could get my grubby little paws on candy with my allowance money, or whenever I went to a friend’s house with more liberal tv standards… I had no idea how to moderate my “consumption” of sugar or tv whatsoever. I’m now in my mid-thirties, and I still don’t, for that matter, which is why we only watch tv online and I moderate how much sugary food I bring into the house. If I don’t have it in the house, I’m not going to eat it, and I’m also not going to give it to my children.
As a parent, I wish I could guard my kids from the pernicious effects of television and junk food completely. Unfortunately, unless I plan on locking them down in a commune-setting for the rest of their lives, this tactic doesn’t prepare them for the real world. Even the some Amish communities are smart enough to let their children, upon entering young adulthood, experience the world beyond their realm and choose for themselves (Rumspringa). At a certain point, you have to trust that your children will be able to navigate the world and all its pitfalls… but you can only do that if you’ve taught them how to read a map.
So, food is, along with the topics of gendering (princessing, for girls), raising an unbranded citizen, facing religious crossroads and cultivating character in my children, a complex issue for me. We belong to a sustainable CSA, where we get most of our meat and a fair amount of our vegetables. We have a small backyard garden, mostly so my children can be have an intimate understanding of where food comes from and an excuse to get their hands dirty. I try to involve my children in cooking as often as possible, and have them help me select produce at the grocery store or farmer’s market. Yet, I get caught in the same food traps as anybody else — the picky eater who will only have quesadillas every day for lunch, leveraging food “treats” as a means to get decent behaviour from my three year old, passing limitless little baggies full of peanut butter pretzels and goldfish to the shorties in the backseat, etc. For someone who bothers so much with thinking about good food, you’d be amazed at the the low quality of many of our daily nutritional devourings.
On second thought… after reading that last paragraph… maybe I am one of those moms and just don’t know it… damn that’s scary! Let me qualify so you can see the “moderate”: my daughter has had McDonald’s french fries (c’est horrible!!), loves fish sticks slathered in *non-organic* (gasp!) ketchup, prays to God every night that she’ll have a popsicle the next day (sacre bleu!!!) and has had almost all the recommended vaccinations (mon dieu!), though I regret having given her some. My son, at 19 months, races to the couch whenever we put the tv on to put on an episode of “Sid the Science Kid” or “Mr. Rogers” (c’est la vie.)