I’m not suggesting that kids should just be thrown in front of the TV with a big bag of Red Dye No. 3 for dinner. But I do think we should avoid driving ourselves crazy and giving our kids a lifelong complex if they don’t eat what we want them to all the time. From Gummi Bears Should Not Be Organic: And Other Opinions I Can’t Back Up With Facts.
Look, I’m aware of the dangers in a lot of our foods and I have probably drunk the Kool-Aid applauding organic fruits and veggies, avoiding plastic in the microwave, and opting for hormone-free milk and chicken. I also buy wheat bread even though we all know unless your bread is sprouting like a rotten potato, it may as well be white. So really, the bread thing is just mental. But I have to keep it realistic. I’m not filling my fair-trade, organic-cotton, reusable tote bag with a damn peace sign on it with groceries from Whole Foods. If I did, I’d have to take out a second mortgage on my house. You aren’t a shitty mom if you shop at the grocery store.
Unfortunately, there are some parents out there who take a far different approach and, in the process, often make it harder for the rest of us. Have you ever encountered a judgy snack mom, the one who has a better, farmer’s-market- based option for every snack you bring to a playdate? She’s fond of saying things like, “Oh, you know Whole Foods makes an all-natural version of that cheese and those crackers. That processed cheddar is so unhealthy.” Or “Here, try some of these organic gummi bear substitutes; they’re made from quinoa!” Let’s all agree that while processed cheese may be questionable, gummi bears should not be organic! It’s against the laws of nature! We need to draw the line on healthy eating somewhere, and I pick here!
While those moms are extreme, others are downright evangelical.
Have you made your kid abandon gluten, denying him the heavenly healing powers of a warm dinner roll slathered with butter? Must your child renounce complex carbs? Are they, God forbid, a vegan? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then I just want to warn you that you are not setting your kids up for normal life in the real world. If you want to be gluten-free, do an eighty-day beet juice cleanse, or eat like a caveman for a year, then that’s between you and your Facebook feed (actually, please stop posting that shit on your Facebook feed). But unless your child has celiac disease or another medical reason for excluding such a bready, delicious part of a balanced diet, there really is no good reason that they can’t have gluten. While most of us aren’t nut-job extremists, we could all use a reminder sometimes about how important it is to maintain a balanced attitude about food. Our relationship with our children depends on it.
My daughter told me about a friend of hers at school who said, “My mom thinks I’m a vegetarian but when I’m at school I sneak and eat meat.” My daughter asked her, “Why don’t you just tell your mom that you don’t want to be a vegetarian?” She replied, “Because my mom would be disappointed.” This bummed me out on a couple of levels— that this girl couldn’t be honest with her mom, but more importantly that she was having to rely on an elementary school cafeteria to get her daily meat fix. I wanted to kidnap this kid and take her out with our family for a juicy prime rib dinner. But unfortunately there are some pesky laws against that. In the end I settled for a compromise and invited her over for a big bowl of Lucky Charms, and left the organic jerky in plain sight.