23 May 2010

The Meanest Mom on the Block (Or Why I don't buy fruit snacks)

I had the privilege of being taken out to dinner for my birthday by a group of women I've grown to treasure. Most are women we worship with each week, and they are all fun, funny and kind. And all of them happen to be mothers. Some of one, some of two, some of three.

As mothers do when they gather, we talked about our children. We also talked about a bunch of other stuff, which is a crusade of mine - we aren't just mothers. But, mothering is primary vocation for most of us right now, so it is natural to discuss these little people for whom we're responsible.

It might be breastfeeding or crawling or Tide with Bleach, but there is always something germane to the great task set before us.

And we all have different views about many things. And are able to discuss and even disagree without even a hitch in our collective giddy up. I do it this way, you do it that way, and that's all okay - we are all striving to grow healthy, happy, bright and Godly babies.

One thing we often discuss, and I always get put at the mean end of the spectrum (although I have some company...), is what we feed these people.

I often have mothers, some in good fun and some a bit more horrified, look askance at me for denying a second dessert or a first soft drink or a bag o' chips or some such. I've tried to explain to Ada Brooks and to all mothers and fathers who dare to cross me about it that it is because I love my children that I don't allow any or much of a lot of things out there. But the problem seems to be that people don't understand why that love translates to denial.

[ When Ada Brooks was three, we were in the grocery store, and she asked me if I would buy her some KoolAid Bursts. I said no. She asked why. I said, "because I love you and KoolAid bursts are pure sugar with no redeeming qualities - and it's not sugar God made, but sugar we made, and that much sugar can cause lots of health problems like diabetes" "What's diabetes" and so on and so forth. At the end of this exhaustive, tedious conversation, ada said, "Does Sally's mother not love her?"..... And my answer is of course Sally's mother loves her.... but we are all trying to love you people the best way we know how]

So, why does this love translate to denial of much that is fun and wonderful in the world?

First, the rules. Then, the principles.

1 - I don't buy soft drinks for the kids - or anything other than 100% juice (which i still dilute), organic skim milk and water. They are allowed to have a non-caffeinated beverage (capri sun, sprite, etc.) at Wednesday night church or on special occasions.

2 - We use only 100% whole wheat bread.

3 - We don't buy or offer chips and the like. Or fruit snacks. We buy fruits and vegetables. We taught Ada Brooks to peel her own carrots when she was three and that's what she does for many an afternoon snack - that or a celery stick, string cheese, or banana.

4 - Yes, at birthday parties, church events, other social occasions, we say "sure thing - go ahead - celebrate" Have some ice cream, cake and even cheetos. But, a trip to the park on a random Tuesday is not cause for celebration.

5 - A typical breakfast is bran flakes, cheerios or wheat chex with fruit. A typical lunch is a turkey or peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread with fruit or a carrot and then, if they are still hungry, pretzels. A typical supper is green veggies (broccoli or salad, mainly) and whatever we're having, which varies much - but spaghetti, etc.
I reserve "junk" for when I'm unable to be here to cook - I have bible study or girls night out - and Paul and the kids gleefully feast on boxed macaroni and cheese, etc.

Why? Why? Why? Why are you so mean, Mama?


Children in America are fat and.... wait for it....

vastly undernourished.

My favorite education writer/philosopher, Susan Wise Bauer says about television - it's not that it is terrible (it's not great), but every hour of television is an hour that your children could have been doing something else. Basically, something good. They could be outside jumping on the trampoline or building a fort or playing an elaborate game of cousins. (A story for another time).

And I feel the same way about food. It's not about denying them things.... It's about making sure there is always room for the good things. Fruit snacks aren't going to kill a kid. At least not alone.... But what they are doing is filling the kid up. With empty, nutritionless stuff. God made a pear. God is better than Nabisco. He just is. Give the kid a pear!

Secondly, I'm training my children in all areas of life. I don't give them bad television or bad literature or bad manners (we hope), so why would I give them anything less than good food?

You know who else is better than Nabisco? Me. I just am. This is why I don't buy lunchables. (in addition to the fact that the list of ingredients on a lunchable is unpronounceable. And evil...)

Michael Pollan, who is a great writer and correct about most of the things he says, no matter what the conservative reactions against him would like to be, says that we should Eat Food, Mostly Plants, Not a Lot of It.

But food is only food if his grandmother (so my greatgrandmother) would recognize it as food. Velveeta isn't food.

I love velveeta. But it isn't food. It's fun. So, I use it for fun - rotel is my ultimate celebratory snack (And yes, i recognize that as someone who prides herself on being a decent cook, I shouldn't admit this, but I'm not going to start lying now).

So, I'm a mean mom. Unapologetically. Dern It.


  1. you may be mean, but you're also hilarious!

    i love having company. :)

  2. I think I had one of those kool-aid things once, mostly because I wanted to snap the little top off of them.

    And I've only had it once because my mom's the same way, and I'm going to do my best to be the same way. I'm not a fan of out-right across the board bans - exceptions are okay and flexibility is a good thing.

    Plus, Jamie Oliver has his Food Revolution on TV, so it's totally cool to be mean now. B-)

  3. YaY! Softdrinks/ kids "fruit" drinks... don't enter this house. Gabe has still never tasted a soda.
    Of course, he still frustrates me with his lack of diversity, but at least he's not eating trash food all the time. So he'll live on whole wheat bread and peanut butter (the natural kind) for a while. And his only veggies are carrots & broccoli, but we're making progress without the help of Nabisco.