Saturday, October 17, 2009

Everything in Moderation

I spent the majority of today at a tennis tournament, watching parents hover over their boys with giant jugs of Gatorade, forcing them to eat energy bars that had the texture of wet cardboard, and glaring at other parents who let their kids have pop, bologna sandwiches and Doritos. I don't know if they noticed the layer of orange goo that had formed on my own left hand, but at least it wasn't under my fingernails. Or at least it isn't there anymore.

I came across one family who took a group of boys to lunch. Their original destination was Subway, but then the boys all decided to head to McDonald's instead. The mom that chaperoned the lunch was a little freaked out afterward, wondering if one boy specifically was even allowed to eat McDonald's. She tentatively talked to the other mom, who merely shrugged her shoulders, tilted her head, and had a "well, the damage is done, since he's already digesting it and it's too late to make him throw it up" kind of expression.

Okay, first of all lady, your kid got a free lunch. With friends. Second of all, he's almost 12 years old. At some point you have to trust him to make his own choices as far as what he's going to eat. Chances are that if you let a kid that normally eats healthy food choose to eat fast food enough times, that kid will most likely shit his pants within 10 minutes of eating the double cheeseburger. This is not a desirable outcome for a normal 11 year old boy, which will result in him never wanting to eat fast food...again. Best of all, he will have discovered the horrid realities of fast food all on his own, without feeling nagged by the parent. Unfortunately, though, you end up with the laundry.

My kids never ask to go out for fast food, but won't turn down the occasional small fry. They voluntarily eat vegetables, fruit, carbs, and meat, but also have a piece or two of candy almost every day. We always have fruit in the house, but we also have a shit load of fun size sugar and chocolate. Sure, I've used a roll of Smarties here or a single-serve Fun Dip there to serve as some very effective bribery, but for the most part they see a little bit of sugar as something normal, not something to be coveted or hoarded.

We all know people that pride themselves on feeding their families nothing but whole grain goodness, 100% organic, sugar-free, soda-free and definitely no MSG. And chances are that you've seen the children from these families at a birthday party, without their parents, putting extra pieces of cake into their coat pockets, drinking orange pop by the pitcher-full, and hoarding licorice and gummy bears in their party bag. These kids have rarely been given the opportunity to choose what and how much they eat, and they are pretty sure that this particular birthday party is the last time they will ever see that much sugar in one place at one time. So, better stock up now while mom isn't watching!

I think that kids, at some point, need to experiment with a little sugar overdose, deal with the repercussions of eating too much grease, and learn how to interpret the serving size on a nutrition label, and that all food, including sugar and snacks, should be presented in moderation. Nothing should be forbidden, except for maybe those special brownies that fun Uncle Harvey made. Those are mine.

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