Today’s guest post comes via Mrs. Nostrikethat and the antics of Howling Mad Murdoch. I have to preface this story by pointing out that the little guy attends what some people might call a “Posh” private preschool. It’s the kind of place where the drop-off line is full of Lexus and Mercedes SUVs with stickers on them exorbitantly-priced private high schools. It’s the kind of place, for example, one might send one’s child when one inherits a miniscule sum of money from a distant relative and decides that relative might have wished it go to further an education, instead of going towards boxes o’ wine. It’s all very precious and we are generally pretty amused by the whole scene.
If there’s one thing, ONE THING, that makes me foam at the mouth, it’s when people insist that “X” makes you fat, when “X” is anything other than “consume more calories than you expend”.
Video games make us fat.
TV makes us fat.
Working on a computer all day makes us fat.
These days the F-word seems to apply to anyone who doesn’t have a thigh gap.
Skinny Lazy Nerds
Being lazy does not make you fat. The world is full of skinny, lazy people. I am one of them. I was 80 pounds soaking wet through most of high school.
I was also a band nerd with helmet hair.
Obesity seems to be the only disease where it’s still socially acceptable to blame the ill.
We are only beginning to understand the real complexity of the triggers for this disease. Why are there some people who only have to look at ice cream to gain weight? Once you are obese, it’s very, very hard to lose weight– it seems like you are literally fighting a constant battle against your body’s survival mechanisms.
So why are we getting worse?
If there’s one thing we can trust humanity to do, it’s figure out how to make a buck from the suffering of others.
Zach and Miri Make a Smoothie
The American diet industry goes back to at least the 1950s when the first weight loss drink appeared on the market. Prior to that point, food science had not matured to the point where we were able to manipulate our food at the chemical level (beyond burning the meatloaf), so weight loss fads focused on concealing rubber garments.
My favorite obesity conspiracy theory
is that used to be cheap corn creates high fructose corn syrup, which gets added to everything and makes us fat. It turns out that this may not be the entire problem.
It’s not just corn that’s cheap: wheat and soy are both commodity crops that are frequently over-produced and/or receive subsidies. Removing those subsidies won’t have a substantial effect because the prices will still stay low, because economics.
In other words, it’s not the farmers who stand to gain from over production, but the processed food industry. As long as the wheat in our Wheat Thins is stupid cheap to for Nabisco to buy, there is plenty of budget left for clever marketing!
We’re damned from the moment we open our eyes, because we interact so heavily with media during the course of the day that our brains are saturated with the tantalizing deliciousness of Cool Ranch Doritos from birth to age 99. By the time we set foot in the grocery store, we’re already well-programmed to self-destruct.
Kale is the new black
The experts will tell you “Oh just shop the outside of the store.” These experts have never gone grocery shopping a DAY IN THEIR LIVES.
I think the stores are getting wise to this strategy because I haven’t been into a grocery store yet where the bakery was in the middle bit.
Regardless, as soon as I walk in, my cart is making a beeline through the asparagus and to the cakes.
BEE-BOOP ROBOT DAD NEEDS CAKE
Also, juice boxes are not near the organic kale, and you can bet which one the kids will give me grief over when they find it in their lunch boxes.
In fact, kids are probably the real leading cause of obesity in this country.
More times than I can count I have eaten leftover chicken nuggets because the child was done and I can’t waste good Chik-fil-a.
It’s only recently, as a direct result of a few of my children somehow surviving long enough despite my constant efforts to screw them up, that I have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. I can say from personal experience it gets better.
Slowly, ever so slowly, they start to appreciate real food.
In our house Mrs. Nostrikethat and I agree that the best thing we can do for our kids to help make them successful is to make sure they’ve got a good mix of fat, fiber, carbs, and veggies on their plates so they can wander off in the middle of dinner to go play.
As I have written before, feeding kids (and especially toddlers) is an exercise in the absurd. They never like what you make, and it seems like you just get the kitchen cleaned up when they’ve digested the tiny amount of food they just ate and are back for more. I’m no internet expert here, either.
The kid wants peanut butter and jelly for dinner again? Fine.
The 6 year old is having food sensory issues again today? Fine, eat Cheerios.
I’m even using JIF, because I’m a choosy mom. Dad. Whatever.
BEE-BOOP ROBOT DAD BUYS WHAT HE IS PROGRAMMED TO BUY
Taking a stand (while sitting)
Let’s review the forces in play. In this corner, we have:
- The multi-billion dollar processed food industry and their advertising
- The grocery stores where I buy my food to live
- My own body which, as I type this, is salivating over the prospect of potato chips
- Two weak-willed adults trying to make the best food shopping choices for their kids while acknowledging it’s nearly impossible to feed a three year old broccoli without committing horrific violence on someone
Parents, give it your best shot.
Take your kids to the playground when you can.
Try to put something green on the plate when you can.
Maybe ease up on the soda and drink a little more water yourself.
There are countless ways we can be bad at being parents, and no expert is going to tell you to just muddle through because that doesn’t sell a lot of books.
Worst case scenario, your kid grows up and writes stories with funny pictures in them on the Internet.
If I have to be outraged by something, I’m outraged by the fact that in the United States today there are more than 16 million children living in poverty.
I am outraged that there are 50,000 kids in our nation’s capital that may not eat on snow days.
How much iPad someone else’s kid plays? Not so much. Those stakes aren’t very high.
BEE BOOP ROBOT DAD WANTS OUTBACK FOR DINNER
Somewhere between my childhood and adulthood it became de rigeur for everyone to ask parents for money. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was, and then I read a great piece on Slate by Jessica Grove.
Somewhere, we got lost.
Somewhere, elementary school became an expression of our egos and not a place where our kids learned all 50 states.
I have 4 kids. This is almost entirely my fault– I took breaks from playing World of Warcraft, which as we all know is nerd birth control.
9 months after each break, a child is born.
Coincidence? I think not.
Each of those children is involved in one or more things where someone wants a “voluntary” donation. Here’s the current list (please forgive me for sounding like a MasterCard commercial):
- Preschool teacher gifts – $30
- Elementary school PTA suggested donation: $40
- Middle School PTA suggested donation: $40
- Kid #1 Swim group gift: $35
- Kid #2 Swim group gift: $35
- Kid #3 Swim group gift: $35
Total for “voluntary” contributions:
This excludes the actual cost of these activities, as well as arbitrary fees paid for registration and supply. In other words, this is all guilt money.
Fellow parents: how did we let this happen?
I don’t really think my finance are anyone’s business, but I feel not even slightly ashamed to admit that $215 is a non-trivial amount of money. If I went out and spent $215 on, say, an awesome ScotteVest Jacket (omg 35 pockets!), I would be filling those 35 pockets with my belongings while looking for a nice dry bridge under which to live.
Then the “reminder” emails about my voluntary donations started trickling in.
We can’t have our party without your contributions!
We need to buy the Christmas gifts for the teacher/coach/lunch-lady!
Maybe I was just being a scrooge. I am already no big fan of Christmas: The Extravaganza.
There is a whole separate rant about the culture of mandatory gifts for everyone waiting to be ranted.
I pay a portion of the salary for my kids coaches with my program fees. Why does thankfulness have to be expressed with a gift card? I want my children to be thankful the old-fashioned way, by saying “thank you”.
Maybe coloring some construction paper.
Really, though, it’s their job. No one passes the hat for me for just doing my job. When was the last time someone thought to collect for a Stay-At-Home-Mom? Why must I give a gift to someone who is doing their job?
It seems that what everyone really wants, though is to be recognized with a gift card. Nothing says “We appreciate you, <insert name>” like a $100 gift card to Target (because WalMart is for filthy poor people, right?).
Now I understand (thanks Jessica!).
We have to feel good about how good of a parent we are, because now parenting is verb and not just a byproduct of too much alcohol and Dave Matthews.
Is it wrong to push back? Maybe. But until we stop opening our checkbooks, we will keep handing out our money AND our time like they are worthless.