A couple of weeks ago, I had an encounter at the grocery store that has haunted me ever since.
I was in the checkout line, and the woman ahead of me was eyeing my produce, sneaking looks at the greens, the fruits, and the like that I was buying.
It was one of those grocery stores where you bag your own groceries, and the woman ahead of me had a lot more groceries than I did, so she was still bagging her stuff, as I was finishing up.
In addition to checking out my purchases, she was a chatty customer, and after glancing once more at my broccoli, said "I've never seen a more healthy batch of groceries in my life." (I guess she didn't notice the refrigerator biscuits). Then she gestured to her own bags of chips, bottles of cola, and the snack cakes, shook her head and said the haunting phrase: "I have kids at home."
I didn't say anything. But I should have said,"yeah, so do I. They are 8 and 16." I wonder what her response would have been?
Or what if I had said, "you are an enabler." I'm sure that would have gone over well.
Does having kids mean you leave your good sense at home when you go to the grocery store? Does it mean you automatically buy junk food?
I'm certainly not immune myself. Despite what my kids say, it's really not like I don't allow my kids goodies. My husband buys corn chips (his one real food weakness). We regularly keep Dove chocolate squares in the house, and we might have 1 after dinner. I occasionally bake, and I make a mean strawberry ice cream. And it's a ritual to go to the Ben and Jerry's next door to Whole Foods when we happen to shop there instead of the more convenient stores. But I'm struggling (and if you know my daughter's sweet tooth, you'd know why I use that word) to instill in them that treats are just that: small and occasional. To borrow a phrase from my own mother: Everything in moderation.
I didn't know what to say to the chatty woman. Her kids are her own business. But they are learning their eating habits from her purchases, and she does have the power to not purchase the junk food. I had a co-worker who told me her 6' 6" tall, 18 year-old son regularly polished off a half-gallon of ice cream at a time, despite her telling him to knock it off. I wondered why she kept it in the house if the kid wouldn't follow the rules. Both women were enabling their kids to eat poorly.
We are a nation of overweight people, and the epidemiologists are predicting that today's generation of children might be the first generation in a 100 years to live a shorter life than their parents. Instead of being treats, those chips, snack cakes, and half-gallons of ice cream, are becoming staples in our children's diets. Is it any wonder that 1/3 of school kids are fat?
I know I'm probably coming across as holier-than-thou, and I'm sorry for that. It has actually been a tough road, getting our kids to eat a healthy diet. They resist it kicking and screaming. But at least they aren't like my son's friend who eats nothing but meat and processed food, and who, as far as I can tell, doesn't like any vegetable at all. My kids'll likely leave my house and eat nothing but crap for a few years. But at least they like veggies and fruit. So when they decide to eat well on their own, they have that safety net to catch them.