First my infertility cred goes down the toilet, and now this… I’ve come to the realization that I’m just not that crunchy. Either that, or I’m somehow hanging out with a very crunchy crowd.
Yes, I’m a fan of cloth diapering, and I have a compost pile in the back. I grow my own vegetables and I replace car trips with bike trips. I feed my kids “real food” (by my standards, that means “not chicken nuggets and no handi-snacks.”) And yet I’m just not crunchy enough, and I’m finally self-aware enough to understand why that bothers me.
The catalyst for all this crunchiness-related navelgazing was, oddly enough, our synagogue. We have a food committee that recently created our new food policy: that food served at synagogue should be (whenever possible) organic, local, sustainable, and healthy. Anyhow, this has drastically changed the food that gets served at our shul’s kiddush luncheon. In my opinion the food is delicious, but kid-friendly it’s not.
So I mentioned this to someone on the committee. I suggested that maybe the caterer could just make a pot of Wacky Mac (the kosher equivalent of Kraft Dinner) for the little kids. She responded flatly that it would never happen and I said, “but it’s what little kids like to eat!” It is, right? Wrong.
And here enters my defensiveness. The response that there are “lots” of children who love tofu, quinoa, and raw bok choy instantly raised my hackles. She said, “lots of kids like this kind of food,” but I heard, “lots of kids, with parents better than you, like this kind of food.”
I feel like I’m hearing that kind of thing a lot these days. “Good parents don’t let their kids drink juice [ever?]”. “Good parents don’t feed their kids white flour and refined sugar.” Really? Since when are juice and cookies the dietary equivalent of rat poison?
(In order to spare myself the inevitable lectures, yes, I understand what sugar does to insulin levels and the pancreas. And yes, I understand that whole grains are much better than refined. And yes, I know that juice, cookies, and white flour are by no means essential to human survival.)
It’s interesting to me that the comments at which I take umbrage are directly relevant to my kids. The ones about foods we don’t eat either pass me by, or I really agree with them… like not serving tuna fish because of overfishing and the entrapment of other animals. Or serving fewer eggs because eggs from truly free-range chickens are more expensive than our shul can afford. I’m fine with those. But today there was an article in our shul e-mail about why refined grains are bad and we’ll only see whole grain products at kiddush, and my first thought was, “why is it the shul’s business to police what we should or shouldn’t be putting in our bodies?”
See? I get defensive. Also a bit belligerent. I mean, I personally think that if there’s ever a time to eat sweets and rare treats like juice, it’s Shabbat. If other parents don’t want to let their kids drink juice, then don’t give them the juice. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be on the drink table. Just learn to say no. Parent your child!
(see? the judgment goes both ways.)
I’d like to posit that this overemphasis on feeding kids only the purest food is, for many, a parenting issue, not a health issue. Parenting is tough. Really, really, really tough. You can do your best to teach your kids values and appropriate behaviour, and they still might not demonstrate those when they grow up. But we can absolutely, completely control what we feed our children and their resulting physical health says, “see? these parents did a Good Job!”
Parents, listen up. You ARE doing a Good Job. Whether you feed your kids organic quinoa or flourescent cheese-flavoured
rat poison macaroni, you’re feeding your kids. (Look, if you’re starving your kids, you’re not doing a good job. Just so you know.) They’re growing. You’re teaching them some values. You’re raising them to function in your society. You’re Good Parents. Most parents are.
I’m trying, really trying, to remember that this is my baggage, not everyone else’s. I’m trying to remember not to roll my eyes when another parent crows about not serving juice at a birthday party and how none of the kids asked for it (do you remember childhood? Most birthday parties I attended offered pop (soda for you Americans) as a once-in-a-while treat!) I’m trying, but I don’t always succeed. And sometimes I’m not sure I want to.
Because honestly, does the whole “no juice, no sugar, no refined grains” thing seem a bit… preachy… to you? As if we can’t trust parents to provide certain treats in moderation?
Please comment. I want to know what you think.