The Nonchalantdad: You Silly Rabbit, Trix are for.....

Lately, in our household there is a new sensibility. The kids want junk to eat. It is not really our fault as parents that they are aware of this new 'fruit', nor is it their's. We are surrounded by an ongoing unconscious experiment call capitalism. And one of the tenants of good capitalism is promotion. We want what we see, because it almost always looks good. As adults we have either learned by now to shut that whole process of desire down or we have succumbed to it in some fashion. My suspicion is that you are alot like me - you buy into to a certain point. You can not rid it completely without ease, nor do you consume it entirely.

I'm curious to see how young the promotion starts though. Our children went with us recently to see the new film called 'WALL-E'... I thought it clever how the films premise centred around a societal destruction brought on apparently by waste and capitalist greed (does that sound harsh?). My little guy pointed out several times that the 'big' (we don't use the word 'fat' to describe a person after a sort of embarrassing episode a few years ago in LA when our boy pointed at someone and said loudly that they were fat) people in the film were eating and drinking very big things. He noticed what I had already been curious about before the film even started. Anyone with any common sense has to be curious when the first thing they see when entering the mainstream cinema complexes these days are the concession stands selling monsterous proportions of popcorn, candy, and drinks. IF you are from my age group approximately (40's) you will remember fairly quickly that the smallest portions available now were once considered the 'Large' portion then. Think about that next time you order one of your 'Big Gulps' or 'Supersize' something. The message is a good one in 'WALL-E' and an awkward one for some people who have not noticed the trend to all things big and bad. The film finished and the lights finally came up. We stood up to leave and when we turned around to face the seating behind, and above us, there sat in a row or two behind our seats a small group of people grossly large and clutching large portions of seemingly everything they could get their hands on. I looked over at my son expecting a possible repeat of that earlier embarrassment in LA. Thankfully, he was looking elsewhere.

Now, I'm not the sort to think I've figured it all out and I'm better than others for it. Because, quite simply, I'm not. I hear stories of parents who deny everything they deem harmful to their
children. I hear firsthand the stories of people of my own age who tell me that when they were young they were not allowed to eat this candy or drink that soda-pop. I'm not that insistent for various reasons - but mostly because I don't want to outright deny anything and everything bad. A soda pop, or a candy, can be an enjoyable experience. I'm just not that hardcore.

So, here is what I do. I treat these things as special - or I mediate their actual existence. In other words, I moderate. As for my 6 year old wanting to have a soda-pop, for example, I make it clear how the drink is something special and therefore associated with special occasions that are usually few and far apart. This way, he gets to have a soda-pop now and again, and we have instilled in him the notion that it is something you don't always get to have except under special circumstances. And here's another one: I tried recently to trick my kids away from desiring the cereal known as 'TRIX' because they had seen it in passing on an ad for a cartoon they like to watch. I substituted an organic product made with the same little balls, but using fruit juice sweetener instead of sugar. I put the organic product into the TRIX box they talked me into buying. Damned kids - they could tell the difference. So, I acknowledged my fears about eating to much of that 'crap with sugar' as I told them. I told them that I didn't mind them eating the 'TRIX' as long as they accepted the way I prepare it. And how do I prepare it? When I make them their cereal in the morning I put in the yoghurt, dice up some bananas or add berries, add a small cup ot some organic flakes without sugar on, add local honey over the top of that and then sprinkle a small amount of 'TRIX' on the top of this for effect. You know what? They accepted it and did not argue.... in fact, they love it. And the 'TRIX' is now reduced to something almost insignificant in the larger picture.... know what I mean?

Now, they get something they desire and I don't have to be a curmudgeon. Plus, they aren't overloading on it. It is the understanding of sugar that does it for me - I have explained that sugar is not a good friend to exploit. And it works well. When we went to see 'WALL-E' we ordered a small popcorn for the parents to share, some water, and a large package of sugar saturated liquorice for the kids. Yes, I said it was a large package - it was the only thing available. Everything was large. So, we had an understanding beforehand that each one our
kids would only get 3 sticks of the stuff. The rest of the package would be put away safely for future reference.

If you can't fight them - join them.... a little bit. Only difference, once you've joined the rabble, just change the language! You can play the game - you just have to stay one step ahead...... at least that's what I think..... What are you other parents doing to keep tabs on the excess? I'm sure there are many approaches - what are your ideas?


Danette said...

Yes! Awesome! Right on!
I have explained to my 5 year old (in very basic terms)how the stomach takes out all of the nutrients from healthy food and uses it to help her body grow big and strong and smart and that the sugary treats (or not so healthy treats--we don't call any foods "bad"--although maybe we should) don't have any nutrients to offer to her stomach--her body--and maybe she should skip those. A couple of times I have seen her process this and ask for a healthy snack. Those are pretty cool moments for me!
When she wants the treat, sometimes she gets to enjoy it without comment from me. It's the least I can do.

Emily said...

I haven't yet had to deal with this issue directly as my son is only 5 months. We were recently vacationing with friends who have a 3 year old and this discussion came up. I LIVED on junk food as a kid, my parents never said no and as a poor family with 4 children, ate often at McDonald's. I voluntarily gave unhealthy eating up at 11 years old and became a vegetarian and still am. The example of this came from my friends parents who I admired. Therefore, I say play down the bad stuff, indulge here and there, and most important of all make friends with healthy eaters too, otherwise its quite the uphill battle!

elizabeth@shoptwig said...

I like your thinking! We are the same way in our household. We try not to cut everything out that is "bad" for you, but limit it to certain occasions. We never buy juice in our house and our kids only get milk or water. The juice is a special treat for parties, the once a week lunch box day at school, picnics, etc. Thankfully our son hasn't had a tasting for soda (at least not yet). If you deny everything, I think it will become a problem later. So best to do in small quantities for special occasions.

It is amazing how quickly kids pick up on things. Our almost 5 yr old son watches a Disney channel for his tv treat. They advertise a pancake puff pan - yesterday at breakfast we had pancakes and my son recited the sales pitch of the commercial for pancake puffs.

John said...

Oh man!! I know that ad for the pancake puffs... or whatever it is called. If it is the one I'm thinking of - it is totally gross.... funny thing is, our 6 year old was also watching that ad and said out loud 'oooh that looks yucky' .....Usually we only watch PBS or Noggin, but now that he is getting older the programming is a bit more boring for him. But, thankfully, we escaped that nightmare of him wanting the product! The acceptance that you can not deny the kids everything that you think is bad is only reality - especially when you live on the street we do!

Anonymous said...

Some sodas are better than others > try Izze Soda . . . however, according to our dentist all carbonated beverages are bad for your teeth!