Tuesday, April 4, 2006

You are What Your Kids Eat

You are What Your Kids Eat
Stacey Greenberg

“You did what!?” A mother’s voice boomed from the cubbies as her little girl stood there bawling.

I had never seen anyone (anyone over the age of five that is) raise their voice at my son’s Montessori school.

“I don’t know why you’re crying,” she continued angrily. “It isn’t your fault.” The mother gave me a dirty look and I diverted my eyes. Luckily Satchel bounded into the room and wrapped himself around my leg, so I had an excuse to continue to stand at the front door and gawk.

Undeterred by my presence, the mom roared, “I told those people not to give you that,” as she headed into the classroom in search of one of those people.

I was officially trying not to judge Angry Mom. I’ve certainly been Angry Mom before, but in the privacy of my own home or vehicle. In public, I prefer to be Laidback Mom (aka Mom Who Lets Her Kids Run All Over Her.)

“Mommy mommy, look at my art!” Satchel exclaimed as he pulled me towards his cubby.

I concocted a hypothesis on the angry mom situation as I looked at Satchel’s latest depiction of himself as a red Power Ranger—this time with chicken pox. The little girl must have accidentally had something she was deathly allergic to. Peanuts? Moms of kids with allergies have to be vigilant, I told myself.

But my hypothesis was flawed. Clearly the little girl couldn’t cry so hard if she was in anaphylactic shock. Could she?

I peeked around the corner and watched as Angry Mom confronted My Favorite Teacher (MFT) who quickly diffused the situation.

Once Angry Mom was gone, I walked over to MFT with Satchel tugging at my shirt. “You seemed to handle that well,” I said.

“I took a class to deal with parents like that,” she joked.

“What happened?”

“Her daughter had some Sprite at the pizza party.”

“Sprite?” I repeated, trying to sound nonchalant. There was a time when I might have been up in arms over Sprite. “But it isn’t even caffeinated,” I said, purposely ignoring the sugar content. I had waved my white flag at sugar a long time ago.

“I had some Sprite too!” Satchel piped in, trying to regain my attention.

Once a month the school orders out for lunch. Initially, this came as a bit of a shock to me—a woman who breastfed for two years, made all of my own baby food, and packed things like avocado and tofu in my sons’ lunches. I wanted to yell, but I didn’t.

“Angry Mom doesn’t want her daughter to drink carbonated drinks,” MFT explained.

“Oh,” I said, trying to figure out the exact evil of carbonation. The gateway to caffeine? I wondered.

The first time the school had a McDonald’s Day was the day after my husband and I saw “Supersize Me” and swore off all fast foods and all soda for the entire family, for eternity. I was in a panic. I thought of sending Satchel to school with a “mock” McDonald’s meal consisting of a veggie burger and sweet potato fries. I even considered keeping him home. I eventually accepted the fact that despite my good intentions and moral objections, I couldn’t control everything Satchel put in his mouth and that he had a right to have a “treat” every once in awhile. In California, they have personal chefs who make organic meals and ban high fructose corn syrup on campus, I told myself. In Memphis, they order fast food once a month. That’s just the way it is.

“I understand wanting your kids to eat healthy,” MFT said, “but it’s not good to scare them.”

“Or the other parents,” I said, now mentally patting myself on the back. Sure, I’ve invoked cooties and cavities on occasion to make broccoli seem more appealing, but our food battles have never resulted in tears. Tears are for incidents that involve one of my children attempting to maim the other.

When we got home, I called my husband to tell him about Angry Mom. Then I told him how Sky’s mom had packed her extra fruit to eat with her pizza. “You’re kidding?” he said, both awed and stunned. Lest Sky’s mom look better than me, I said, “The oranges were out of a can, the kind packed in syrup.”

“I guess it made her feel better,” Warren said.

“I guess so,” I said. I once read that you should look at a toddler’s diet in terms of what s/he eats in a week, rather than in a single day. Even though Satchel isn’t a toddler anymore, it’s still my mantra.

The next morning, Angry Mom approached me. I took a deep breath.

“I’m sorry you had to witness my little moment yesterday,” she said.

I exhaled. “Oh, it’s none of my business,” I said, trying to appear detached, yet friendly.

“I’m a single mom,” Angry Mom blurted out, “and a full-time student. I’m just under a lot of stress right now.”

“I’m sure,” I concurred, trying to act like I could relate. Even though Warren works in the field for weeks at a time, I only play a single-mom on TV. Besides, I can always call him on the phone if I need to yell at somebody.

Boldly, I reached out and gave Angry Mom’s arm a squeeze. I felt her body relax. I stepped in a little closer and asked in a hushed tone, “So, what’s the deal with carbonation?”

Angry Mom lowered her voice, “Carbonated drinks are full of sugar and empty calories. Drinking them in excess can lead to tooth decay, osteoporosis, kidney stones, heart disease…”

I threw up a little bit in my mouth.

“…gastric distension, reflux, esophageal cancer…”

“Oh my god, stop!” I said as my calm exterior cracked.

“I just wrote a paper on it,” Angry Mom said apologetically.

“You’re worse than Google,” I joked as I lost sight of my mantra and mentally vowed to never ever serve another carbonated beverage again. Not even as a treat.

Angry Mom must have seen my eyes glaze over. “If it makes you feel any better, I packed a candy bar in my daughter’s lunch today,” she said.

I snapped out of my funk. “Really?” I asked.

“Really,” she said with some disbelief.

“Sadly, it does make me feel better,” I said with a laugh. “I’m Stacey, by the way.”

“Kelly,” she said with a smile.

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