To Challenge the PopTart

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Bri DeRosa (Red, Round or Green)

Bri DeRosa (Red, Round or Green) › I like to think of myself as a young, cool, urban fringe locavore, but the reality ...

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I don’t think of myself as an extreme foodie, in the clean-eating, organic-loving, Crunchy Hippie Intellectual sense.  I know plenty of people whose visions of a “healthy” diet far surpass mine, and whose ability to live up to their own standards puts even my best days of cranking out gallons of slow-cooker bone broth and scratch-made breads to shame.  But even though I think I’m only teetering on the edge of the foodie extremist fence, I’m still up there walking that particular tightrope, which means that I still get the occasional unsolicited commentary from non-foodie folks, especially where my choices about feeding my kids a relatively unprocessed diet are concerned. I try to hold my patience when this happens – I really do – since I understand that on some level, my very existence as a parent championing a different way of thinking about the basic act of feeding our kids probably implies some air of judgment.

People like me, who challenge the PopTart and the Lunchable, can seem scary.  Despite my efforts to be understanding, however, there are things that I sometimes WANT to say when I’m confronted with any of the following unhelpful (and even somewhat unkind) nonsense.

“You’re setting them up to be bullied.”

How did you know I was contemplating giving in to my elder son’s request for a princess lunch box to take to his first day of Kindergarten? 

In reality, bullying is an incredibly serious matter, and I would never want to make light of it.  But I can only HOPE that what I pack in their school lunches will be the biggest flaw my boys’ classmates can find to use as taunting fodder.  I don’t have an innate responsibility as their mother to make my parenting choices for them based on what will help them be most popular.  If I followed this logic, I’d have to also forget about setting any kind of limits on screen time, curfews, or how old is “old enough” for fun stuff like cell phones and flame throwers.  Unfortunately for my kids, I’m more interested in doing what I think is right for them than I am in helping them blend into the crowd.  Not that I think two kids with imaginary narwhal friends who play games called things like “Princess and Waiter” will need my help distinguishing themselves.

“They’ll just go crazy eating junk when you’re not looking.”

They do lots of things when I’m not looking. That’s the only possible way I can explain how my husband’s wedding ring ended up in an old suitcase for a solid year. (Toddlers are FAST. Also, nimble.)

I can’t say this will never happen.  Of course, I also have yet to meet a single person who DIDN’T go a little bit crazy flouting some of Mom and Dad’s authority the second they got a chance.  It’s called growing up.  I’d like to think, though, that a few simple guidelines we try to follow in our house will help keep the Cheetos binges to a minimum: 1) Teach kids early and often about the difference between food that helps your body grow and food that’s just for fun; 2) Teach kids early and often that food that helps your body grow can ALSO be fun; 3) Teach kids early and often that “moderation” doesn’t mean “never.”  It just means “not in our pantry,” “not in place of real food,” and “not in your underwear.”  (That last rule also applies to cutlery.  Little boys are strange creatures.)

“You must like throwing money away.”  Also known as “It must be nice to have money to burn.”

I am uncoordinated and can’t throw other things very well, so I had to resort to money.

Some people have car payments and cell phones with data plans.  We have grass-fed beef.  The assumption that we’re an exceptionally well-off family would be better based on our fabulous wardrobes and lavish vacations than on our eating habits.  In other words, next time you see me picking up clearance cardigans at Target, or packing the car for our family vacation to my parents’ backyard, remember that we all make choices about how to best spend our hard-earned dollars.  Also, although I won’t go into the debate here, I should mention that I might be spending $6 a pound for grass-fed beef, but I’m also not spending money on fruit snacks, juice boxes, “cereal” bars, or toaster waffles.

“What do you feed them?”

Mainly, idealism and homemade granola sweetened with feelings of superiority.

There are two ways to ask this question.  One type of person will ask “what do you feed them?” with genuine curiosity.  I love this type of person.  I’ll buy them a cup of coffee and stroll arm-in-arm with them beneath the shade trees, boring them senseless with the details of my kids’ daily diets in the vague hope of being somehow educational or inspiring.  The other type of person, however, asks this question with a sort of disbelieving snort, as if all edible substances grow in factories instead of on trees.  I have no less urgent desire to educate and/or inspire these people, but first I have to overcome the insatiable urge to beat my head against any available surface.  Hard.

The short answer to these people is: I feed my kids the same things you probably feed your kids, but I make almost all of it myself.  And I try to know, as best I can without obsessing, where the ingredients came from.  Your kids’ oatmeal resides in a single-serve packet mixed with sweeteners and flavorings; my kids’ oatmeal resides in a huge airtight container on my counter, next to the jar of honey we got from a local beekeeper.  Depending on how you choose to look at it, we’re either as vastly different as you seem to think we are, or we’re really not so different at all.

What are some of the common comments you get when people notice what you feed your family?

Photo Credit: Craig McCord