Birthdays, Parenting

Fast Food Dilemma

I know I am not the only mom out there who loathes feeding her kids fast food.  I’ve become a bit of a hardliner on the issue.  Over the years I have learned too much — working in the organic food industry; watching powerful documentaries like “Supersize Me” and “Food, Inc.”; and becoming personally engaged in an ongoing effort to improve what my family is eating and how we approach food in our home.

But when we aren’t at home, then what?  Clearly, most restaurants aren’t preparing organic food, and I’m ok with that for the amount that we eat out.  But I can’t bring myself to be “ok” with fast food.  And the kicker is that we can’t shake relaying on these purveyors of “food” — the hubby isn’t nearly as hard core as I on the subject, and the kids, well the kids are just not yet disgusted by it all.  (When can I let them watch those documentaries, that is another topic to discuss!)  And then we have the darned food allergy in the family which in a sick way sends us to fast food for the “known” quality that those places provide when we are far from home or our stash of safe food is gone while we’re on the road.

And then there are the times when the kids get to pick, like their birthdays.  I think we’d have a revolt in the house if I excluded fast food from the allowable options.  And part of me thinks that giving fast food an “untouchable” designation might just drive the kids to it more.  Everything I’ve learned about raising healthy eaters, much from the writing of Ellyn Satter, talks about the division of responsibility.  Parents buy and prepare food; kids decide if they will eat and how much.  Its around school age that kids start to get a role in deciding what to eat (in the Satter model) and here we are, my kids are deciding, for the bday dinner, to go to McDonald’s.

Did I eat at McDonald’s as kid?  Yes!  (And when my future 17 year old asks if I ever drank while in high school, I will have to answer that one honestly too won’t I?)  I ate at McDonald’s, Taco Bell (my personal favorite fast food) and every pizza establishment possible.  But I didn’t know better, did I?

So tonight, while I was secretly trying to persuade my 7 year old that we should celebrate his birthday at Chevy’s, where I could get a margarita, or at least trying to encourage the selection of a non-fast food restaurant for the birthday celebration tonight, I started to feel bad.  I don’t want me son to carry the weight of the “badness” of fast food with him on his special night, and he really thinks that the cheeseburger he can get there is the best cheeseburger in town.

I told my hubby that I won’t eat there; will wait till we are home.  He thinks I won’t be able to overcome the powers and will succumb to eating there as well.  I have a little heartburn just thinking about it.

So, moms and dads and know-it-all outside observers, what do you do when faced with this kind of dilemma?

My newly minted 7 year old has been reading this over my shoulder, inquiring “why did you eat McDonald’s as a kid?” and “What does ‘loathes’ mean?”  He just said “we will go there!” (followed by “don’t mom, delete that!”) — so I guess my sharing my real feelings on the matter aren’t enough to influence him right now.

Birthdays, Living Life, Parenting

Just in Time Parenting

I often joke to people that I practice “just in time parenting.” I recall a lot of buzz around the “just in time manufacturing” strategy, used to describe the efficient practices of Japanese auto makers, and why they were outperforming American manufacturers in the 80s and 90s.

I like the efficient part, and it feels better to think of myself that way, instead of feeling like I am always a step behind. Its ironic, as by nature I’m a planner, but with so much going on, something has to give.

An example. This morning I began browsing online for costume inspiration, for an auction event tonight. I have posted pleading messages on my mom’s group; and am resigned to the fact that I must go to costume shops today to purchase an outfit, as I’m out of time to assemble one myself. Is this efficient, or a blaring reminder that life is too busy to calmly get things ready?

I think the answer is both — but the emotion of it is determined by my mindset. I can either get really stressed that I may not end up in costume tonight (and be jealous of all the others who are!) or I can chose to acknowledge that life is pretty busy, and I am making choices each day as how to spend my time to best maximize each day. I chose not to go shopping late one night last week to plan for this event — I chose to be home with family, or to get some sleep, or do laundry, or go to a board meeting, or take the kids ice skating… Reminding myself that it is all by choice that I am in this situation is comforting. Being accepting of my own choices is liberating.

To be honest, there are times when Just in Time Parenting isn’t as efficient as others. Learning this did cause some disappointment or distress, but like all rules, there are exceptions and knowing them is important! Examples include camp registration, well-child doctor appointments, using reward miles for travel and booking a good babysitter. For certain things, planning ahead is critical — the trick is to figure out what must be planned, and what can be done just in time.

I have embraced my Just in Time Parenting style more and more since the birth of my third child; when my workload increased by 50% and sleep decreased by the same. This mindset was born of necessity, and has flourished given it brings me less stress.

More Examples:

Son needs to wear a specific clothing item tomorrow. My choice is to stay up till 11 to get the wash into the dryer; or to decide its ok to wipe off the dried on food that shows its dirty. I chose the second option.

Family is undertaking a first ever road trip to Florida. We thought about trying to book hotel rooms ahead of trip, but the task was too difficult not knowing how far we wanted to travel each day. We decided we would figure it out when the time called for it, and ended up needing to drive a couple of extra hours the first night to find the hotel that we wanted with a pool. This one is less clear, but I call it a win since we didn’t stress about it ahead of time, and it all worked out.

Child requests out of the ordinary birthday “cake”. I could have posted for help on my mom’s group, ordered it from a bakery, or planned my own design. Instead, on the morning of the party, I googled “Donut Cake” and got tons of ideas, went to Dunkin Donuts, and figured it out as I assembled it. No stress, and the kids were thrilled. I mean, come on, the kid wanted a donut cake, it didn’t need to be a project!

There are plenty more examples. And I suspect that everyone has their own list of things they have dealt with in the moment, that was far easier and much less stressful than if they had planned ahead. I encourage all my parenting friends (and single folks could do this too!) to spend less mental energy and time on what is in the future, and you’ll be better able to enjoy and handle and be successful with what is going on right now!

I have to sign off now. I need a disco outfit for tonight!


Earning My Stripes

Anniversaries, birthdays, seasons . . . . we are in a constant cycle of counting and reminicing and marking the passage of time and the tallying of accomplishments. My husband and I just celebrated our wedding anniversary this week, which got me thinking about all the things that we celebrate over time. The obvious (wonderful) list is:

37+ years of a pretty darn good life
16 years together as a couple with my husband
11 years of marriage
10 years in our house
7 years as parents
3 adorable boys

Then there is the other list.

The one that tallies our “accomplishments”; the list that tracks the stripes we parents earn! You know that anniversary I mentioned? It coincided with the latest ER visit — our almost 8 year old crashed [fell off the breakfast bar stool] and split open his head [like a scene out of the old tv series “ER”, blood was flowing fast] sending us to the ER for staples instead of settling in for a relaxing dinner at home after the kids went to bed!

While I obviously wish that this was a short list, it somehow marks the moments that I feel best about my parenting skills. I am pretty good about rising to the occasion (if I do say so myself) when accidents happen or illness strikes. I don’t question my parenting skills in these situations! So not the happy list like the one above, this other list also makes me proud [in a warped way]:

2 ER trips for broken bones
1 ER trip for a stitched up forehead
1 pediatrician visit to glue together head
1 ER trip for staples in the head
1 ER trip for croup
COUNTLESS pediatrician visits for croup, ear infections, sinus infections and asthma…
COUNTLESS specialist visits for hearing loss, food allergies and pronating feet…
Hours wondering around CVS waiting for presriptions to be filled.
A fortune spent on co-pays, hearing aids, orthotics and antibiotics!

If only I could channel my nurturing and calm into the mundane, every day stuff of parenting like enforcing rules, ensuring homework gets done and kids get bathed, preparing interesting meals and making sure the kids don’t destroy the house or each other . . . for that stuff, I have no patience. So while hoping my kids don’t get hurt anymore, I will secretly relish in those moments where I earned my stripes.