I feel strongly about things. It's in my nature. I'm not one for half-measures and never have been. Above all else, I feel strongly about The Boy and how I raise him. You can be sure that if I take a position about something involving The Boy's upbringing, it's because I've devoted a considerable amount of time and research to investigating it. I would hope that other parents would do the same, but I have learned that I can't always assume that to be true. Or sometimes other parents research the same topics I do, but for whatever reason, different sources, different views, it happens — they come up with completely different conclusions. I'm willing to buy that. What I'm not willing to buy, no matter who's selling it, is someone else trying to tell my kid that what I'm teaching him is wrong.
Because this is a mainstream publication and we're all nice normal mainstream people here, I am going to politely take off my 10-gallon tinfoil hat and set it to the side. No, all I want to talk about here is a basic premise that I have investigated and found to be sound and valid and have passed on to The Boy as fact. The premise? Fast food is bad for you.
Simple, right? I don't sound like too much of a nut when I say that. At least I don't think I do. But apparently the idea that fast food is bad for you is dangerous subversive talk in some circles, and the rest of the world seems determined to convince my kid that I am filling his head with lies and misinformation. Why, fast food is American! It's as American as a hot apple pie ( caution: filling may be hot ). And what kid doesn't love a burger and fries?
My kid, as long as I have anything to do with it. Why? Because I'm his mother, and it's my job to make sure that he has a healthy start in life. Without sneaking my tinfoil hat back on to talk about additives and mystery ingredients and theories about who's behind the fast-food machine, let's just take this at face value. White flour. Hydrogenated oils. High-fructose corn syrup. Monosodium glutamate. Are these things that build a strong body and feed a developing brain? No, they're not.
Sure, I could justify the heck out of a kids' meal if I tried — I'm sure that would put a big smile on The Boy's face; why, they come with free toys ! And cartoons on the box! It would make my life easier, that's for double-sure. Cutting through the drive-through on the way home is a lot quicker than grilling a chicken breast and cutting it into nugget-sized bites myself.
But I didn't sign up for quick and easy. I signed up to raise, nurture and protect a human being. And that's not easy when McDonald's, to name just one example, is spending $1 billion a year on advertising. Think of the persuasive genius that kind of money can buy. And behind door No. 2? You've got Mama saying, "Sorry, kiddo, that food isn't good for you."
Here's the thing: I may not have a billion dollars, and I may not have Disney tie-ins or fancy graphics and jingles on my side, but I do have one important advantage over McDonald's in that The Boy knows I love him and care about his well-being. As a result, he trusts me when I tell him fast food is bad for him. It ain't much, but it's all I've got. And that's why it's so frustrating when well-meaning family members who think I'm just being weird and overprotective correct my son when he says that he doesn't eat fast food because it's bad for him by rolling their eyes and telling him, "Well, a lot of people like fast food!"
A scientist would call that argument a spurious correlation . Unfortunately, The Boy is not a scientist, and now he's confused, because someone else he loves and trusts has just directly contradicted his Mama and told him that it's OK to like fast food. And we haven't even gotten to the point where he's got a peer group that asks him which he likes better, Burger King or Taco Bell, or friends who invite him to birthday parties at McDonald's Playland, or — and here's where I grab my tinfoil hat and furl up the brim — a public school offering him fast-food coupons for good grades or extra reading.
The saying, "It takes a village to raise a child" comes from Nigeria. It's a lovely sentiment, as long as you and your village are on the same page. If you're not, with all due love and respect, the village needs to butt out. Unfortunately, between commercials, peer pressure and a burger joint on every corner, that's easier said than done. Unless you actually move to a village in Nigeria. At last check, there weren't any golden arches in the country.