We’re a fairly health conscious family. My wife is a personal trainer, so she’s very fit. For this reason (and because she’s an excellent cook and I’m dismal), she’s in charge of our family’s food intake . She frequently steers us in the right direction. While I’m not much for fast food and big greasy meals, I’m addicted to chocolate and desserts, so she’s frequently wrestling chocolate cake from my hands.
Our son has grown up hearing about portion control, protein intake, the importance of fruits and vegetables, and care for the animals we eat. He’s also a pretty rule-based guy, and can take some firm moral stances on things. That’s one of the reasons he’s such a good kid; we can always trust him to make the right choices.
But the one thing he’s militant about is fast food. We’re not much of a fast food family, so he hardly had any exposure to chain restaurants in his early years. Aside from my wife’s Subway addiction (now in remission), we didn’t frequent any franchises. But as he got older and went to public school, he was exposed to the names of the holy trinity: McDonald’s, Burger King, and Taco Bell.
“What’s fast food?” he once asked us.
“It’s food that’s made fast. Usually stuff like burgers and fries.”
“Is it good for you?” (This has always been his litmus test question, and he expects a yes or no answer. No gray area.)
“No. It’s got lots of fat and salt and sugar in it, so it’s not very good for you.” In another conversation, we eventually got around to explaining what diabetes was and how people can develop a type of diabetes later in life by eating too many things that are bad for them. Somehow he fused the two things in his brain: Fast Food = Diabetes. Hence his new favorite phrase.
My son happens to like saying things in his budding British or Southern accents (his mom is quite theatrical), and somehow his new saying came out in a Southern accent. Now, every time someone mentions a Pizza Hut or a Wendy’s, he spouts out, “Yer gonna git diabetes!” It always gets a big laugh. And so, it’s continued for over a year now.
Part of me is proud. I mean, lots of kids are finicky and parents have to work their hardest to get their kids to eat right. Here I have this boy who wants to eat well and who even knows that certain types of food can lead to disease if over-eaten. How lucky am I? Part of me is concerned. I hope that as he grows up, he’s able to indulge. I mean, he’s only 6, and I don’t want him to become some militant health-nut. I want him to experience a wide array of food and do so in moderation. Finally, part of me is a little worried that somehow he’s paired Southerners with bad health and nasty diets. What’s up with that? We’ll be sure to keep him away from Paula Deen so we don’t reinforce his stereotype!
There’s hope for him though. He’s a big advocate for dessert (like his dad) and loves chips and popcorn (like his mom). He can barely watch a movie without access to treats. It’s good to see him indulge. It’s also good to see he’s knowledgeable about his health and what goes into his body.
I just want him to have a balanced outlook, and sometimes that’s tough at a developmental age in which everything is so black and white. My wife and I try to be mindful and not to go overboard when we malign food. At his tender age he can certainly latch onto anything we say. We have to watch ourselves at times, because we can be really critical. He absorbs everything like a sponge, and can over-inflate ideas like he did with fast food. It has been a good reminder for us to be more mindful about what we say, in order to temper the absolutism of our little moral policeman.