I intend on my son growing up to be a man. Height-wise, he’s nearly there and he’s only eight. With every passing stage I mourn a little for the little baby I once had. I refuse to let him grow up too fast.
He still mispronounces a few things and I won’t correct him because sometimes, the fact that he calls it a “mow-lawner” is the only connection I have to the tiny baby boy he once was. We won’t let him watch many television shows, we don’t allow the word “butt” in our house, and there’s serious controls on our Internet. Mature life will come soon enough, he needs to be a child for as long as possible. However, there is one aspect of being a kid I have never permitted with my son. When it comes to his diet, I refuse to treat my son like a child.
As I read the latest report about the nutrition content found in the so-called “healthy” kids meals I rolled my eyes. One restaurant’s hamburger was higher in fat than than three of another fast food joint’s chicken nuggets. And ‘fast-food place A’ serves a grilled cheese with way more sodium than “fast-food place B’s” corn dog. So it seems, in our tireless effort to get our kids healthy, we’re splitting hairs over whose junk food may have tweaked the recipe enough to be slightly lower in fat or cholesterol to earn the title as a “healthier option.”
Out of curiosity I searched some of the top chain fast-food and family dine-in restaurant menus. Regardless of the style served on the adult menu, every restaurant basically has the same 3-5 items on the kid’s menu: chicken nuggets, hot dogs or corn dogs, mac n’ cheese, and hamburgers. Granted, some had a kid’s variation of that restaurant’s specialty, but most were the same and they all served fries as a side. None of this was surprising, just a confirmation in how far we have to go in order to help our kids stay healthy.
The restaurants offer these options because that’s what kids eat. Kids eat this stuff because it’s what we feed to them. But why? Why must this be what’s considered kid food? I’m not perfect, not even close. However, I’ll let my son grab the crayons and the fun menu, but rarely do I let him order off if it.
We’ve been a waiter’s headache since he was on solid food. We may order him the beef of the burger, but request that they bring the whole wheat bun that is only offered to the adults. We’ll let his meal come in the fun little basket, but we ask that he get the steamed broccoli versus the mountain of fries they typically pile in. And yes, we’re those parents who have requested fresh veggies to dip in the salsa so none of us, our son included, load up on fried chips prior to our meal. Or even simpler, I order him the same thing I’m getting, and take half home. And as far as the drive-thru restaurants go, well, we just don’t go. Because honestly, I would have tremendous guilt if I served that food to my son. But, I have been that parent who has gone and paid for the cool toy and nothing else. Just because he eats like an adult, does not mean he’s not a child who doesn’t want in on the fun.
Thankfully, there are a few restaurants that I feel totally comfortable allowing my son to order whatever he wants and many are working to start offering more mature food to our kids. And to prove I’m human, our kid gets to indulge, just like the rest of us, from time to time. He has six grandparents, he gets plenty of burger and fry time. But as a general rule, much to many restaurants’ chagrin, I will not feed my kid like an American child and I beg other parents to do the same.
June 15th, 2012