My Kids Eat Like Freaks & Mom Shaming

The family secrets start to spill…Welcome to ParentalGRIT, your twice weekly publication of whatever the heck I want to discuss in the world of parenting.  In case you missed it, in the last two weeks we have tiptoed around the fringes of the Gillette Ad, explored the oxymoronic nature of parenthood, and discussed the challenges of raising children with bad news flooding our brain.  We are shifting gears once again today, as I will be sharing the dirty little secret that I’ve been hiding about my family and framing that against a culture suddenly cognizant of and obsessed with mom-shaming.

Let’s start with my family’s darkest secret, one that I have suppressed and intentionally hidden from my 7000 followers across social media: my daughters do not eat sugar.  Or bread.  Like….at all.  Ever.  {DRAMATIC GASP} For my oldest daughter’s first birthday, we gave her a banana, her first exposure to fruit.  For her second birthday, two candles were placed in a bowl of steamed broccoli.  For her third birthday, three candles were jabbed into a stack of egg and banana concoctions.  She has never had dessert.  She has never had bread.  No crackers.  No juice.  No goldfish.  I know, I know, we’re terrible parents and depriving our poor girls of all that is good in the world.  In our defense, she doesn’t notice.  She eats vegetables by the pound and enjoys all kinds of fish and a well-prepared medium steak when the opportunity rises (which isn’t often, due to her cheapskate father).  She has a preference hierarchy for the half dozen varieties of nuts she regularly consumes and has drank nothing but water since she weaned off her breastmilk.  Her sister, at 11 months, still nurses and eats nothing but my homemade baby food that is nothing but vegetables and meat.  Oh, and no dairy for the girls either.  I wouldn’t say we 100% align with any one particular ‘diet’, but I might describe our approach as ‘Paleo-ish’.  My wife and I have always trended towards health-consciousness, so forging our family’s diet down this path wasn’t all that dramatic of a commitment.  Nonetheless, this is how we’ve lived for 3.5 years.  But that isn’t the story here…

So why don’t I share this information over social media or my blog (this piece outstanding)?  Because I am not on a crusade to get the rest of the world’s children eating like mine.  I don’t want to have to explain, time and time again, the choices we have made.  I don’t want to be the 17th million Paleo or Whole30 or Mediterranean or Keto or Vegan blog; I want to have fun laughing at the trials of parenthood and intelligently (well, at least to the point my tiny brain can attain) exploring some of the more difficult and controversial aspects of parenting.  Trust me, it’s an excruciating pain to explain our daughters’ diets in person; the heck if I want to traverse those conversations online with thousands of strangers (and friends!). The way they eat is simply our lifestyle, not something I really yearn to write about.

The biggest reason, however, that I do not share our family’s dirty little secret is that I don’t care how you raise your children.  If you want to give your toddler a Twinkie and a Pepsi every morning for breakfast, go for it.  My wife and I realize we’re a bit insane; we don’t sit back in judgment when we encounter other parents that dare to feed their children differently than we do.  Go for it. The choices you make as a parent do not threaten our own.  We’re doing what works best for our family and I respect your right to do the same.  I keep this to myself because so many people I’ve met seem strangely threatened by what I feed my daughters.  I don’t preach.  I don’t describe their diets as ‘optimal’ and the only way to raise healthy children.  There’s no guarantee what we’re doing is right.  To each their own!  Again, assuming you’re not beating your child or endangering them or letting them watch Caillou (:)), then I do not care how you raise your children.  If that sounds insensitive for a guy running a parenting brand, allow me to clarify: I love learning from other parents, I love encouraging other parents, and I enjoy laughing hysterically about our ridiculous children with other parents.  How you parent your children, however, is not an arena I want to infringe upon.

Which leads us to mom-shaming.  The bloggy and cultural phenomenon where parents (generally mothers) feast on other supposedly inferior parents.  What, you co-sleep! HOW DARE YOU!  What, you let your infant cry it out? WHAT KIND OF MONSTER ARE YOU!  You feed your child Fruit Loops?  OH THE HORRORS OF IT ALL!  Moms and dads get really worked up both online and in person about what other parents are doing.  Though I’ve done my best to hide our healthy habits, I still have received umpteen lectures on how depriving my girls of sweets early on only means they are going to rebel worse later on.  I mean, what does that even mean?  As a teenager, is my daughter  going to start snorting FunDip and shooting maple syrup into her veins because we made her eat vegetables when she was young?  As I said before, I hide our family’s diet from people.  I’m not preaching.  I’m not proclaiming our superiority.  But that doesn’t stop the occasional person who finds out from telling me why it is a mistake.

To be clear, I don’t mind when people tell me how I should raise my children—in fact, it usually gives me a great laugh.  I’m not easily offended and I’m self-secure enough in my parenting to not take anything I read or hear too seriously.  But it’s a nasty trend in culture these days where a private life and private decisions offend others. Why are there so many parents searching for conflict by probing the habits of others?  Again, assuming the kids are safe, why are we so concerned with how other people sleep their kids or discipline their kids or feed their kids?  How you raise your children does not threaten me.  Our culture, completely unrepresentative of the current bent towards tolerance, only seems to want to tolerate that which is congruent with one’s way of thinking.  Your choices as a parent do not infringe upon my existence.  You do you!

In the meantime, I’ll feed my girls Brussel sprouts and you feed yours Pop Tarts and we’ll laugh together as it all ends up on their shirts anyway…Cheers!

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