"Chocolate chip or sugar, sweetie?"
My son loves coming with me to the grocery store. He loves pointing out all the foods that he has learned about in school, and likes to help pick out what to get for dinner. He is 4 and he can already read words like "coffee," "deli" and "meats."
Once in a while he gets one of the free cookies at the bakery. It is his "moment" to ask for one. It must be a cool feeling for a 4-year-old to get something for himself without having any money. Kind of an empowering moment for a kid.
A couple weeks back we went grocery shopping. My son was having a good day and he got a cookie at the store. He told the baker "thank you," like I make him do every time. While he was eating his cookie, a woman dressed in workout clothing looked at me and said...
"That is child abuse!"
I looked around to see if a child was being yelled at or being hit, but saw no one. Then all of a sudden, while she made her next comment, I realized she was talking about me...
"Do you even know the ingredients in that cookie? Feeding your child any processed food is child abuse!"
Then I took a deep breath.
The weirdest part about this is that I do not eat processed foods. I am the only one in my family like this. I was over 400 pounds for a good majority of my life. I lost over 200 pounds and kept it off for over five years. Someone once told me that very few gained weight by eating fruits and vegetables. I believed it, so I switched my diet to a very strict one. I had to. I am an extreme weight loss success story.
I do not like talking about how I lost the weight. I know I am a "one-off" when it comes to weight loss. I do believe that most people understand moderation. I do not. I never have. I have to force myself in anything to moderate. It is why I was over 400 pounds. It is also why I stay up late to write.
My wife understands moderation. My children understand moderation. Heck, everyone in my family understands moderation. I never got the concept. I never understood it.
My kids are my life. They watch me eat fruits and vegetables and they always ask me what I am eating and if they will like it. Most of the time they try it. Sometimes they enjoy it. My son has eaten more fruits and vegetables than I did as a child and teenager. I am so blessed my children are balanced.
I refuse to make my children eat like I do. People think that childhood obesity is caused by lazy parents, but look around. McDonald's is always busy. Coke and Pepsi dominate every Super Bowl with their commercials and Tostitos sponsors one of the biggest college football games around.
Most people can moderate their food. I know that.
What I hated the most about her comment was the fact that she said child abuse. I hate when people throw such strong words around for frivolous things. People use things like bullying and child abuse for their own silly agendas when these are real issues. I do not care how many movies are out about food and how we eat. Feeding any child processed foods is not abuse.
Child abuse is neglect and physical force. It is bringing a child down so they have to work very hard to get back up. Feeding any child is not abuse. Neglecting your child is. And sadly, there are many truly abused children in our country and around the world.
When she said it, I wanted to be quick to judge her. I saw so many things in her cart that she perceived as healthy which were not.
And those were none of my damn business. Just like my son's cookie was none of her business.
I know all about the childhood obesity situation. I was a part of it. I will also tell you that yelling at your child for being "fat" does not help. I know that yelling at them about food does not help. Being a role model does. Showing kids balance helps. My son, at 4, already has more moderation skills than I ever had. He gets it from his mom. Thank God!
I will also make sure that I do not talk about diets in front of him. I will not talk badly about my body in front of him.
So I walked away from the woman. My son asked what she said and I told him I had no idea. I refuse to respond to someone with a warped view of abuse. I suggest she Google child abuse to really understand what it means.
My son ate half of his cookie, like he always does, and handed it to me.
He did not want to fill up. He knew we were eating apples after lunch.