As I watched Emmalee eating fast food chicken nuggets for the second evening in a row, I couldn’t help but have one of those “am I doing this right?” moments in parenting. Of course I know that there are healthier things she could be eating than chicken nuggets, particularly the fried fast food variety. But when I got home from work today I had to get her ready and then run to Sam’s Club to pick up my contacts and Wal-Mart to buy a few essentials that I forgot to pick up the last time I was there. Wal-Mart just so happens to be located right next to a very convenient Chick-fil-A, whose chickeny goodness sounded pretty fast and easy at 6:15 pm. I scarfed my food down on the drive home so that I’d be free to set Emma up in her high chair and then unload the car and put the groceries away while she munched. It was a busy evening. At least I put some peas and carrots (microwaved, from a can) on her tray. Not that she ate them.
I am allowing Emma to learn some pretty terrible eating habits. Though she loves fruit, she is not a fan of vegetables. She loves anything fried and buttery, and she would happily graze on snacks like Puffs and Cheerios all day long. She is pretty much following right in my gastronomic footsteps, except I substitute the Puffs and Cheerios for chips and chocolate. Should I really expect anything different?
To be fair, it’s not like she eats fast food three times a day, or even everyday for that matter. And she does eat some healthier things, like peanut butter and applesauce sandwiches, fruit cups, and mixed grain Gerber cereal mixed with a stage two Gerber fruit (her daily breakfast). But I’m pretty sure that everything she consumes is processed, preserved, or artificial in some way. Her veggies come from cans. Her fruit comes from a disposable cup with a peel-back lid. And a large chunk of her daily caloric intake is of the Teddy Graham and Goldfish variety. She also drinks juice, which I thought was a good thing until a recent Babycenter.com thread informed me that it’s full of sugar and evil, right up there with milk apparently. At least I water it down. And who am I to worry about sugar when I share my ice cream with her?
The reason that Emma and I both eat this way is that I do not cook. I feel lost in the kitchen, and the idea of having to prepare a meal each evening makes me feel like taking a nap, especially when considering trying to cook with a whiny, hungry toddler attached to my legs. Are there really people out there who do that? Babycenter.com’s message boards would have you believe that they not only exist, but that they prepare these meals using all natural, unprocessed organic ingredients. At the risk of sounding cynical, what do these people do all day that they have the time for that crap? If you are someone who falls into this category, hats off to you. Seriously. I admire you’re dedication. But I don’t feel like cooking. And I don’t feel like reading labels. And I don’t feel like changing my own eating habits. So I guess Emma is doomed to a childhood of cereal, sandwiches and dinners that can either be prepared in ten minutes or less or that can be served through a window. Somehow I doubt she’ll complain. And anyway, we can probably get a home cooked meal out of Grammy once in a while. Isn’t that what grandmothers are for?
I discuss this topic flippantly, but the fact that I’m blogging about it betrays the reality of the situation which is that I have guilt. I want to be a good mom and I want Emma to be a healthy child. I know that serving grilled cheese or chicken nuggets most nights, and allowing Emma to munch on Cheerios to keep her quiet when we’re shopping, is taking the easy way out. I also know that if I whine about being busy or tired or having to do it all on my own I am just making excuses. But since I’m not all that willing to make changes, my guilt must not be too bad. I guess I feel like if I’ve eaten this way for as long as I can remember and I’m all right, then Emma will probably be fine too. Maybe I can try to be extra awesome in some other area of parenting to make up for my lack of awesomeness at mealtimes? Maybe I think about these things too much.