Oh, don’t feel bad for me. It’s not like restaurants won’t be lining up to hand him an awesome $9 an hour line cook job when he graduates in January. Good ones too!
I take comfort in Nate being away six nights a week by reminding myself that I’ve got nights to myself with no one criticizing my TV choices. I’ve got time to write. And of course, I’ve got those delicious, delicious class assignments to surprise me each morning when I wobble to the kitchen and crack open the refrigerator door.
Let’s just say he just finished the pastry section of the curriculum. And he earned a 98 on his recent evaluation.
(That’s my thighs talking. Sorry, they’ve got a thing for quoting Austin Powers. Annoying, I know.)
This week though was something different. Nate came home from his nutrition class like an atheist who found Jesus, ranting about high fructose corn syrup and overprocessing and Michael Pollan and carbs and and type 2 diabetes. And how our children are pretty much the worst eaters in the world and how we need to do less Cheerios and more eggs, less mac and cheese from a box and more fat peas from the garden. Hallelujia, for Mr. Let’s Introduce The Kids To Marshmallow Fluff himself has seen the light.
I am all for my children eating better and not getting major diseases because man, if I think I feel guilty now about not signing them up for ballet lessons, imagine how I’ll feel about having them on insulin the better part of their adult life. I do my best to read labels and ease up on the sugar and buy the organic products that matter (with help from Food Momiac). I try to be the mom who says “no dessert unless you eat your dinner” and to make sure they don’t eat peanut butter for every meal, which believe me, they could do.
But I had this odd sinking feeling at the same time that Nate was ranting about the sweeping dietary changes about to befall this household, and how there would be no more boxed cereals and no more white flour pasta, which pretty much wipes out two of the three food groups in our home.
Ricotta cheese, mercifully, remained.
In part I’m feeling guilty and defensive and kind of annoyed. Mostly defensive.
I grapple with the degree to which my kids are picky eaters because they’re two and four, or the degree to which they are picky eaters because we’ve let them be. I’m sure it doesn’t help that now I’m on dinner duty six nights a week, even as I’ve let my cooking skills atrophy–thanks to a partner who can whoop me silly over a Viking range and doesn’t think twice about criticizing my boiling water ability. (Not enough salt.) I think boneless chicken breast, but somehow I reach for the mac n cheese when I’m too tired to see straight, let alone make a marinade. And if you want to assuage the mac n cheese guilt with the organic kind? You’d better be prepared to shell out three tiems the price.
So I’m sitting at the family dinner table over Nate’s outrageous ravioli with a homemade lemon herb sauce with spring peas, grappling with how I might transition from the ease of Cheerios to me actually having to stand my tired arse over a pan of eggs first thing in the morning.
Slowly, I come around. I’m imagining that with a little work, I might actually be able to deliver on Nate’s Great Nutritional Ephiphany of 2009. It wasn’t an attack on me specifically – it was an observation about the way we live, and the way food is sold, and how we might work together to change it for the benefit of our kids.
Yes! I’m thinking. I’ll totally start making all those vegetable purees to hide in the pancakes and freeze them for the week. I’ll start scouting out the “nutritious family meals you can in 4 seconds” blogs and Nate and I will work together to figure out how make some changes around here. This will be a really good thing.
I let my shoulders down. I breathe deeply. I manage to smile. We’re in this together.
Then Nate looks down, and seeing my utensils in the all done position says, with his most condescending voice possible:
You are going to finish your peas, Mommy. Right?
And I nearly jumped out of my seat and stabbed him with my fork.