I will be forever grateful for the Commonwealth of Virginia for having the foresight to establish the pre-paid college tuition program. Way back when the program started and my husband was so hot to sign up for it, I was wary--it seemed way too good to be true. I almost nixed the notion but he insisted. But now that we've got kids of college age, it's been a real financial blessing, at a time when we needed it most.
However I really wish Virginia had also thought to launch a pre-paid psychological counseling program as well. Be it for kids or for parents, well, you decide. But let's face it: you can't easily get out of the parent/child relationship without the need for a shrink, and frankly, therapy can rank up there with college tuition in terms of the big bucks.
With nearly two decades of parenting under my belt, I've drawn a few conclusions about little people (in age, not stature). One is that humans are genetically pre-programmed to have particular food tastes. I know, I know, this notion seems ludicrous. And it might be. But hear me out. Take me, for instance. Loathing of all things nutritional from infancy, I was weaned by default on Froot Loops and Sugar Pops. This fact ranks up there in my childhood lore right alongside tales of one of my earliest spoken words: "thit" (I had a lisp. And no, the word wasn't a command to be seated).
But as one who perceived vegetables as something not intended for human consumption, I could never quite relate to someone choosing to be a vegetarian. Foreign concept, thank you. I know everyone says that you if you make the kid eat it, he will. No way.
My oldest child will eat most anything and sometimes prefers the weirder the better. I'll never forget shopping with him at Fresh Fields when he was about 10 and he begged me to buy him octopus. Octopus? I can cook most anything, but I draw the line at creatures with suction cups.
Our middle child declared herself a vegetarian at the ripe old age of eight, purely out of empathy for her fellow creatures. It helps, though, that she loves—actually prefers—vegetables. And this child sprung from my loins? Our number three takes right after me. Learned early on to purse her lips so tight that nary a veggie could pass through the gateway to her gullet. Perfectly happy to eat all things bad-for-you, spent quite a few crucial developmental years eating only hot dogs.
So getting back to the therapy. The youngest child, who thrashed, flailed, and otherwise made mealtimes quite uncomfortable if the concept of mandatory vegetables was ever implemented, announced to us the other day in an accusatory voice, "You should've forced me to eat vegetables when I was little."
Um, hello, Dr. Freud? No, not in that way. I merely mean that I think I need a shrink, because I cannot believe that this child is now blaming us for her childhood obstinacy. After all those countless jars of Gerber's spinach she splattered all over my face (can't exactly blame her—have you ever smelled that stuff?), even the sweet potatoes that weren't sweet enough for her. I vividly recall a temper tantrum that drew dinner to a halt over her having to eat a no thank you bite—a mere bite!—of a cherry tomato when she was eight.
Headstrong, thy name is offspring.
And then there was the dreaded summer camp debacle. For years we pleaded and cajoled with our kids to get them to agree to attend summer camp. Try as we might, those kids wouldn't budge. "No camp," they all moaned. "Never!" To be honest, when they refused, we didn't force the issue too much because camps were always pretty expensive and well, who wants to pay for something the kid's gonna hate? I sure didn't want our kids needing therapy because we forced them to go away during summer vacation.
Cue last week at dinner when my son said, "You should've forced me to go to camp." Piping in were the other two, entirely irate at our irresponsible parenting. So instead of them needing therapy because we forced them to go to camp, we'll need it because they now blame us for not forcing them to go to camp. Get the picture? Virginia? I'm waiting!
Alas, if I had a dollar for all the parenting mandates they've told us we've failed upon, well, maybe I could start funding that Virginia counseling program myself. I'm still waiting for the kids to blame me for not making them clean their rooms more. And the girls for me not teaching them how to sew and cook (tried that, to no avail).
In lieu of that therapy fund, though, I think I'll resort to what I've known best since my childhood days: Froot Loops. A big bowl, no milk, because really, who wants to add anything nutritional to that?