Monday, July 20, 2009

Therapy, Anyone? by Jenny Gardiner

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?


Suzanne Macpherson said...

Somewhere there is a picture of me sitting behind a booth I made exactly like LUcy's. Some kids made lemonade stands, I made therapy stands. I completely agree about the fund! I have two sets of kids. One was from my hippie days, eat only healthy. The others were from post-healthy days. Froot Loops have made it into our house. But now we have Guerrilla Food Teen who has seen Fast Food Nation and read way too many books and well, the word FROOT says it all doesn't it? LOL We have green things in our fridge now. Lots of green things.

Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

Make mine a box of Lucky Charms with extra yellow stars! :)

Jill said...

I laughed out loud about the sewing thing. I hate to sew and my mother blames herself b/c she didn't teach me. Never mind I never expressed the slightest interest in learning to sew and only learned b/c I was forced to learn it in home ec.
Mom, if you had tried to teach me to sew, I would have still hated it. The difference is we would have fought about it while you tried to teach me.
To tie it back into food, mom and I do both love vegetables and fruit more than anything else. I agree, we were just born that way!

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

Suz that is so fitting that you made therapy stands! And my son is also guerilla food king--after reading that book he's lecturing me 24/7 about the evil corn monoculture. He's preaching to the choir!
We too have green things in our fridge. They aren't frequently touched, however--except to move them out of the way to get to the non-health food!

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

Jill, I have to say I never really pushed the teaching sewing to the girls (and yeah, my son would have scoffed at that one!) because I was always so fearful that they'd zip over their fingers on the sewing machine. I tried a couple of times to no avail.
Lately my girls have shown an interest in cooking, though it's more like off-the-cuff baking, like making a cake and running out of butter so subbing in shortening LOL (yeah that cake failed)

EllenToo said...

I hated green things even going so far to wrap up some string beans in a napkin and shove it in the back of the pantry when I was about five because mother wouldn't let me leave the table until I ate them. I actually got away with it for several weeks because my baby brother was crying and mom wasn't watching me. The she decided to find out why there were ants in the pantry. I still don't like green things but at least I'll eat them.

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

I'm amazed those ants would even bother eating them LOL

EllenToo said...

I'm thinking there was something on them that attracted them or something on the napkin. Mother usually put some sort of dressing on them as far as I can remember from later days but I don't remember if she did back then.