So, Readers, I did it! I successfully fed my children McDonald's for dinner at the park. And you know what? Nothing bad happened. No one choked on a McNugget. There were no straw fights. A horde of crunchy moms didn't erupt from the nearby forest preserve to take my children back to nature. A swat team of social workers didn't suddenly appear to ask questions about my maternal fitness. In fact, I don't really think anyone noticed or seemed to care. Now, the fact that we were on a playdate with Rock Star Mom and she was also feeding her children McDonald's might have gone a long way toward my apparent coolness with the whole thing. She is totally aptly named; her civilised sass is awe-inspiring and her nonchalance about what other people think makes her my new mom hero. My discreet stalking of her at church has paid off in spades! But back to the McDonalds, which got me thinking about food.....
Now, we all know that I think about food a great deal. How much I love to eat it. How much I hate to actually make it. How much I wish I could dine in restaurants for the rest of my life and it somehow be free and healthy, which will be my second wish if I ever meet a genie. (The first being endless wishes, duh.) So much of my life is tied up in food, especially my mom-life; who needs it, who stole it, who has had enough, why isn't there any in the house, what is this moldy thing on the counter, where shall we buy more that isn't moldy. Then Super Preschooler wants to grow the food, but that sounds like too much work and I would rather watch Netflix. And then that crunchy mom at the other park is suggesting new ways for us to have food without any sugar and frankly all that does is make me want a Snickers bar. And the people I live with want food all the time. At least 3 times a day; it is insane!
Food; it is essential to human life. That much I can deal with. But the endless superimposed pressures and judgements that we layer onto food renders it an emotional landmine that I don't want to touch, let alone eat. And we moms are the worst! Watch moms at the grocery store sometime; oh sure, they nod hello at you all polite-like, but their eyes drop right into your cart to see what you are buying. Let's be super honest, to judge what you are buying. And no lying, you do it too. I do it without even wanting to do it; our eyes are biologically primed to rake over things that other moms are doing. (Awkward Dad wants me to point out that there is absolutely no biological evidence to back up the previous statement. Oh, and that women are weird.)
I have explained my theory about the Infant Trifecta before; that deadly combination of food, sleep, and potty. The three areas of baby life that can render any conversation between normally sane and loving women into a whirling mass of catty and righteously indigent furies, given enough time and the right conditions. Well, guess what? Eat, sleep, and potty are all babies do! And children aren't much better, although play enters into the scene at some point; play with its own host of theories, approaches, and the altogether foreign concept of sharing. Yeah, that's gonna be a walk in the park right there. You and your mom friends can make all the efforts in the world to stay away from the Infant Trifecta; you can talk about politics (which might be no wiser) or movies or books or American Idol. You could be super safe and only discuss the weather, but sure as shooting, someone's child is gonna get hungry, tired, or have to pee while you are talking, and then, as ominous as Pandora's Box creaking open, Infant Trifecta appears in your midst. You may totally ignore him and prattle on about how much better the show was when Paula was on it, but he is still there. Looming in a corner like a waiting viper. No one might say anything, you may escape the whole playdate without any visible tension whatsoever, but someone is judging the food/sleep/potty interaction. Believe me, she is. And if she isn't, you are.
This doesn't make us bad people. We are human and we do this all day. Our days are a cycle of tending to the food/sleep/potty needs of the young people in our care and we have learned what works for our young people and for ourselves. Not absorbing Infant Trifecta discussions around us would be like an engineer having no opinion while the Brooklyn Bridge is being discussed. A baker not weighing in on a bread conversation. A fashion designer letting you go anywhere in Uggs. It just isn't natural. We are moms; we are Infant Trifecta experts and it is natural to think that our mom-friends can benefit from our wisdom. And they can. If your friend asks for potty training tips, awesome! Tip away. If your buddy want to know how you moved your baby into a crib with no drama, share! Wanna offer around your spinach-laced brownies? OK, now you are pushing it, but I like your enthusiasm. But we all need to remember something about our Infant Trifecta expertness....it applies to our own infants. Our own children. Our own households. And it does not translate directly into anyone else's experience without some tweaking and arranging.
Back to food. (Wait. I need some for real. Be right back. OK. It's just a banana, not a spinach-brownie, don't worry.) Food. Food is so loaded with stuff. And stuff really is the right word. Judgement, good intentions, convenience, pressure, hopes, failures, preservatives; you name it, food is stuffed with it. For example, my children are snackers. They eat all day long, little bits and bites here and there. Breakfast and lunch rarely happen with any sort of order, let's alone sitting down at the table. Dinner is slightly more formal, but only slightly and only at Awkward Dad insistence. 3 square meals a day just isn't the way their stomachs tend to think and I have accepted that. Along with many other food "disappointments," like that my children are gonna put ketchup on everything they eat or that Super Toddler has inherited my salt-tooth or my utter inability to deal with making baby food. I just can't do it, I have a total mental block there. I feel myself totally inapt at the idea of pureeing squash, don't ask me why. It's all mental and weird and tied up with my feelings of inadequacy as it relates to cooking. But rather than probe all of those emotions during time I could spend reading or making up stories with Super Preschooler, I just let Excellent Mom make it for me because she enjoys it. Somethings really are that simple.
And last night was one of those times. I wanted to see Rock Star Mom and her band. She suggested McDonald's at the park. And I said OK.
OK, it wasn't quite that simple. My children eat McDonald's, I just don't usually let them do it in public. How familiar are they with McDonald's? Well, it isn't once a year and it isn't once a day. The fact that I am not telling you is proof positive about how fearful I am of Infant Trifecta, even in blog-form. But baby steps, Awkward Mom, baby steps. My children definitely know about McDonald's. Rock Star Mom's suggestion blew this little wisp of freedom through my brain. I like her. I respect her. And she thinks occasionally eating McDonald's at the park is totally fine. Why don't I? Do I? Why am I do so caught-up in what some random Park Perfect Mom might think about my children and their dietary habits? My children are healthy and vibrant; some McDonald's isn't going to spiral them into a lifetime of obesity and sloth. I know this. OK, maybe I don't know this, but I have a good faith belief that fast food isn't inherently evil. Besides, the real issue with me isn't the McDonald's. They were already eating that anyway. It is the public eating of it. Do I want that to happen daily? Of course not! But when we do happen to eat McDonald's, I would prefer it to be the way it was yesterday; open, fun, full of laughs at the park with some new friends. Not shamefully hunkered down in the car so that the folks in the neighboring Whole Foods parking lot can't see us. Food is a issue-laden landmine for adults, why on God's green earth would I want to do that to my children?!
This is what works in my household; this is my Infant Trifecta expert opinion. Does it work for your family? I doubt it; that is your family. You need to find the food balance that works for you. Your own food pyramid, as it were. And guess what? I fully support that. Wanna go to the park with us and eat whatever it is that is in your food pyramid? I'll even try your spinach-brownies, a small one please!
We here at Awkward Mom think that Jim Gaffigan says it best:
"I’m tired of people acting like they are better than McDonald’s. It’s like, you may have never set a foot in McDonald’s, but you have your own McDonald’s, maybe instead of buying a Big Mac, you read Us Weekly. Hey, that’s still McDonald’s. It’s just served up a little different. Maybe your McDonald’s is telling yourself that Starbucks Frappuccino is not a milk shake or maybe it's watching Glee.
It’s all McDonald’s, McDonald’s of the soul, momentary pleasure followed by incredible guilt eventually leading to cancer. I’m loving it®. We all have our own. We all have our own McDonald’s you know, it may take me awhile to digest my quarter pounder with Cheese, but that tramp stamp is forever. Du du du du du du – Mistake.
Really it’s all McDonald’s out there. Right? How can we all name three people that have dated Jennifer Aniston. It’s McDonald’s and we gobble it up just like those McDonald’s fries, it’s like who is she dating now. I know I shouldn’t, but it’s so salty. Is she pregnant, yet? That’s not even my business. Scarlett Johansson got a hair cut, why do I give a s***. Because it’s McDonald’s and that feels good, going down. By the way if you care who Prince William married, that’s Burger King."
Did we just eat McDonald's? Maybe.