We’d left school and were driving to a nearby art studio to pick up a print I’d won in a raffle. Tess was in the backseat, cranky, tired, whining about needing to pee, despite being asked that exact question at least four times before we’d left school. Not wanting to descend upon the artist with a crabby and incontinent child, I stopped at a coffee shop so she could use the bathroom.
Tess usually ignores the bakery cases in coffee shops. Not today. She was all over it, one of those kids pressing in close, breathing hot germy clouds across the glass, fingers smudging as they targeted one item after another. “What’s that?” Ten times. Maybe 20. We’d not even made it to the bathroom yet. “Come on,” I pulled her away, “you said you have to go.”
On the way back out, I stopped to buy a coffee. Probably not the smartest thing to do under the circumstances, but there you have it. And so the breathing and smudging and questioning started again.
None of the wholesome treats I always carry were good enough. And there wasn’t time to suggest a trade. I wasn’t even sure she was actually hungry. But we had to be to the art studio in a few minutes, so after quizzing the cafe staff and ruling out anything with food dyes or that had been baked off-site (since the ingredients were complete unknowns), I settled on a piece of chocolate-chip pumpkin bread. Made with tons of refined sugar and GMO canola oil, it was still the best of the bunch. And, really, I just wanted to avoid a meltdown.
But I told Tess she’d have to wait until we were in the car. And on the way to the car, I had a revelation. I wasn’t going to let her eat it. I was going to explain to her that I’d bought it only to avoid a scene, and that avoiding a scene isn’t a good reason to buy something, especially food.
So, back in the car again, that’s what I did. And here’s what she did: After expressing concern that I was going to “waste it” (legitimate, and I did feel bad about throwing it away), she said: “But, Mommy, I was just asking questions. Sometimes I just get curious about things.”
Huh. “So, if I’d just answered your questions about what everything was, and then told you that we didn’t want to buy those things because of the ingredients, you would have been OK with that?” She nodded, said an emphatic “yes” and buckled her seatbelt.
I don’t think the kid was playing me. She really was just curious. And that’s the whole point of raising a thinking eater, right? But in my haste and desperate attempt to avoid embarrassment, all I saw was a difficult child and an easy way out. And that, maybe, is a whole lot of the reason so many parents buy the candy at checkout or the Lunchable at the grocery store or the mac-and-cheese on the kids’ menu. It’s because it’s about the parent, not the kid at all.
True? Not so? And why do kids have to smooch glass anyway?