I tried so hard to find a 10-day period that wouldn’t put my children in the position of having to choose between following through on this real food challenge and eating a chemical-laced treat that was dangled in front of them. Alas, a mother can only control these temptations so much. Before we started this 10-day challenge, I emailed my children’s teachers to ask them to let me know if there were any treats coming into the classroom during this period so I could send in a substitution that fit into the category of real food. It looked like both classrooms were in the clear, but then I got a call from my daughter’s teacher this morning. She told me that a parent was bringing in snow cones this afternoon to have after reading a book to the class for her child’s birthday.
What to do, I thought? I came up with three options. I could run down to the school and drop off a fruit leather for her to have while the other students were enjoying the chemical snow cones. Alternately, I could pick her up early from school since the snow cones were coming at the end of the day. Or finally, I could tell the teacher that it’s okay for my daughter to have the snow cone. After all, I have no intention of swearing off all processed foods. This little experiment is my way of helping us all to see how pervasive unhealthy, processed foods are and to learn ways to minimize their hold over our diet.
In the end, I decided to talk to my daughter. She was actually the person most excited in our family to do this challenge, so I knew she wouldn’t be happy if she ended up eating the snow cone. I went to the school at recess time with the fruit leather in my pocket and explained the dilemma to her. I told her that she could eat the snow cone if she wanted, but it wasn’t real food and it wouldn’t be in keeping with the challenge. She had a troubled look on her face for a moment until I told her I brought a different treat that she could eat instead. I showed her the fruit leather, and she got a big smile on her face. “I’ll have that!” she declared. I also told her that I would have a nice, homemade popsicle ready for her when she got home from school.
At the end of the day, my daughter was very sad to have watched her classmates eat snow cones while she didn’t. She changed her mind after talking to me and told her teacher that she did want a snow cone. The teacher didn’t allow her to have one based on our earlier conversation. This is getting emotionally challenging for me. I wonder what my daughter’s classmates thought of her as she sat out of the snow cone festivities. Did they tease her for missing out? I don’t want my children to be seen as outcasts because they have a crazy mother who won’t let them eat junk food. At the same time, I feel the need to confront this ridiculous food system in America that creates such a glut of processed food – or, as Michael Pollan calls it, “food-like substances.” Why is it so difficult to find 10 days in a row when my family can be free and unjudged in our diet of nothing but real food?