I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I’d been getting parenting lessons from a real-live Tiger Mother. The Tiger Mother openly describes her parenting style as Brainwashing. Which initially made me very uncomfortable. But there’s no discounting her kids are respectful, have excellent manners, and get top marks in everything. As enviable as they seem, I’d never trade my feral offspring for hers. But I’d be an idiot not to take her advice. I just bend it to fit a little better. Make it my own.
I don’t know if all children have the same heat-seeking-missile-like ability to sense parental weakness and go in for the kill.
But my kids sure do. Since birth, it seems, they know the best way to make me lose my shit is to refuse to eat. In more lucid moments, I know it’s not a big deal.
Except I feel all pissy tossing more uneaten food down the garburator. My youth was mostly spent sitting at the kitchen table until I finished everything on my plate. No way in a million years would my mom let me waste this much food.
But that was the 70’s. Today, forcing children to eat is child abuse because everyone knows that beating the picky out of a kid only leads to trust issues and eating disorders. So I’m supposed to suck it up and eat their dinners as well. Standing over the kitchen sink. Even though I’m totally not hungry.
My son is 7. Until last month the only green thing he’d ever eaten was snot.
I took him to our doctor, who rolled his eyes. “He’s perfectly healthy.”
“For now,” I cried.
But come on. If you are what you eat, then what does a diet of bread, peanut butter, jam, cheese, and pasta make you? There’s no way a kid who doesn’t get even one daily helping of fruits and vegetables isn’t going to experience some severe consequences.
A canker sore.
When my son, whimpering, pulls down his lip to show me the big white canker on his gums, just under his bottom teeth, I take a page from the Tiger Mother Handbook and leap.
“Oh my God,” I say, putting my hands over my mouth and stepping back.
His eyes get really wide. “What? What?”
This line is believable only because Felix has a life-long fascination with pirates. He knows that being a Scurvy Dog is an insult.
So he totally freaks out.
“It’s ok. Shhh. Shhh.” I tell him gently as I rub his back while he cries.
“Mom. I don’t want to have scurvy.”
“No one does, sweetie.”
“What happens when you have scurvy?”
He looks scared and vulnerable.
So I know I’ve got him.
I lead him to the computer and we find most graphic images of people with scurvy. Wow that’s disgusting.
Felix starts crying again.
“Mom. Don’t tell anyone.”
“Don’t worry, my love. We’ll beat this together.”
Scurvy is a terrible disease caused by a vitamin C deficiency. But this is amended to include a deficiency of vegetables as well. The only cure, apparently, is to eat at least three a day. Or else.
For three weeks he does. Without argument. But then the canker heals and I fear all progress is lost, so I bring in reinforcements.
His swim coach pulls him aside to talk casually about scurvy prevention because kids with scurvy never win swim meets.
I also create a scurvy-prevention colouring sheet and ask his teacher to give it to him. She even offers to mark it. (click here to download for your own use)
I don’t know if the Tiger Mother would approve since brainwashing and lying, though related, are very different parenting tactics. But my way is a lot more fun. (For me)