I met a friend at the park today. While we were chatting, she mentioned that another member a parenting board she belongs to posted a statement that feeding your child Eggo waffles was child abuse. We had a laugh about how ridiculous that was at the time, but honestly it’s been on my mind all day.
It’s not that I’m a huge fan of Eggo waffles, it’s that this mother’s post is indicative of a larger trend I see in many parenting communities, especially online ones where there’s little or no face-to-face interaction. The trend, as far as I can tell, is to make a certain decision, say for example not to buy Eggo waffles, and then decide that anyone else on the planet who makes a different decision is not only an idiot, but an abusive, neglectful, awful parent. This could be applied to just about any parenting practice from spanking to formula feeding to what you choose to feed your children to what type of school you choose.
So let’s look at the facts. Eggo waffles are processed food, no doubt. However, in larger picture of unhealthful food available to people in this country, they’re not really that bad. No trans fats, no corn syrup, no artificial colors (see the ingredient list here). So what does claiming that feeding a child this rather innocuous food (I won’t go as far as to call Kellogg’s innocuous, you’ll note) accomplish? It makes the mother who posted the statement feel better about her food choices and makes those Eggo waffle-eating families out there either angry or hurt. It does nothing, however, to improve the types of food that are available to our children in this country, nothing to combat the industrialization of our food, nothing to help educate the public at large about what food choices are good or healthy. It not only spews venom, but it belittles the plight of many children in this country who are abused, who would feel lucky (not to mention full!) if they had access to an Eggo waffle for their breakfast, who don’t have adequate access to healthcare, clothing, shelter, or other basic necessities.
People, we’re on the same team here. Yes, all of us. Even the parents who make different choices, even the people who decide to go back to work (or stay home, depending on which side of this issue you find yourself), even the old friend from college who knowingly proclaims that there is no nutritional benefit to breastfeeding a baby past nine months of age when she knows that I have, in fact, been breastfeeding continuously for almost three years, and *GASP* even the people who spank their kids, feed them Eggo waffles, or whatever.
If your goal is to make the world a better place for your children, putting down other parents and perpetuating a hateful “us against them” mentality is not going to do it. Saying things online that I wager you’d never say in person is not going to do it. Engaging people in dialog might. Sharing your research and the reasons for your choices in a respectful and constructive way might. Considering the real possibility that there is more than one right answer might. Understanding that each family has to make the choices that work for their family and that what works for you may not be the very best thing for another person also might.
Whew. And I don’t even like Eggo waffles…