Sue Your Way to Responsible Parenting!
posted at 9:34 pm on December 15, 2010 by Slublog
Are you tired of being the killjoy parent who won’t buy your kids a Happy Meal when they ask for one? Good news! The Center for the Science in the Public Interest is here to help you. No more guilt, no more unhappy glares…my fellow parents, nirvana awaits.
Like many mothers, Monet Parham wants to feed her daughter one thing, but the girl often wants to eat something else.
It’s the unhappy battle over the Happy Meal and Parham, mother of two and a health educator, said it’s a fight she just can’t win.
“I can tell them ‘No’ all day long, but then they see commercials that convince them you’ve really got to have this,” Parham said. Her 6-year-old daughter Maya especially likes the toys that come with McDonald’s Happy Meals. With a smile, the first grader says opening a Happy Meal is like “a birthday present.”
So now Parham plans to join the Center for Science in the Public Interest in filing a lawsuit today against the fast food giant to force them to either offer lower-calorie meals or get rid of the enticing trinkets.
Alternate headline for this story? “Parent surrenders in Battle of Wills.”
As some readers may know, I’m the parent of two toddlers. I love my girls, cannot imagine life without them and I never regret the decision to become a parent. However, like any parent, I am sometimes faced with a simple and uncomfortable truth: when toddlers want something, they can be really annoying and their persistence is almost limitless. A toddler who craves is a wily and patient creature who is always on the lookout for weak spots. Theirs is a strategy of attrition, and it’s often very difficult to endure without weakening.
Difficult, however, does not equal impossible.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not a perfect parent who is always able to bear up under the pressure. I am particularly vulnerable to the pout. We try not to show them too much television, but when I’m tired and just want a moment to rest, I sometimes fall prey to the temptation to fire up the DVR and give them an extra episode of “The Wonder Pets.” Although both my wife and I like to cook, sometimes we just don’t feel like it and at those times a hamburger and fries hits the spot. My girls are no strangers to the Happy Meal, and they like the toys. Like any toddlers, they are sometimes most persistent with their requests.
At the end of the day, though, I am the parent and even if it makes me the most unpopular person in the house, I have a defense against the toddler war of attrition. It is hard, but often necessary, to drop the nuclear bomb of parental weapons.
I am not going to pretend this is a simple weapon to deploy. As any parent will tell you, it is sometimes very difficult to deny an unhappy child what they want to have. One of my greatest joys as a parent is watching my children enjoy something – a visit to the playground, a book they love, a television show that makes them laugh, or a meal and toy that will bring them delight. Saying “yes” would make everyone happy, but it is not always the right thing to do.
It is not my intention to be overly hard on Parham. Parenthood is not easy, and I do not judge the decisions she has made as a parent. What I do take issue with is her prejudgment of my parental abilities, and the steps she’s taking to deny me the ability to give my child the simple, rare, pleasure of a Happy Meal. This lawsuit assumes all of us with children are as weak as the parents who have joined the CSPI in suing McDonald’s. That assumption is as offensive as it is patronizing.
Of all of her statements, though, I find this the most distasteful.
“I object to the fact that McDonald’s is getting into my kids’ heads without my permission and actually changing what my kids want to eat,” Parham said in a CSPI statement announcing the lawsuit.
With all due respect, Ms. Parham, what goes into the head of your children is as much in your control as what goes into their stomachs. What your kids want to eat is completely separate from what you allow them to eat.
As I said before, I do not presume to be a perfect parent. Unlike Ms. Parham and the CSPI, though, I am not willing to allow the government to dictate what my children are allowed to eat due to my inability to say no when they want a Happy Meal.