Friday, February 24, 2012

THP's THPs ("Tips for Happy Parenting"), PART 2

This series kicked off yesterday.  Read that post first or you will have no idea what this post is about (unless you read the self-explanatory title of this post).

All caught up?  Great.  Read on...

GROUP B: Matters of Food
4. Giant Chicken Nuggets. Sidestepping the issue of how bad McDonald's food is for ANYBODY, most parents find themselves treating--whether from generosity or necessity--their kids to McDonald's at least once in a while. A problem I discovered was that once the girls tasted Chicken McNuggets, said McNuggets were usually their entree of choice at the Golden Arches. Chicken nuggets, it so happens, are NOT an item on the dollar menu at McDonalds.

Now if I could sell the girls on, say, a McDouble, I could make it through McD's spending 2 dollars and some change on 2 burgers and 2 waters. But when the girls wanted chicken, it was hard to sell them on anything else. If they both wanted nuggets, this would add about $5 a trip.

This is when I discovered/invented the "Giant Chicken Nugget," AKA "a plain McChicken sandwich." If you're in the drive-thru, make sure to lean your head out the window as far as you can and order in a hushed voice, or risk being rebuked from the back seat with, "No, Daddy, I don't want a McChicken, I want a giant chicken nugget!"  When the food comes, quickly reach into the bag, and with your hand out of sight, slip your fingers inside the McChicken wrapper, and pull out the Giant Chicken Nugget. As an added bonus, after the little one has finished her nugget, I reach into the bag again and announce, "Hey, sweetie, it looks like they gave us a bun, too! Do you want that?" I come across as a hero AND pay $2 less than I would have for a small chicken nuggets.

The only drawback here is that a couple of years ago, McDonald's ditched their spicy McChicken and made the plain McChicken just a little bit spicy (why please half the people when you can please no one?). My younger daughter is very sensitive to any sort of spiciness, and has abandoned the giant chicken nugget in favor of the plain McDouble which, it turns out, wasn't so bad after all. As long as it's a dollar, it's all the same to me.

5. Candy Serving Sizes. Sidestepping the issue of how bad candy is for ANYBODY, most parents at least occasionally find themselves earning their children's love and respect by blessing their offspring with the sweetest of all blessings: candy.

We postponed our daughters' introduction to candy as long as possible.  I even remember going through a bank drive through and having the teller signal her willingness to include a sucker along with my cash withdrawal; through the glass window, I politely shook my head, and remember thinking, "I'm pretty sure my daughter doesn't even know what a sucker is.  Can't think of why I'd be the one to enlighten her on this matter."

Once the monkeys discovered candy--which, given their daddy's sweet tooth, was inevitable--the next best thing we could do was limit their intake.  Of course, you and I know that it takes 3 entire bags of "fun sized" candy to equal an actual "serving size" of the goods.  My daughters, however, are blissfully convinced that their daily candy ration can be filled with, for example: a single Pez, 10 Nerds, or one half of a Tootsie Roll.

It started with Starbursts, which I remember cutting into quarters with a steak knife.  Yes, a single Starburst could feed both of my children for 2 whole days.

Appropriately enough, as I was working on PART 1 of this post, my older daughter came up to me with a two-pack of Starbursts from Valentine's Day and asked if she could open up the pack and eat one of the Starbursts.  Not having a steak knife handy, I said she could. She disappeared for a moment and then came back with a single, wrapped Starburst and, perhaps wondering if she had misunderstood me, sought clarification, "So I can have this?  It's pretty small.  It's smaller than my finger."  I said, "Let me take a picture of you first."  She seemed to think that I needed to look at the picture to confirm the sub-finger-size of the candy, for after I snapped it and looked to make sure it turned out OK, she came beside me and said, "See?  My finger is bigger."  Indeed it was.  Enjoy your Starburst, sweetie.

Not pictured: Daddy scarfing down a king-sized pack of M&M's later that day
6. Condiments. I am a man who likes his ketchup. But I do not think that my love for ketchup makes me a happier person.  See, when I order fries, my love for ketchup guarantees that I will either consume scores of extra calories that are encased in the ketchup-y goodness, or that I will be sad and feel cheated if ketchup is unavailable.

So why would I offer ketchup to my daughters when they are just fine without it? Why would I give them reason NOT to take the raw hot dog I give them and gobble it up with not a drop of ketchup in sight? Surely they will grow up happier and healthier having acquired this taste.

This applies for any food typically enhanced with a sauce or topping (like hot dogs, chicken nuggets, or salad) and for any condiment (like ketchup, honey, or salt).  The cat has been let out of the bag with pasta: they almost always request Parmesan, Nature's Seasoning, or both.  But for other foods I serve them, I frequently have to stop myself from automatically including the condiment I would have with it.  Instead, I wait for them to ask.  As often as not, they don't.

I'll wrap up this series over the weekend with part 3, "Working and Learning."  See you then, and thanks for reading.


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