01.03.09

My War Against Food Nazi Moms

Feeding your child a sandwich made with white bread or—the horror, the horror—a bag of Doritos could cost you custody of your children? Laura Bennett thinks that bites.

Feeding your child a sandwich made with white bread or—the horror, the horror—a bag of Doritos could cost you custody of your children?

I was at a parents' meeting at my boys’ school one recent morning, talking to one of the new moms, an attractive, petite, divorced woman in her 40s. She was discussing her relationship with her ex-husband and how challenging it has been. There was a distinct sound of bitterness in her voice, not surprising when she mentioned that he left her for a 24-year-old.

She told me that he had crossed a line with her kids on a recent visitation, and she was going to have her lawyer work on getting his joint custody rights revoked. She felt her case was ironclad, he had "obviously acted wrongly" and "anyone would agree with her."

And then she told me her ex's transgressions. He had packed a non-organic lunch for her sons. Seriously.

"What did he do?" I had to ask, bracing myself for some juicy gossip. Surely this would involve sex and drugs, his babe girlfriend naked, or strippers at the very least.

And then she told me her ex's transgressions. He had packed a non-organic lunch for her sons. Seriously. She went on to describe the brown bags loaded with Cheetos, Go-gurt, and a sandwich that was made with white bread.

Because I stood there speechless, looking completely shocked with my mouth hanging open, she continued. She went on and on about the dangers of food additives and how they had exacerbated one of her boys' ADHD. She talked about how each morning when her boys are in her care she takes the time to poach Amish-raised, free-range chicken and then stuffs it into a whole-grain pita with hydroponic tomatoes and micro-greens and that her ex was obviously not fit to spend time with the kids because he was willing to put their health in such grave danger.

Obviously she mistook the look of shock on my face and considered me a kindred spirit when it came to militant healthy eating. I’m all for the benefits of a nutritious diet for kids, and I’m certainly no fan of Go-gurt—which is essentially a single serving bag of yogurt that becomes a bomb when placed on a table and pounded, producing a dairy projectile capable of nailing a victim at 30 feet. But I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps it was her husband who should pursue a custody change. Her reaction was manically disproportionate. It’s not like junk food is akin to child abuse.

I just want to let the food Nazi moms in on what happens when your kids come to a house where junk food inhabits the pantry. They have no decision-making skills or sense of moderation when faced with the forbidden fruit roll-up. Like deprived animals, they are determined to consume the lifetime allotment of sugar they have been denied; all before pickup. I have seen one such child eat Swiss Miss Cocoa with a spoon directly out of the family-size container, only to move on to conquer a box of frosted strawberry Pop-Tarts. When faced with not one but three brands of chips, they become apoplectic and run from the kitchen clutching bags of Cool Ranch Doritos and French onion-flavored Sun Chips, later to be found in a corner curled up in the fetal position surrounded by wrappers, unable to state their name.

I get similar reactions from the kids who are denied cartoons, video games, or porn. (Okay, my kids don’t exactly have porn, but South Park comes close, and I do have a book of Helmut Newton nudes.) They stand wide-eyed in front of the screen, unable to move as my boys beg them to come and play. And it’s not just young children who have had all common sense denied out of them. I grew up in New Orleans when the drinking age was 18, and not strictly enforced. My freshman year at Tulane, it was almost a sport watching the students who came from the Northeast drink themselves into a vomiting stupor, like a bulimic at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Sheltering children from every evil in the world does them a disservice; decision-making is a skill, learned with practice from the time they are small. At some point my boys will go out into the world and have to decide for themselves what is right and wrong. One would hope that by then they have ascertained that Krispy Kreme doughnuts are not really for breakfast—and there are serious repercussions if you leave the mother of your children for a 24-year-old.

Laura Bennett was trained as an architect but has since established her career as a fashion designer by becoming a finalist on Season 3 of the Bravo hit television series Project Runway . Bennett lives amid complete chaos in New York City with her husband and six children, Cleo, 20, Peik, 13, Truman, 10, Pierson, 6, Larson, 5, and Finn, 2.