Forbidden Fructose

When I was a kid, my mother didn’t keep junk food in the house. No chips, no cookies, and certainly no sugary cereal. She always had an abundance of fresh fruit, and two little dishes in the fridge– one with carrots and the other celery.  In sharp contrast, our neighbors had every Hostess, Entenmann’s, and Frito Lay product on the market. While my mom made sandwiches on scant Pepperidge Farm Very Thin bread, Mrs. Shapiro laid their PB&J’s betwixt slices of pillowy soft Wonder bread. Our house was the Realm of Righteousness and Fiber; and the Shapiro’s were the Sultans of Snacks -their pantry a golden palace of processed deliciousness.

Obviously, our houses represented two vastly different approaches to teaching kids about food. One in which parents pushed healthy choices and offered very limited access to junk food in a well-meaning, albeit tightly controlled, way. The other, in which parents took a more hands-off approach and allowed their kids to decide for themselves what they wanted eat. Nowadays, it seems most people I know favor option 1 – the approach my mother took – with the thought that if we teach our kids to love the taste of healthy food while they are young and impressionable, they won’t want or need to eat junk food as they grow up.

Right. Because as kids get older, they always do what their parents say.

Deciding which approach to take may have less to do with the actual food choices, and more with human nature. People love forbidden fruit. More than actual fruit in most cases. So once something is off-limits, it becomes all the more desirable. You’d better believe that every chance we got, my sister and I were knee-deep in the Shapiro’s white flour, store-bought, deep-fried, sugar-laden pantry. And the payoff was not only the junk food, but also the rush that came from doing something rebellious. (This is what passed for rebellion among the elementary school set in Highland Park, circa 1985.)

On the other hand, the Shapiro kids, who had constant access to whatever food a kid could want, didn’t really abuse the privilege. They didn’t binge. They didn’t sit with their face in the powdered donuts all day or suck down pixie sticks like addicts. They’d eat when they were hungry and then stop. And while they didn’t exactly rush to our house for after school snacks, they’d often accept (and even solicit) invitations to dinner for one of my mom’s well-balanced meals.

This begs the question: which approach is better? Do I think my mom’s strict policies encouraged me to have a lifelong love of healthy food choices? No, not exactly. Did Mrs. Shapiro’s lax attitude lead her children down a path of hedonistic gluttony? Not as far as I can tell. In the end, I think people develop their own relationship with food based on personal levels of appetite, vanity, priorities, self-image and, of course, metabolism. But those things (aside from metabolism) are undoubtedly influenced by what our parents modeled for us during our childhood. Notice I said influenced. And influence can work for or against.

Our country obviously has a very serious problem with obesity, often beginning in childhood, and I don’t mean to minimize the importance of giving kids access to wholesome foods. But there are plenty of parents I know who micromanage their healthy kids’ intake of carbs, sugars, and fats every day. I think that sort of behavior can lead to its own brand of extremism and resultant health problems.

As is the case in most things, moderation is probably the path to salvation. It may not be sexy, but it makes good sense. Even Cookie Monster is on board with it now. He teaches kids that cookies are a “sometimes food.” I like that terminology. Maybe if I had grown up thinking of candy, chips, and cookies as “sometimes foods” as opposed to “forbidden foods,” I wouldn’t feel like I was getting away with something every time I eat them now. Because, let me tell you, for a rule-following gal like me, that feeling is almost more delicious than the food itself.


Reduced Fat Pringles: We are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together.

I remember when we broke up

The first time

Saying this is it, I’ve had enough

‘Cause, like,

I bought you thinking that you’d last a month

Then I

Snarfed you

In one

Night.

(What?)

 

Then I heard you beckon from the store,

Baby,

I love you and I swear you’ll stay a four!

Trust me.

Remember how I ate you in a day?

I say,

I hate you

we break up,

Pms hits,

I love you.

 

Oooooooh-oooh-oooh-oooh-ooh

We called it off again last night

But oooooooh-oooh-oooh-oooh-ooh

This time I’m telling you, I’m telling you

We are never ever ever getting back together

We are never ever ever getting back together

You go straight to my hips,

Straight to my ass,

muffin top!

So we are never ever ever ever getting back together

Like, ever…



 

I’m really gonna miss your salty taste

And me,

gorging and then feeling so disgraced

And then,

You drop down to a dollar ninety-nine,

If I promise I’ll buy two cans at the same time.

 

Ooooooh-oooh-oooh-oooh-ooh

You called to me again tonight

But ooooooh-oooh-oooh-oooh-ooh

this time I’m telling you, I’m telling you

We are never ever ever getting back together

We are never ever ever getting back together

You make me feel so full,

I lose control,

I pig out!

So we are never ever ever ever getting back together

.

 

I used to think,

that we,

were forever ever

And I used to say

never say never

 

Huh, you sit in my pantry all crispy and delicious

And i’m like,

 i’m just,

I mean this is exhausting, you know?


 

Ooooooh-oooh-oooh-oooh-ooh

We called it off again last night

But ooooooh-oooh-oooh-oooh-ooh this time

I’m telling you, I’m telling you

We are never ever ever getting back together

We are never ever ever getting back together

You are not a real food

You are fake food

You just suck!

So we are never ever ever ever getting back together!


How are the kids? Wait…here! I have a picture!

At the risk of sounding like a phony, I’ll admit that when I see someone and casually ask how they’re doing – I’m really only looking for a summary. Doing great. Keeping it real. Living the dream. Something along those lines.

However shallow, this sort of exchange is the generally accepted social convention. “How’s it going?” is not the question you answer with, “I just had four bunions removed… would you like to see my scars?” If the person you’re talking to is a good friend, chances are you already know how they are. Or if the person answering the question wants to share more information, they can give a lead-in response like, “I’ve been better,” and see if anyone takes the bait.

But there is one instance in which people almost always over-share: When it comes to talking about their kids. When you see someone you haven’t seen a while and you ask about his or her children, you’re looking for a basic, “Janie’s great; Sam’s getting so big.” Boom. Done. What you are probably not looking for is, “Ohmigoodnes, Janie said the cutest thing last night while she was taking a bath – wait… here! I have a picture! Oh, and while I’m at it, let me show you what she looks like when she does this new little dance move. She calls it her shaking her ‘too-shie’ –isn’t that cute? Wait… here! I have a picture…”

I am not suggesting that there is never a place for sharing this kind of “cute” information, but pick your opportunities wisely. Because while these stories can be mildly yawn-inducing for people who have kids, they have to be mind-meltingly boring for people without children. Most people are simply not interested in the minutiae of everyday life with your kid. They just aren’t. They may love you. They may even love your kid. But they don’t want to hear every tiny detail, no matter how cute you think it may be. And it’s insensitive to blather on in this way.

Think about it, if you asked your insurance salesman friend how things are at work and he launched into a detailed description of accidental death benefits and annuitization schedules and wait… here! He has a picture! You would probably run away screaming. Or at least think twice about ever engaging him in conversation again. It isn’t that you don’t care, it’s that you don’t care that much. You care enough to know that your friend has been really busy/ had a great quarter / is thinking of making some changes, but that’s about it. If you were really interested, you’d ask more detailed questions like, “So tell me more about how you calculate overall liquidity ratios!”

Likewise, when people ask about your kids, they want to know how they are doing generally speaking. If they ask detailed follow-up questions or to see pictures, that’s your cue to whip out your smart phone and go to town. But the broad-spectrum “How are Fletcher and Ellie?” is to be only met with a one, two, or possibly up to five word answer: “Awesome. Just like their Mom.”

That’s my standard response. You can use it if you want.


Top 10 Responses I’d Most Like to Give (but don’t) to the Question, “What’s for Dinner?”

The way I figure it, the 887 gajillion calories I took in on Thanksgiving have rendered the act of eating since that day-if not completely useless, then compulsory at best. I am fine with this. I have the memories of sweet potato pie and smoked turkey to keep me feeling satisfied and full. This is not the case for my children, who apparently practiced more moderation at the holiday table and still expect to be fed. Like every day. I’m not going to lie, it’s getting kind of old.

My kids, like many benevolent dictators the worldwide, love to ask the question, “What’s for dinner?” When they were younger, they used to ask me this as they sat down at the table. Fine. The answer was easy at that point. Then, as they got a little older the question popped up at about 4pm. Ok, that was reasonable. Dinner was in their very near future, and they wanted to prime their tummies.  But gradually they started asking earlier in the day – like noonish -which was a bit of problem because at noon, I’m thinking about lunch or still full from breakfast, and usually don’t have a clue about dinner yet.

My lack of dinner-planning-zeal apparently triggered some sort of food-stress in my children, especially my daughter, because now she asks me “What’s for dinner?” first thing in the morning. And sometimes, as I am putting her to bed the night before.

This raises my blood pressure. It brings out the sarcastic, un-Mommy-like side of me that usually only comes out on girls-nights or when someone over achieves via Pinterest. I’m not particularly proud of this, but there it is.

So each night as I tuck my kids into bed, a mere few hours after eating that evening’s dinner, and they ask me, “What’s for dinner tomorrow, Mommy?” I dream of saying something snarky. Or covering their sweet little mouths with duct tape. Most of the time, I don’t. But here are my Top 10 Responses I’d Most Like to Give to the Question, “What’s for Dinner?”

10. Haggis. Go look it up.

9. Why don’t you tell me?

8. Your face.

7. What? I can’t hear you. What? I can’t hear you. (Keep repeating.)

6. You’ll get nothing and like it.

5. Ask your father.

4. No habla ingles.

3. Who can think about dinner at a time like this?! (And run screaming from the room.)

2. That’s what she said.

And the #1 thing I’d like to say when my kids ask me, “What’s for dinner?”

1. Who are you and why do you keep calling me Mommy?

Anyone else have any good ones? I’m taking suggestions… (for comments, but I’ll take dinner ideas too.)


The Birds, Bees, and the Big Secret.

The other night while my eight year-old daughter was in the room, a friend of mine mentioned something about a young woman we know who is having a baby. A few years ago, I would have changed the subject, ran away, or starting humming loudly just to avoid being in the same zip code as the topic of where babies come from. But I’ve matured since then. I’ve come to terms with the fact that this is something I am going to have to talk to my kids about. I even bought a book entitled, WHAT’S THE BIG SECRET? and read it with each of my children cover to cover. The book explained everything in just enough detail to be informative, but not enough to raise more questions. It was a good script and left no room for awkward answers or embarrassing personal questions. My kids felt satisfied and I felt like one of those rock-star moms who are laid-back and comfortable with even the most thorny of topics. I felt as if I had done my job. Well played, me. Well-played.

So when the topic of babies came up the other night, I was not worried. I assumed my daughter remembered what the Big Secret was from the book and was cool with it. Apparently I was wrong.

Daughter: Mom, how does the baby get in the mommy’s belly?

My friend sprinted away so fast leaving only a puff of white smoke where she had been seconds earlier. I took a deep breath.

Me: Well, honey… remember from the book? Babies are made from Mommy parts and Daddy parts… and when they come together they make a baby.

Daughter: Yeah, I know. But how do the parts come together?

Me: Isn’t it time to brush your teeth?

Daughter: Yeah, but tell me first.

Me: Um. Well, honey…

Daughter: Yeah?

Me: Um…

Daughter: Do you not know, Mommy?

Me: No – I mean, yes. I do know. It’s just complicated.

Daughter: How can it be complicated? Everyone has babies.

I knew there was no getting out of it at that point. I told her to go brush her teeth and we would meet back in my room in five. Obviously, I went to find the book. Except now the Big Secret was where the hell had I put it? A frantic scan of the 74 bookshelves in our house turned up nothing. It was like the book was mocking me, “I’ll teach you to leave me lying around.” After several minutes, my time was up. I had to go in alone. Without a script. 

So we snuggled into my bed and I explained to her, in three sentences or less, exactly how babies are made. I tried to be at once relaxed and scientific, like a TV anchorwoman. I used all the anatomically correct names and got through it without laughing or being a smart ass. All things considered, I thought I did a bang-up job. Until the Question & Answer portion of the evening began:

Daughter: Ew. That’s disgusting. Are you sure that’s what you do?

Me: Yes.

Daughter: Ew. Does everyone have to do that if they want a baby?

Me: Yes –for the most part.

Daughter: Ew. How long do you have to do that for?

Me: It kind of depends.

Daughter: Ew. On what?

Me: [Smart-ass answer internally deleted] Various factors.

Daughter: Ew. How long did you and Daddy have to do that to get me?

Me: I don’t remember.

Daughter: Ew. Did you hate it?

Me: No.

Daughter: Ew. Did Daddy hate it?

Me: No.

Daughter: Ew. How does the Daddy part get in there. Does it just go like this? (Then she raised her arm up from her side with the simultaneous sound effect, ‘Zooooooooooooooooop!’)

Me: Yes. Yes, it does.

Daughter: Ew. Do you wear clothes?

Me: No.

Daughter: Ew.

Things went on like this for a while. And after much giggling, turning red, and several more Ew’s (only some of which came from her), I finally answered all of her questions. When we finished, she had only one final comment on the subject:

“That is DISGUSTING. I’m never, ever, ever doing sex!”

And once again, I felt as if I had done my job. Well-played, me. Well-played.


Objectivity in Parenting & Other Things That Don’t Exist (Like Good Bragging).

Listening to a parent talk about how talented, smart, good-looking, entrepreneurial, kind-hearted, clever, and/or athletic their kid is is a lot like listening to a politician give a stump speech. You nod your head. You affirm enthusiastically. And you automatically discount everything they’ve just said. Indeed, if you are a cynic, you believe that the kid’s virtues probably lie in inverse proportion to how they are being described. And if you are a true iconoclast, you think the kid must be a total zero and you try to point this out to their gushing parents.

Don’t waste your time. Most parents think that they know their kids better than anyone else in the world. And while most of us know on an intellectual level that we can’t be an impartial judge of our children’s behavior, we still think that our unique perspective gives us the ability to see our kids as they really are.

Most of the time, we are wrong. Some of the time we are right. But right or wrong, the one thing we never are is objective. Objectivity requires a certain level of distance and detachment. And it’s hard to be detached from someone who sleeps in your bed, opens the door while you go to the bathroom, and takes money out of your wallet. It just is.

So we start our sentences with, “Well, I know I’m totally biased but…” Because as much as we know that we’re not a fair judge of our children, that doesn’t stop us from judging. If you’re not a total doochebag, you at least give the appearance of a balanced view– you present the good, the bad, and the ugly about your child. But then there are those who stick to the good, the noteworthy, and the so-impressive-you’ll-start-to-question-your-own-childs-contributions-to-society. This is where the line between “objective” commentary and bragging gets blurred.

The Out & Out Brag

Some parents brag outright. “We suspect Jonathan has a true gift for painting. His paintings are a lot like Jackson Pollack’s early work.” Never mind that the diarrhea-brown mess of splats and drips they use as evidence looks like something your dog hacked up. You dutifully oooo and ahhhh because there is no use in pointing out that their son sucks at finger painting. He’s four and he sucks at an age-appropriate level. What’s the harm in letting them believe they are raising the next Picasso? Reality is the great equalizer and eventually they’ll be forced to see the light at the end of the color-blind tunnel.

The Me-Too Brag

Then there are those who like to work in a brag on themselves while talking up their kids, “Salman just got accepted into the gifted program. I mean, we’re not surprised, both Albert and I were in the gifted programs when we were young.” Or, “Yeah, tennis was always my sport. It’s so gratifying to see Venus showing promise at such a young age.” Puke. Not only do these people feel compelled to brag about their kid, but they also want you know that they too are exceptional.

The Brag in Sheep’s Clothing

Others are subtler. “I can’t believe I have to go in to talk to Simon’s teachers again. He keeps finishing all the books they give in record time! He is going to have to start on War & Peace soon!” This is a brag dressed up as a complaint. Totally annoying. No one is going to feel sorry for you that your son is so bright and is such a fast reader. Boo.  We know what you’re doing. A brag in sheep’s clothing is still just a brag… or a braaaaaag. (I know. I’m sorry.)

The Force Brag

I recently had a friend ask me this about his daughter: “Don’t you think that Heidi is an extraordinarily beautiful girl? Like a transcendent sort of beautiful?” Ummm. I wasn’t sure how to respond. I mean I agreed – of course I agreed – she is a darling little thing and I’m not a total monster. But what choice did I have? I would have agreed even if his daughter looked like Quasimodo. What could I say? “No. She looks like she fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down?” No one is going to say that. My friend committed the worst kind of brag. It was a brag-by-force – the bragging equivalent of holding a gun to my head. He forced me to brag about his kid. This kind of bragging is really only acceptable between parents of the same child, or if done by grandparents who live out of state, the older the better.

The bottom line is that we all brag about our kids. It’s okay. A little bit here and there is fine – it’s like parent catnip. Parenting is hard and if you find something you want to shout from the rooftops, I say go for it. Just don’t abuse it. And try to recognize that as much as you may think you are presenting an accurate assessment of your child, you’re not. You couldn’t possibly. Remember that sage advice from Carrie Fischer’s character in the movie When Harry Met Sally: “Everybody thinks they have good taste and a sense of humor but they couldn’t possibly all have good taste. ”

The same can be said about children. Everybody thinks that have an exceptional child and a sense of humor, but they couldn’t possibly all have exceptional children. Or a sense of humor.

Now excuse me. I have to go pick up my children from the Gifted program and take them to their Accelerated Pogo-Sticking course before we head to the soup kitchen so they can give back to their community in a meaningful way. (They are just so empathetic!)


Truer Words…

Every now and then I come across a piece of art that reaches into my soul, extracts my inner most desires, and distills them all into one perfectly simple, eloquent, profound result.  I have recently came across such a piece of art, and for today’s post, I will let this art speak for itself in the hope that it will speak to you as it has spoken to me.

by Cheryl Overton (available on Etsy)


How ‘Bout Them Apples?

I thought I knew everything about my husband. Until today.

This morning while we sat at our island eating breakfast (kitchen, not tropical), my husband revealed something about himself that nothing in our 17-year history could have prepared me for. And he said it like it was no big deal, like I should have expected – even approved of – his commentary.

It turns out that I most certainly did not approve, and to put an exclamation point on it, I’m going to reveal his dirty little secret here. On the Internet. Where it will never go away. And because I think it will be most dramatic this way, I’m going to do it via a live-action dialogue sequence.

Brace yourself: The following material may be a bit shocking. Those with faint constitutions may want to close your browsers now…

Me: I took a chance and bought these new cherries at the store yesterday.

Husband: Oh yeah?

Me: Yeah. It was a bit of a risk because I’ve never had this kind before– but they were like $3 less per pound, so I decided to go for it.

Husband: That’s good. (pause) Why didn’t you try one first?

Me: Couldn’t. They were in a sealed bag.

Husband: Oh, I would have just opened the bag and taken one.

Me: What?

Husband: Yeah, totally. I do it all the time.

Me: You do?

Husband: Yeah. I’ve been burned too many times with bad fruit. I always test it first now. Trust me.

Me: Wait – what? You test fruit? In the grocery store?

Husband: Yeah. All the time. Like if I’m thinking about buying one of those big bags of apples, I’ll just open the bag and eat one. You know, to make sure they’re good.

Me: Wait… you’re telling me you open sealed bags of fruit and eat, like, an entire apple, orange, or nectarine – right there on the spot?

Husband: Yeah, all the time.

Me: That’s horrifying.

Husband: No it isn’t. It’s practical.  Fruit is expensive and I want to make sure it’s going to taste good before I buy it.

Me: That’s unsanitary. Plus, it’s kind of stealing.

Husband: No it isn’t.

Me: Yeah, it is.

Husband: No it isn’t. They know people do it. They expect it. Trust me. I do it all the time.

Me: But you’re eating something without paying for it.

Husband: Not really.

Me: Yes, really.

Husband: No, it’s fine. They expect people to do it. Trust me.

Tense silence while I try to integrate this new information.

Me: Ok. So forgetting about the stealing for a minute, your method doesn’t even make sense. Just because one apple in the bag doesn’t taste good, it doesn’t mean they all will be bad.

Husband: Yeah it does.

Me: No it doesn’t.

Husband: Yeah it does. Trust me.

Me: No – it so doesn’t. There’s a whole cliché based on how wrong that assumption is. You know, One bad apple…?

Husband: Yeah, that expression proves my point.: One bad apple spoils the bunch or bushel or whatever.

Me: Hm. Well… maybe that’s how the expression started, but I think the real point of it is what a shame it is for one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch. You shouldn’t throw away the whole bunch because of one bad apple.

Husband: Yeah you should. Trust me. I do it all the time.

So here’s the takeaway: My husband, who has bungee jumped off a cliff in Australia, raced cars on the Nuerburgring in Germany, skied double black diamonds, and married a temperamental Jewish girl from Chicago and brought her to live in a small town in Missouri, is apparently so risk-averse when it comes to fruit that he will break social conventions and basically steal from our local grocery store to avoid… what? A sour taste in his mouth? (This is the same man buys the $18 box of sour patch watermelons every time we go to the movies.)

I think what surprised me most about Jimmy’s feelings on fruit-buying, was his attitude of entitlement. Like he is owed a decent piece of fruit or something. Good or bad, it took the farmer every bit as long to grow the fruit, and the grocer just as much overhead to sell the fruit. Aside from bruises or obvious mold or something, you can’t tell how a piece of fruit is going to taste before you eat it. Therefore the only method of determining if the fruit is worthy of purchase, takes the option to buy it off the table. Because by then it is already in your stomach.

Call me I’m old-fashioned, but I think certain things in life come with inherent risk. Buying fruit is one of them. Marriage is another for that matter, along with putting your face under at a water park and eating sushi in the Midwest. You pays your money, you takes your chances. There are no guarantees in this life and if you want to be 100% sure your fruit is going to taste perfectly sweet, you’d better buy it out of a can and be prepared to eat all the sugar and preservatives they add to make it that way. Unlike my husband, I am not a risk-taker by nature, but I believe there are certain things in life worth the gamble. Appalling fruit-buying behavior aside, my husband was one of them. A good nectarine is another.

And you can trust me on that.

What do you think? Are you a fruit-tester?


Caution: Reading This May Be Hazardous to Your Health

As the cynics of the world have long since suspected, everything is bad for you. And I do mean everything. Turns out that even the things you thought were good for you are bad for you. Exercise, water, sleep, organic fruits and vegetables, yoga, multivitamins… if these things are not handled with laser-like precision, they’ll kill you sure as shooting.

To confirm, just open up any periodical’s Wellness section (aka, the Scare the Shit Out of You section) and you’ll find evidence of the latest medical report urging you to cross out yet another seemingly harmless thing from your To Do, To Eat, or To Take list and place on your ever-growing list of things to avoid.

The latest addition on the To Avoid list is spray tanning. If you’ve read my blog before, you might be familiar with my spray tanning addiction. So you can imagine that when the FDA decided spray tanning causes cancer and other DNA mutations, it was a dark day for me. Or more specifically, a very pale day. It’s not like I thought getting hosed-down with chemicals in a small enclosed space was exactly good for me, but before the FDA and it’s infernal obsession with consumer protectionism, I was content to avoid thinking about any consequences beyond my semi-exotic, orangeish, not-quite-natural-but-better-than-looking-like-a-corpse glow.

But now I am forced think about genetic alterations and damaged DNA. And it really ticks me off. Now I must balance my desire to have a healthy glow with my desire to actually be healthy? What kind of crap is that? I’ve already been warned-off ever sitting in the sun without SPF of at least 1,000, and now they’re telling me my beloved sunless spray will turn me into a malignant she-goblin? It hardly seems fair.

But fair or not, danger lurks around every turn. And not just those into the spray tan booth. Also on the To Avoid list courtesy of Wellness sections everywhere are:

  • Calcium
  • White rice
  • Diet soda
  • Regular soda
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Sushi
  • Pasta
  • The sun
  • The epicurean trinity: Fat, sugar, salt
  • Too much sleep
  • Too little sleep
  • Talking on a cell phone while driving a car
  • Talking on a cell phone while walking down the street
  • Holding a cell phone anywhere in the vicinity of your brain
  • Keeping your computer on your lap (Toasted lap syndrome. Apparently, it’s a thing.)
  • Working too much
  • Working too little
  • Being too serious
  • Pop rocks (Some sick punks are hiding illegal drugs in these now.)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Deodorant
  • Hair spray
  • Teflon cookware
  • Carpeting
  • Red food dye
  • Gluten
  • Lactose
  • Red meat
  • Dairy
  • Being a vegetarian
  • Being a vegan
  • BPA
  • Movie Popcorn
  • Humidifiers
  • Not reading enough in long form
  • And, living to old age (though I should hardly think this would be a problem given the above list.)

The problem is that after a while all the warnings fade to white noise, like a constant hum in the backdrop that no one really notices. It’s like the parent who says “Be careful” every time their kid walks out the door. At a certain point, the kid just doesn’t hear them anymore.

As for me, I’ve become so overwhelmed by warnings of certain doom that I vacillate between being afraid to do anything at all and not caring what I do. If the experts are to be believed, it would seem both paths lead to the same ultimate destination anyway. The phrase “Why bother?” comes to mind. But mostly, the whole discussion just makes me want to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head. (Then again, I’d better not. Dust mites.)


The Mom-I’m-Hungry Games

As punishment for past rebellion against their steadfast belief that mothers are an inherently divided and adversarial lot, the current governing body – The Institute for Motherhood Evaluation, or TIME, established The Mom-I’m-Hungry Games.

The Games are a brutal contest that pits mother against mother in a fight to the death. TIME established these Games as a reminder to all that revolution against motherly division will not be tolerated. And each year, TIME chooses one working mother and one stay-at-home mother from each of their Markets and sends them to the Arena where only one will walk away with the ultimate prize: The glory of being the version of motherhood that reigns supreme – at least until TIME’s next edition of The Games.

After the contestants are chosen and taken to the Arena (a replica of Suburban, USA), each mother is given 2.5 children, a home, and a pet – dog, cat, ferret, or fish. The lucky ones get the fish. The commencement of the Games is signaled by the shrill sound of a crying baby at 4:45am. Upon this signal, each mother has the option to either head for the Cornucopia, a vast cache of supplies including a minivan, Velcro shoes, Lunchables, and an entire set of Baby Einstein DVDs – or they can retreat to their homes to begin working on Phase One. Phase One is a trial of mental and physical fortitude that tests the mettle of the Workies and Homers, alike. They must each follow a Daily Schedule, customized by TIME’s Game maker.

Phase One Elimination Criteria is as follows (Note: Criteria is same for Workies and Homers.)

  • Failure to provide hormone-free, preservative-free, sugar-free, trans-fat free, and nitrate-free nutrition (5x per day for Homers; and 3x for Workies) will result in immediate death.
  • Failure to keep home clean will result in immediate death.
  • Failure to keep pantry and refrigerator stocked will result in immediate death.
  • Failure to perform adequately at job (for Workies) will result in immediate death.
  • Failure to pay bills on time will result in immediate death.
  • Failure to amuse the children will result in immediate death.
  • Failure to put away laundry sitting in basket for more than 24 hours will result in immediate death.
  • Failure to keep up personal appearance will result in immediate death.
  • Failure to use at least one SAT word during each 24 period will result in immediate death.
  • Failure to provide adequate stimulation for the children’s brains will result in immediate death.
  • Failure to shower daily will result in immediate death.
  • Failure to have children, beginning at age 3, in at least two extracurricular activities (preferably one sports-related and one Arts-related) will result in immediate death.
  • Failure to laugh at all knock-knock jokes told by boss, children, or both, will result in immediate death.
  • Failure to decorate home seasonally will result in immediate death.
  • Failure to learn the words to all songs by Taylor Swift, One Direction, Just Bieber, and Selena Gomez will result in immediate death.
  • Failure to remain within one standard deviation (10lbs) of high school weight will result in immediate death.
  • Failure to switch children to whole-wheat pasta and bread will result in immediate death.
  • Failure to keep a smile on face at least 90% of the day (even while sleeping) will result in immediate death.

Most contestants, sadly, do not make it past Phase One.

Those that do are moved on to Phase Two. Phase Two is genius in its brutality. Each contestant is given a sick child, a backed-up toilet, a bad hair day, a sick pet (again, you want the fish), a plumber due sometime between the hours of 10am and 2pm, and her period. Additionally, Workies are given a critical presentation they must complete at their place of business; Homers are expected to bring in homemade sugar cookies decorated to look like Jack-o-lanterns for a class of 37 children, one of whom has a gluten and red dye allergy.

The Workie and the Homer must successfully complete all tasks assigned to them, keep their appearance and attitude in check, avoid a child meltdown, and be prepared to do it all over again the next day. The process repeats until one mother fails at any of these tasks – which, of course results in immediate death.

There are some out there in the Markets who have started to quietly question TIME’s administration of the Games. Mothers who have wondered what the world would be like if things were different. They wonder what would happen if the Workies and the Homers decided they were not going to be TIME’s pawns – what if instead they worked together and shared information and supported each others struggles? It is audacious dream, indeed. A world where women are free to mother in any way they choose, free from judgment and manipulation. Is such a thing even possible?

Perhaps only TIME will tell…