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You Want Fries with That?

By Christine Louise Hohlbaum

"One in five 2-year-olds in U.S. eats fries daily."
Associated Press

As the car rounded the corner of the McDonald’s drive thru, I pondered this statistic. It’s not as if my children are obese, unhealthy, unathletic people. They do gymnastics, walk to school, engage in consuming vegetables on a quarterly basis, and generally get as much fresh air as any forest ranger. Why, then, did I feel a twinge of guilt seep through my limbs when I read this quote from the AP? Could it be coming from the empty french fry carton from last week’s McDonald’s visit that was rolling around in the back seat of my car? Or was it the Happy Meal toy lying broken in the front seat that caused me pain? It was time to investigate these feelings a little further. Stuffing the last fries into our mouths, my children and I drove home with great anticipation of what lay ahead.

To get my mind off the number of calories we had just consumed, I decided to use my time wisely on the car ride home and make it a learning experience for my kids. Since Thanksgiving was approaching, I asked them what they were grateful for.

“Pizza!” Jackson yelled out.

“Chocolate croissants!” Sophia chimed in.

“I am grateful for sunshine and long walks,” I prodded.

“I am grateful for gummi bears,” Sophia continued enthusiastically.

This wasn’t going the way I wanted it to go. I hunkered down in my seat and turned up the radio.

It is embarassing to admit that my two-year-old son can recognize the Golden Arches a mile away. Anything resembling the friendly red and yellow structure sends him off in a tizzy of delight and salivation. I evaluated this fact as we turned into the driveway.

The house was cold and empty. While the kids frolicked in their rooms downstairs, I took a long look at the contents of my freezer. There I found more sources of guilt. Frozen pizza, a chocolate cake, and two expired boxes of frozen spinach that I had bought that summer were stacked there. A bag of potato skins stared sadly in my direction. It was half-full. The plastic sack had been gouged open by hurried mother’s fingers, nervous to feed her starving brood before they exploded in unmatchable proportions from hunger. A ketchup bottle from last night’s dinner sat regally on the dining room table, half its contents dripping down its side.

Approaching the stove gingerly, I peered down at a frying pan whose contents revealed more evidence of my nutritional infractions. Two chicken nuggets sat huddled in a corner of the pan. Grease pearled off the Teflon surface, glaring at me with beady, accusatory eyes.

“I am the worst mother in the world,” I cried, pounding the kitchen counter. Several napkins from Burger King fluttered off the counter’s surface to the floor.

As dinnertime approached, I pulled out a pot and emptied some water and a vegetable boullion into it. Stirring occasionally, I chopped fresh vegetables and slid them into the bubbling pot. The overhead fan swept up the excess steam, and I felt good about the vitamins dancing merrily in the water. For good measure, I tossed in a few tortellini noodles. Dinner was served!

At first, my children looked down at the steaming brew with some trepidation. What was this foreign substance that Mama has placed before us? Their faces revealed confusion.

“What’s this?” my two-year-old asked as he lifted his spoon over his head.

“It is vegetable…ah I mean tortellini soup,” I corrected myself.

Sophia scrunched up her nose in disapproval. She carefully placed the tortellini noodles onto her plate.

“Can you pass the ketchup, please?” she asked politely. Without a word, I handed her the oozing bottle. Perhaps that statistic doesn’t really apply to us, I reasoned. After all, it said one in five two-year-olds in the U.S. eat fries on a daily basis. We live in Europe, I continued with great relief.

Just then, my two-year-old hopped down from his chair and went to the freezer in the adjoining kitchen. He pulled out the bag of potato skins and handed them to me with a pleading look. Well, these aren’t really french fries, I thought. I flicked the chicken nuggets out of the frying pan and covered the greasy stares with the contents in the bag.
About The Author:
Name: Christine Louise Hohlbaum
Christine Louise Hohlbaum, author of Diary of a Mother: Parenting Stories and Other Stuff, is a freelance writer and busy mother of two. She holds a BA in political science from Smith College and an MA in International Relations, German and English Literature from the University of Constance, Germany.

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