We had a big Mercury Colony station wagon, the kind with the seats in the way back. Mom and Dad in the front seat, Dad driving of course, and Sharon, Michael and I in the back sliding around on the big bench seat. After Michael's baseball game, or some other late afternoon out, once in a while we would have a special treat. Dad would pull into the MacDonald's on Peoria and get a sack of cheeseburgers and fries. On the way home he would hear a chorus of "Daaad! Don't eat all the fries!" as he would dip his large hand into the bag and pull out the still hot fries to munch on the short drive home. It was a treat.
Going to MacDonalds, or Wendy's, Carl's Jr., Burger King, is not a treat for many families. It is a routine. A routine that has become so prevalent that the epidemic of fat kids, ooops severely overweight or obese kids, has been blamed on the fast food joints. They "hook" kids on their food by offering toys with their cheeseburgers and fries. They have a clown that encourages kids eat burgers so McBurglar doesn't get any. Our nation's kids are fat and it is the fault of Ray Croc, Dave Thomas and Carl Karcher.
As a kid I played a lot of sports. About a week before sign up for baseball, basketball, football I would be bugging my Mom to remind her. When I wasn't at practice or a game I would be running around the woods or neighborhood with my brother and our friends. In summer or spring time we would leave the house after breakfast and either be home with a bunch of kids for lunch or home for dinner. We would ride our bikes five or six miles to the movie theater to watch "Posieden Adventure," "The Voyage of Sinbad" or sneak into "Billy Jack." No rides to school we walked or rode our bikes, unless it was pouring rain and even then we liked the adventure and would try to talk Mom out of shoving us all in the Mercury wagon.
A treat was after a game or practice on a hot day Mom would pour a glass of pee-green Gatorade, I felt like a real pro! After finishing that and saying I was still thirsty she would remind me where the tap was and to get myself some water. We drank out of hoses a lot, often a neighbor's whose house we were running by while thirsty. Today we see fat kids walking around with 20 ounce bottles of Powerade, or 24 ounce cups from 7-11 or AM/PM filled with soda as they haul themselves into the back of Mom's SUV for the two minute ride to school. Our nation's kids are fat and it is the fault of Pepsi and Coca-Cola.
We brought our lunches to school a lot, almost daily. Mainly because I was a very, very picky eater--which makes it difficult for me to get on our youngest daughter too much who shares that DNA thread evidently. My brother, Michael, our friend next door, Dick Mackey, who we would walk to and from school with every day, and I would have contests to see who could re-use their brown lunch sack the most times--not be "green" but just because we were boys and it was another contest. My Mom would pack us with a sandwich, an apple, maybe some chips but rarely and a piece of dessert. If we were able to successfully lobby (read: nag like crazy until we broke Mom down) in the store, once in a blue moon we would find a "Big Wheel" or something--but rarely. We would buy milk at school. The stuff served in the cafeteria tended to be somewhat gross to my elementary school palate and to this day there is a certain odor that when I smell it I think, "Hillside Elementary cafeteria."
Today our school system is set up to encourage kids not to bring their lunches to school. We get roto-dialed to enroll our children in the "free lunch program" because anything you don' pay for directly is from the government and it must be "free." Schools are encouraged to sign students up for free lunches because that is how they measure poverty levels and the more kids getting tax payer bought lunches the more money that school gets in Title I money from the Federal government. Since lunch, and usually breakfast, is paid for parents happily skip out on the morning routine of preparing their kids a somewhat healthy lunch and send them to school for "nutritious" lunches of carbs, salt, sugar and fat. Our nation's kids are fat and it is the fault of the school system encouraged, almost forced, to feed more and more children with less and less money.
I love to go grocery shopping, more so if I have one or both of the kids with me. I enjoy sitting down and planning a menu, the food we will need for lunches for the week, breakfasts, replacing supplies in the pantry. Put my in a grocery store with a cart, a list and a kid or two on a Saturday morning and I'm about as happy as I can get. One thing you notice pretty quickly at the Ralph's, Safeway, Von's or Albertson's is that fat kids hanging around grocery carts usually do not have skinny, or fit looking parents. If there are any vegetables they are frozen or canned. Fruit appears to be paired with ice cream if in the cart at all. Trix, Cocoa Puffs, frozen waffles and most importantly the portable and edible Pop Tarts appear to be the breakfast menu. Cheetos, Funyons and Pringles are purchased by the cart full. Four flavors of soda fill the bottom rack of the cart--but half of them are "Diet." Crackers, ice cream, Ding-dongs, frozen pizzas, a plethora of pre-prepared food that can be used to put together a meal or snack in a matter of minutes. Those food items supplement the meals that are not purchased through a small window from the air-conditioned comfort of the minivan or SUV.
MacDonald's, Wendy's, Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Carl's Jr., Sara Lee, Breyer's, Coke, Oscar Meyer, are all to blame for our nation's fat kids.
But I don't see an executive from Pepsi pushing the Big Gulp cup against the lever under the Diet Pepsi label and then handing the cup to the child. I don't see a deliveryman for Frito-Lay pushing the cart laden with poor meal planning choices and asking the child which brand of Hostess she wants for afterschool snacks. I don't see anyone from MacDonald's driving the SUV ordering double happy meals for the ten year kid playing his PlayStation in the back. But society and the progressive political-media alliance has made them the reason we have more and more fat kids who are getting fatter and fatter.
The society wrecking trend of removing personal responsibility and accountability is a national crisis. Parents are become less and less responsible for their children's health, despite the fact they, the parents, make the decisions as to what, when and where to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As they continue to make poor choices, as they continue to value convenience over health, more blame piles up on those who manufacture food items that were once treats and now have become the staple for parents creating fat kids. They have abdicated the nutritional responsibilities from themselves to the government and media to comfort them, "it's not your fault your kid is fat from eating five dinner and four breakfasts a week from the drive through windows, it is the company's fault for making it so cheap and so bad at the same time."
Before one more pudgy finger is pointed out of an SUV by an overweight Mom or Dad sipping on a 42 ounce Diet Coke blaming our "fast food culture" for the fat kids they are raising in the back seat, I'd like to see society point the finger right back at them. Where is the blame and shame for the parents? They are given excuses: it's too cheap to buy fast food, they work and it is too difficult to make healthy meals every night, s/he's not a very good cook, they don't have time to shop properly, there is not store in their neighborhood.
ENOUGH! Enough with giving the parents who drive the cars to the drive through instead of the grocery store, who push the cart down the chip aisle instead of the vegetable aisle, who let their kids sleep in and hand them a Pop Tart for breakfast as they walk out the door instead of waking them up and making them a solid breakfast, enough with giving them excuses and someone else to blame.
Every fat kid has only one place to lay blame, at his or her parent(s). Let' s start being more honest with who is responsible and who is not in this nation. Fat kids are fat because their parents don't want to put up with an argument over meals, don't want to bother making dinner or doing dishes, don't want to bother with healthy choices, but rather want to make their kids happy, make their lives easy and spend money on gas for the car instead of gas for the stove.
Those who know me know that I am somewhat husky, chubby, fat, myself. Hovering around 6'2" I flirt with 250 pounds, usually looking down at it more than above it. My eating and exercise choices have not always been the best. But as a parent I have noticed my choices have become better. My kids are fed a healthy meal made at home every morning, lunch and dinner with the occasional "treat" out. We are not perfect parents, but we work hard to educate our children about what food makes them behave in what way. No preservatives, no food dyes, no chocolate with vanillin (it's like crack). If my kids are fat it is no ones fault but ours. That fact that I sport a too big midsection and jowls is not anyones fault but mine. Quit trying to blame someone else for the choices I made and make. I grew up skinny with exercise and healthy meals. In the last fifteen to twenty years the meals, metabolism and exercise changed--I can't blame Mom for the choices I make now.
Fat kids. We can call it an obesity epidemic. A fast food culture. But they are truly victims of poor parenting. To call it anything else perpetuates the cycle and we will have more fat kids being raised by fat parents. Go to your local grocery store this weekend and see what I mean. The kids aren't pushing the cart and aren't swiping a debit card to buy the crap in the cart.
Point the pudgy finger of blame at parents.