I really do try to be a decent parent because when it comes to my children, I know that their general health and their behavior are the direct result of the upbringing my husband and I muddle through.
I correct their grammar. I watch their language. I encourage good moral character and am constantly forcing upon them such things as exercise, education, and healthy eating habits. Generally speaking, it’s exhausting. Parenting would be a much easier job if I didn’t give a hoot about how clean their bodies, mouths, and minds were.
But the universe has something to say to me about all of it. At the store where I do most of my grocery shopping, right on the end cap by the snacks and beverages is a full rack of something that seems to jump out at me every time I roll my cart by. It practically leaps off the rack and challenges my very parenting techniques no matter how I try to avert my eyes. It’s Cheez Whiz, that lovely cheese in a can with a nifty little squirty top so that you can make star designs in cheesy delight on top of your crackers.
I spent a good portion of my childhood eating Cheez Whiz. The stuff was amazing, especially when you could give yourself a Cheez Whiz mustache which was just a line of orange that lay overtop an already shaded upper lip, thanks to the gallon of red Kool-Aid I drank every day.
Drinking tropical punch like it was my job, my teeth and my clothes were stained red for years. I was a skilled Kool-Aid maker and even more skilled Kool-Aid drinker because when it came down to it, I really only cared about the points that were listed on the back. I saved enough for a t-shirt, a Frisbee, and my favorite, a Kool-Aid man shaped pitcher and two cups. If I close my eyes I can still feel the wooden spoon in my hand and hear the sound of it scraping the pound of sugar around the bottom of that pitcher…
But here I am all those years later, and my poor kids are forbidden to drink red punch of any sort and have, sadly, never enjoyed a cracker decorated with Cheez Whiz. They’ve never had a three-day red-punch mustache and have never known the joy and wonderment of embellishing a piece of bologna with cheese-ish eyes, nose, and smile. They’ve never even tasted the stuff and I couldn’t feel worse about it.
Sure, I’ve done my job filling their little bodies with healthier options. I’ve made sure their cheese comes in a block and their beverages contain a little less of that crusty sugar that settles on the bottom of every jug of punch that was ever made. But I have been selfishly keeping these genuinely fantastic things from them. I’m not sure what side of good parent/bad parent that puts me, but I know that next time the Cheez Whiz stares me down in the store, I’ll toss it with a hefty heave ho into the cart and head for the beverage aisle.