I am a terrible parent. I routinely break one of the cardinal rules of parenting handed down to me by my mother over many years of hearing cardinal rules of parenting. I know that I cannot be a competent parent, because Ruby’s favorite cereal is Lucky Charms. This is a big no-no, which I know-know, but honestly the rules have evolved over the years, so it’s hard to tell sometimes just what to do.
When I was very young, breakfast cereal in our house could not contain any sort of sugar or good flavor whatsoever. We were subjected to Cheerios and Rice Krispies. Not Honey Nut Cheerios or Cocoa Krispies, just the regular old plain stuff. It was bland and good for you. As time went by, and our whining got out of control, sugared cereals started sneaking into our house, but there were two absolute written-in-stone rules that could never be broken. No chocolate and no marshmallows.
Chocolate and marshmallows, no matter how hard you try to spin in, will never be a part of a healthy breakfast. They are dessert. So no Cocoa Puffs, no Cookie Crisp, and certainly no Lucky Charms. The three or so times in my young life that we ever bought a box of one of these abominations, it was made abundantly clear that these were a snack, to be served in plastic baggies after school, and never to be eaten in a bowl with milk less than two hours after getting out of bed.
This rule stood for a while, but when my mother married for the second time, it was to a very healthy eater. His idea of dangerous eating was putting chicken in the stir fry instead of tofu. For dessert, we had to eat Halva, which doesn’t count as a dessert in my book, because it is not actually terrible for you. Anyway, his rule was that the carbs in the cereal could not be more than 1/3 sugar. Check the side of the box. 21 grams of carbs? That sugar had better be sitting at 7 grams or less, or else we were not buying it. Sometimes we could get him to compromise if it was only off by one gram, but we spent many long hours in the cereal aisle, reading nutritional information on the sides of boxes, hoping to find something delicious we could sneak through.
Then I went to college and ate Lucky Charms three meals a day for four years.
Now that I am a parent, I feel that I should stick to similar parenting guidelines. Since I turned out so well, I obviously know that they work. But it’s hard, because I don’t want to eat Cheerios. I want to eat Lucky Charms! They are full of oats! Healthy! And to make matters worse, my mother has sugary cereals at her house now, which she feeds to her children, grandchildren, and other assorted children that are always there. Did the rules change? Why couldn’t I have those things growing up?!
Now, some of you may be sniffing your noses at me and saying “Processed cereals? MY children only eat organic rolled oats from the local oat farm,” and to you I say, well, we don’t eat Lucky Charms every day. Many days the kids eat toast and peanut butter and fruit, or oatmeal, or yogurt. But some days we eat marshmallows and chocolate. Sorry. And still others of you may be saying, “Lucky Charms?! Is that your biggest problem? I’m lucky if my kids eat anything at all, and when they do eat breakfast it is cookies that they stole off the counter and they leave the table a disaster, even if they haven’t eaten anything on it, and I am at my wits end with these children!” and to you I say, “I know, right?”