My Mum raised my brother and me using the carrot rather than the stick approach (which is ironic given my childhood didn’t feature any carrots, or indeed, any other vegetable).
That’s not to say that my Mum isn’t a good cook, she can nail every recipe in the Margaret Fulton Cookbook, it’s just she gave up after too many spoonfuls of peas were hidden in my undies at dinner time (note to surreptitious salad dodgers, peas don’t flush down the toilet easily and gravy leaves unsightly stains in one’s knickers).
As youngsters, us kids never threw a tantrum or made a fuss because we were told that if we were good we’d receive a reward.
For my little brother Mark, his treat of choice was a baguette filled with Pate de Foie and Camembert cheese (he was the wankiest 5 year old I’ve ever met). For me it was Twisties (which I still like to polish off with a bottle of Bollinger) or Wagon Wheels (which matches well with a 2004 Pol Roger).
Given that my brother and I turned out alright (admittedly not upstanding citizens, but neither of us turned out to be serial killers) I inherited my mother’s approach to parenting.
A Kinder egg (aside from being full of surprises and banned in the US) is truly a thing of magic for a parent – it can; bribe a child in to behaving, elicit a guilty confession, assuage the guilt of a working Mum, determine whether a child has sustained a catastrophic injury (Oh hey, your brain is falling out, here have a Kinder Surprise) or just put a smile on a little dial.
So it is with a soupcon of anger and disappointment that I find my own husband criticising my parenting style.
David is one of these ‘food is fuel” types that suck all the enjoyment and delight out of eating.
The family fun sheriff eats triple concentrated tomato paste straight from the jar (apparently it’s good for the prostate, and given David can stick his head up his own arse, he assures me it’s working) He guzzles down gross sounding concoctions like Olive Leaf extract whilst tucking in to a hearty meal of steamed Broccoli (bleeeegh !).
It pains me to see the look on my little boys’ faces as their father tries to bully and cajole them in to eating food that tastes like (if the smell is anything to go by) Satan’s bottom.
When Harry, Bert and I go to the shops, I imagine their feelings are akin to a prisoner on day release, no longer shackled by their father’s hippy-dippy, pinko, commie, leftie diet, they are free to enjoy donuts, fanta and Yum Cha (admittedly not a combination I’d recommend all at once though as I learned from Bert projectile-vomiting-Linda-Blair-from-the-Exorcist style all over the back of my car).
And on the few occasions the boys are even game to indulge in a treat in front of David, he ruins all the fun by reminding them that they will become morbidly obese (I don’t care, fat kids are harder to kidnap).
Look, I get it, if I was stuffing my boys full of lollies like they were walking, talking pinatas, I could probably appreciate David’s concern, but why suck all the joy out of the room like a narky nutritionist vacuum over the odd treat ?
And now David is in cahoots with the school ! Nothing like a passive aggressive note from the teacher in the boys’ lunchboxes to make you feel like the love child of Jeffrey Dahmer and Ivan Milat – “Your child has chocolate cake from the Red Food category, please make healthier food choices. Sad face” Oh go and get fucked !
It’s not like the boys are lazy little puddings plonked in front of the TV or tablet, our kids lead very active lives where they swim, ride horses, play rugby and enjoy a daily wee on a tree.
My greatest fear is that what was, in my generation, an anomaly will soon become the norm. Everyone my age had that classmate with vegan parents that would serve hummus and vegetable crudités and water at a birthday, followed by some crap sugar-free carrot cake. For me, that kid was Jonathan Pascoe. I’ll never forget almost falling in to a hypo-glycaemic coma as I gnawed, through floods of tears, some stale pumpkins seeds at his 9th birthday. Needless to say, we beat Jonathan up behind the bike sheds the following Monday.
At the end of the day it is about balance vs. extremism. If you deny your kids the odd treat, you’re creating for them a sense of guilt and an irrational fear of food and fun. Yes, I’ll hide 7 different types of vegetables in a Bolognaise sauce, but no bastard is going to stop my boys from enjoying an ice cream afterwards.