I had a conversation with my four year old son this morning, after he saw a bottle of Mountain Dew on the counter, and it went something like this:
SON: Did Daddy bring that home?
ME: Yes, he did.
SON: Is he going to drink it?
SON (with look of deep concern on his face): But isn’t it bad?
ME: It might make him sick if he has enough of it.
SON: Then why does he drink it?
ME: Because junk food is addictive. Once you start eating it, it can be hard to stop.
SON: I don’t think God should make that then.
ME: God didn’t make that; people did.
SON: But why did people make it?
ME: To make money. They don’t care about people being healthy, they just want people to give them money for it.
SON (with look of disgust): People shouldn’t make that.
ME: I agree.
I admit, this conversation is a little heavier than I’d like to have with a four year old, but I’m not going to lie to him. I know soda and other junk food cause disease. He was looking at that bottle of soda the way I would have looked at a cigarette when I was a child. It’s no different, really. I know people tend to look at junk food as “fun” food, as something that is innocent and appropriate for all ages, but in reality, it is like cigarettes, and it’s not appropriate for anyone. Like cigarettes, junk food is addictive. Like cigarettes, junk food makes people sick and even kills people. But somehow it just doesn’t seem that bad.
It was almost disturbing to me that he would look at a bottle of soda as if it were a terrible poison. I grew up in a world where alcohol and tobacco and other drugs were known to cause disease and ruin lives, but where soda was fun and believed to be relatively safe. I know that children all over our nation are consuming soda in small and large quantities, which would surely horrify my little boy, as it does me. I’m glad he knows it’s unhealthful and doesn’t want it. I think what bothers me is that he can see that other people are ingesting harmful things and just like most parents, I wish my child could live in ignorant bliss.
And I don’t like that it makes other people appear irresponsible to my child, especially his dad and his grandparents. So I tell him they don’t understand how bad it is. But I also don’t want him to worry about their health, the way I worried about my dad’s. He knows my dad died from eating a poor diet. I don’t want him to think is dad is going to die, too. I try to keep things in perspective for him (daddy eats mostly healthy foods whereas my dad ate mostly unhealthy foods), but he’s just four. He shouldn’t even need to be thinking about this stuff. But I can’t just brush it away with a “Oh, it’s okay for Daddy to have that,” either. *sigh*