for the past nine days, Oscar & Dave & i have been home together, just the three of us.  the sitter’s on vacation, as is Dave, and i’m home anyway, so it’s a last gasp at summer for us as a family, and a last chance – knock wood – to do stuff as a threesome.

it’s been a bit on the rainy side, and mindless wandering around the local timewarp that is The Mall is morbidly depressing, so we haven’t necessarily filled our time with as many outings as we’d imagined.  wild ridebut amidst the walks and the swims at the park, we checked out a couple of local attractions and brunched and had tea and took O for his inaugural bumper car ride with Daddy.  big fun.

everywhere we went there were kids’ menus.  and christ in a handbag, no wonder our culture has an epidemic of childhood obesity.

truth is, the amusement park probably hasn’t changed its menu in forty years: hotdog, hamburger, or deep-fried chicken bits, all with a side of fries or onion rings and pop.  not health food, but as an occasional treat, no biggie.  especially if a kid only gets out for a treat a few times in a summer.

but everywhere has menus like this, these days, at least where we are.  and when on holidays, one can be everywhere – eating out – more than a few times in a summer.  i have apparently been living in a bucket, happily oblivious to the contents of these craptastic wonders, because i haven’t had a child old enough to be interested in eating from them until now.  but suddenly Oscar has reached an age where he’s noticing that other kids aren’t eating the yogurt or dish of cottage cheese dragged from mommy’s bag; where pilfering dad’s toast & eggs at the diner is not entirely a sufficient meal unto itself.

and it seems that the rite of passage of having his own plate means he can now choose from a wide array of white-flour-based, deep-fried, nitrate- and preservative-saturated foods.  in quantities that would suffice for most adults. oh, independence.

i’m really not a sprout Nazi, or anything.  my kid likes Elmo crackers, and eats cupcakes now and then.  but for the most part we do try to make sure his diet has more nutrients in it than unpronounceable additives. we just don’t buy white bread or white pasta.  the store-brand organic breakfast cereals around here now cost less than the brand-name non-organic Raisin Bran or Shreddies, and we made fudgesicles this summer out of chocolate soy milk.  if Oscar liked hamburgers – he’s gone off meat, our little Smith’s fan – i’d happily serve them to him.  but seriously?  with fries and pop?  when he’s two?  even when he’s ten, i’d really like him to have a few more alternate options.  healthy choices shouldn’t be something that magically appear with puberty.

to me, when McDonald’s appears to have the healthiest kids’ menu in town – because you can at least get apple slices and juice with your white-bread-wrapped grilled cheese – there’s something kinda weird about that.

i know, first-time parent naiveté.  i do get that a few meals out is not going to destroy my child’s health or digestive tract, and that with some kids, getting them to eat anything at all is a huge success.  we’re lucky that way – O turns up his nose at a lot of things, especially vegetables, but would live on tomatoes and avocadoes if we let him.  that’s just how it turned out.  but he also had his very first non-soy hot dog only last week, so the options he’s been given do have something to do with the tastes he’s developed.  is it just where we happen to live – in one of Canada’s fattest provinces – that circumscribes the kids’ menu options to such blatantly and exclusively unhealthy fare?  is it just me who thinks this kinda sucks?  or do most kids between four and twelve in North America live on a steady diet of processed snacks and sugar and hotdogs?  seriously?

shine the light for me, people.  am i fighting a losing battle on this one?  when you eat out – if you eat out – what do your kids eat?  what’s your philosophy regarding kids and diet?