Yes, no, and “later” foods: Why Wal-Mart depresses me as a parent

We went to Wal-Mart yesterday. It was a mistake.

Don’t get me wrong: I understand why people shop at Wal-Mart. I live in a rural community that is mostly poor or working class. I see hundreds of people ride the bus to Wal-Mart daily because the store is one of the few places they can afford to shop. The dollar they save on a package of diapers is a dollar they genuinely need for heat, or for rent.

I get it, I do. I just don’t like the place.

Mostly, it depresses me. When I walk in and see all the plastic goods, all the sweatshop-made clothes, the fake flowers, the phthalate-filled toys, and the packaging-inside-of-packaging-inside-of-packaging, I quickly fall into a kind of despair. That’s no exaggeration; after five minutes in Wal-Mart, I genuinely start to lose hope for the planet, for humanity, for the world.

Give me Goodwill, with its recycling and potential for creative reuse, over Wal-Mart any day of the week.

Yesterday, however, I took Merrie, my seven-year-old, to Wal-Mart. We went in search of wire frames from which we could make wreaths with backyard greens. We didn’t find them. Apparently, Wal-Mart has pared down its craft section to make way for ever more plasticware and cheap electronics. Truthfully, we didn’t see anything I wanted to buy. We did, however, see a big-ol’ Dunkin’ Donuts counter.

And there the trouble began.

Merrie’s eyes lit up. “Please?” she asked. “Can we please get some Dunkin’ Donuts while we’re here?”

I said, “No, not today. We’re in a hurry, and I’d like to leave.”

“Mom, please! I’m hungry!”

“We have apples and nuts in the car, remember? You just ate some.”

“I don’t want those. And I’m hungry.”

“If you’re truly hungry, apples and nuts…”

“But I don’t want apples! I don’t want nuts! You always make me eat that stuff!”

I tried explaining again. There are the “sometimes” foods and the “anytime” foods. Donuts are “sometimes” foods. They are treats. It’s fine to have them once in a while, but they shouldn’t be something we buy on impulse just because they’re in front of us.

“Unhealthy food will always be in front of us,” I tried to reason. “If we bought treats every time we saw them, we would all be really, really unhealthy.”

And of course, we mostly are: 86% of the population is expected to be overweight within 20 years, childhood Type 2 diabetes has reached epidemic status, and children younger than Merrie now routinely get kidney stones. Those are the statistics, a few of them, though truthfully, there was plenty of evidence around us at Wal-Mart; people riding in carts because they were too unhealthy to walk; the rows of diet pills; the stacks of blood glucose monitoring kits by the pharmacy; small children already swollen like balloons with extra weight, dragging a 20-oz bottle of soda as they walked.

“You always say no,” she said, sadly. Her eyes welled with tears.

I don’t always say no. In fact, I say yes far more than I ever expected I would. Yes to cookies in the lunchbox. Yes to buttered popcorn at the movies. I say yes to snacks, yes to desserts, yes to hot cocoa in the winter, yes to ice cream in the summer. I say yes not once in a while, but often.

I say yes because I have read too much research about the consequences of saying no. To my great frustration, the research is pretty clear: when a parent restricts a food, it only makes the child want that food more. I do my best to strip the junk of its importance, make it no big deal.

But this is where the research utterly fails me. This is what makes a trip to Wal-Mart like entering a minefield. Because that stuff I’m not supposed to restrict? It’s everywhere there. Absolutely everywhere. And so far, the research has failed to teach me how to keep my kid healthy in a world where you cannot turn around without bumping into a rack of Cheetos and a plate of Krispy Kremes.

“Everything in moderation,” people say, which sounds so wise. But there is no moderation, not here, not in America at the dawn of the 21st century. So we parents are damned if we do, damned if we don’t. By restricting junk foods, I will make her want them more. But if I say yes every time she wants junk foods, I could be killing her, literally.

So I try to set boundaries. Soda at birthday parties? OK. Soda at dinner? Nope. Cookies in your lunchbox, sure, but not so many that you fill up on them. Dunkin’ Donuts? OK, maybe, as a treat sometimes. But not just because you happen to see a Dunkin’ Donuts counter when we go to Wal-Mart.

Along the way, I do my best to explain where I’m coming from, and I try to discuss the implications of our choices: where the money goes at the grocery store vs. at the farmers market, the environmental impact of single-serve packages vs. home-cooked.

But here we were in the late afternoon, standing  under the bright lights, holding an empty cart, and my daughter was starting to cry. Right now, she couldn’t remember all the times I said yes. She couldn’t remember those rational conversations about the consequences of our choices. All she knew was that donuts were in front of her, and she really, really wanted one.

As I stood there, I remembered another reason why I find Wal-Mart so depressing: because it invariably creates yet another wedge between me and my kids — the wedge where I become the bad guy for saying, once again, no.

Remember this, I said to myself. Remember how little there is here that you want, and how much there is to fight about.

“I’m not going to get you a donut right now,” I said calmly. “But I will take you to Dunkin’ Donuts sometime. I will.”

When will you take me? When?” she pleaded.

I sighed. The truth is, parenting is filled with moments just like these — small, unglorious moments where the right response is no longer obvious — where maybe, perhaps, there is no right answer, just the option that seems a little less bad than an alternative. Mostly, I just desperately wanted to be out of that store. “Sunday,” I answered, wearily. “Let’s go to Dunkin’ Donuts on Sunday. It will be a special treat, and you will appreciate it even more because of that.”


“Sure.” Whatever, just get me out of this hellhole. “Sunday.”

She sniffled. “OK, Mom. Thanks.”

We left Wal-Mart, then, our cart still empty. I cast a glance back as I walked, and I silently cursed the big box store. This Sunday morning, I will go to Dunkin’ Donuts with my daughter. I will order gooey sugar-filled treats made with ingredients from around the world. Chances are good that it will be some variety of jelly donut, which I know from reading too much will contain sodium benzoate, TBHQ, a likely carcinogen that’s one of the ingredients in varnish and lacquer, and Red 40, which researchers link with ADHD and behavioral problems.

But I won’t think about these things as I order it at the counter. I’ll block them out, place my order, and hand over my money.

Merrie will eat it delightedly. “Jelly” will run down her chin, and she will probably declare that this is one of her best mornings, ever. I will smile at her, tell her I’m glad that she’s enjoyed herself. And I will silently curse Wal-Mart under my breath, vowing that next time, I will stick with Goodwill.

37 Responsesto “Yes, no, and “later” foods: Why Wal-Mart depresses me as a parent”

  1. Jo says:

    Excellent post, Ali. Exactly how I feel about Wal-Mart.

  2. Matriarchy says:

    I understand.  I fight the same battles in there, sometimes just with myself.
    If you are the dumpster-diving sort of thrifter, I do have a suggestion for finding wire frames.  Try a cemetery dumpster.  Sound odd, but they through away bazillions of dollars worth or reusable floral supplies every year.  Look for an older cemetery that still allows flowers – some don’t.  Most of them have a time in the spring when they clear the Christmas stuff for Memorial Day, and a time in the fall when they clear again for the holidays.  And, there is usually stuff cleared after every memorial service.  Floral displays are left behind after most burials.
    You will have disassemble the old arrangements – either at the dumpster or at home.  You’ll need wire cutters.  I have gotten wreath frames, foam blocks for arrangements, plastic and cardboard containers to store my supplies, wire, pins, picks, etc. Once I found a whole roll of floral tape inside an arrangement.  You can also find perfectly good fresh flowers and greens that can be reused.  A casket spray can have hundreds of flowers in it, many in water vials that keep them fresh for days.  I dry lemon leaf, statice, roses, and other materials to reuse in dried arrangements.

  3. Bitter Scribe says:

    This is why I’m glad I’m not a parent. I probably wouldn’t have been able to summon the fortitude to say no.

  4. Jack Everitt says:

    WalMart’s image is low prices, but their prices, except on a few items, aren’t low at all. It’s not at all a place to go if you wish to save money. (Just like Bose has convinced the general public that their goods are high quality but you can buy the equiv. superior product for half the price from any good manufacturer. Bose has very high margins and spends that on advertising that works.)
    “Let’s go to Dunkin’ Donuts on Sunday. It will be a special treat” – sorry, and I know you try and really care, but you still score a Big Parent Fail here; making a fast food restaurant a reward is Doom x10. When is it going to be p.c. to stay to a child, “Hey, we don’t go there because the food there makes you fat.”?

  5. Sam Fromartz says:

    Another technique: “You know how we said we were going to get Dunkin Donuts Sunday? Well, we can go (on merry go round, bike ride, bake cookies with chocolate chips, ie, fill in blank – but make it special) instead. But we can’t do both. Your choice.”
    Usually by then, they’ve forgotten about Dunkin’ Donuts anyway. And my rule is, if they don’t bring it up, I don’t bring it up….

  6. Susan says:

    I know exactly how you feel. And it doesn’t just happen at Wal-Mart. It happens at the grocery store. Even something simple like the yogurt case has started to fill up with high sugar, candy laden junk.

  7. Lisa P. says:

    I don’t buy the rationale that restricting junky non-food makes our kids eat more of it. I think a mistake lies in familiarizing them with these products and reinforcing the notion of “junk” food as a treat, or something that normal, “cool” kids eat all the time. I have found that keeping a “no-advertising” environment at home and avoiding taking my son to the kinds of stores that have carefully crafted their environments to work him into a frenzy over blue or orange-dyed crap food has averted a great deal of grief. I also bake killer cupcakes and cookies to satisfy the sweet teeth we both have. It’s not all mean-mommy after all. 

  8. Jocelyn says:

    As I parent, I absolutely understand where you’re coming from.  I find that we avoid places like that more and more just so that I can also avoid those arguments (it does get easier as they get older and can remember a bit better all of the “yes” times!).  We are lucky to have a market near us that doesn’t have all of the junk food in the aisle endcaps, but what I appreciate about this post is the point that not everyone has the option to go somewhere else.  Generally speaking, I lean towards the kinds of strategies that Sam mentions above, and suggest all kinds of other fun options that we could do as a treat, if and only if they walk away from the plastic food politely.

  9. Almostima says:

    Great post, and I have to strongly disagree with some of your commenters.  I totally agree with you that restricting junk food completely will make your kid gobble it out like it’s going out of style every time they leave your side.  I grew up with these people and they had the worst eating habbits — running to 7-11 for candy every time their parents were not around.  My parents had a much more balanced approach, and I believe it served me well.

    What about suggesting an activity where you and your daughter make doughnuts at home together?  It can be quality fun time, you’ll know exactly what goes in them, and she may like them more than DD since she’ll have pride of having helped make them?

  10. Wow. You are not only an incredible writer, but what a predicament! I really feel for you in that situation. It sounds like you thought through all of the pros and cons of going for the donut…I can’t imagine how hard that must have been. It’s hard for me because I don’t eat sugar anymore (as of New Year 2008!) but I still catch myself in that immediate WANT IT! reaction and time and again have to remind myself why NOT to indulge.
    Do you think kids freak out when they see goodies because they are addicted to sugar, even at a young age? Whether psychologically or physically (mouth begins to water, tummy growls…), it’s interesting because even if we do ingest these foods, it makes us feel gross afterward. However, I’m not sure young kids make that connection..but it might make an interesting argument?….”Here is a donut. It will probably make you feel…..Here is an apple. It will probably give you a lot of energy and make your tummy feel good….”
    I would love to know how future situations like this turn out for you. Obviously you care so much for your little one and she’ll “get it” soon enough!

  11. Jamie says:

    I almost cried as I read your words. Thank you.  It helps to know other moms struggle with these same moments. The route between our house and our CSA pickup has a Krispy Kreme, there’s no way to avoid it without adding several miles to the journey. Every week on the way to pick up our beautiful box of produce, the same conversation. Can we, can we, can we?  Ugh!

  12. Amerloc says:

    The wire coathangers that breed in the back of my closet can be rounded into servicable wreath frames, with the added bonus of being easily hang-able. And your local hardware store has steel and/or aluminum rod that can be bent around a flower pot, bucket, or spare tire to make a durable wreath frame as well (as long as you remember to have some smaller wire available to wrap the overlapping ends to hold it together).
    Jelly doughnuts…
    I remember liking them as a kid: I used to stop at the local bakery every morning when I was delivering newspapers, drop the paper on the counter, and order a jelly-filled, caramel-frosted, local concoction they called a Bismark. It was a sugar high in three bites, and I still had two thirds of it left. Which I ate just as fast as I had eaten the first three bites.
    Later in my paper route, I’d buy a soda out of the machine at another business. By the time I got back home, I was wide awake and ready for a bowl of scratch-made oatmeal a quarter-inch deep in brown sugar and drowning in whole milk the dairy driver had delivered the day before.
    My parents did none of those things (except have a bowl of oatmeal. With a barely-visible sprinkling of sugar).
    Today? I’d rather eat a slice of whole-grain bread fresh out of the toaster with a generous layer of grandma’s-recipe apple butter. Once or twice a week. With a cup of coffee to wash the sweetness away after it’s served its purpose.
    Two points to emphasize, I guess: In the long run, your kids are far more likely to follow your model than reject it, so maybe your best shot is to buy the kid a donut and go back to the car and have a couple slices of apple. Sort of sets up the distinction between kid-behavior and adult-behavior. Trust me – they get it. And secondly, the local donut shop is better than the chain: look for where the cops hang out, and buy your donuts there.

  13. Laureen says:

    I feel every wince of your pain. No joke. I too despise Walmart with every fiber of my being. And I’ve been in that hideous place of being torn between wanting to let your child have the (perceived) treat, and wanting to throw yourself in front of the Juggernaut of Processed Corn Evil.
    There’s no way to “win” this one. Everyone’s got an opinion on how best to handle it, and in the absence of your real-life child, everyone’s convinced they have the corner on The Answer ™.
    My kids are reactive to processed corn product (it’s not the sugar, it’s the HFCS, the GMO cornstarch, etc.) And now, at ages 6 and 3 and after much discussion on the topic, I can tell them “sure, you can have that, but remember how it’s going to make you feel” and the vast majority of the time, they decide to move on to something else, because they’re aware of their bodies enough to know that a processed-food hangover feels like crap.
    But in the meantime… yeah, just avoid Walmart. =)

  14. Ess says:

    Everyone is better off avoiding Wal-Mart even those who think they can’t afford anything else. Sure, might save a bit on the diapers but all that’s lost by splurging on the giant size of double-stuff Oreos that were conveniently displayed on the way.
    I remember when Wal-Mart was advertising for the start of school with ads guilt-tripping parents into buying the “cool” food for lunches even saying two puddings should be sent so the kid could trade one (food currency) while still having one to eat. Great, spread the junk to other people’s children while your own kid is spreading out.
    Despicable company.

  15. Marc Brazeau says:

    Friends of mine have done a great job with getting their five year old daughter to associate all but the most restrained sugar intake with bad health and obesity.  She likes sweets but she also knows she wants to be healthy and she feels good about moderating her sweets.
    But that’s in Portland, OR where she is surrounded by a community of kids being raised by like-minded hyper conscientious parents.  She doesn’t have any peers that have the good fortune of being able to gorge themselves into Type 2 Diabetes at 6.
    When I was a kid we had a family that we spent time with and they had an extra fridge just for soda and junk food.  It seemed like heaven to us but I know that I drove my mom batty.
    I taught her a dad a pretty good trick a few weeks ago.  After grilling, slice a banana in half and sprinkle it with cinnamon and put it on the grill over the still hot embers.  5-10 minutes later, it’s great special treat.  Molten grilled cinnamon banana.

  16. Mark says:

    Thank you.  This is the battle we parents who are trying to lead through a combination of example and mandate run into all of the time.  I cannot compel my 15 year old son to eat everything I do.  I can restrict the things I buy and have in the house.  And sometimes he’ll have that “treat” that isn’t good for his body, even if it makes him happy.  I can hope that the seeds my girlfriend and I (she is the great source of dietary inspiration) plant come to bloom in his adulthood.

  17. David says:

    Consider, always offering an alternatve.  An unhealthy food vs an excursion to some “exotic” place works;  A book store, museum, or walk.

    E.g.: “We can stop for a donut, but the we wouldn’t have time to get to…(what you REALLY want to DO.)

  18. Emily says:

    Jack, I think you’re being a bit harsh. And did you read the article about how restricting kids’ food choices makes them MORE likely to eat those foods the moment they get the chance? It’s really hard to be a good parent when they are bombarded by ads and images encouraging them to eat crap, and your own voice is the only one telling your kids “No.” At least Ali is weighing these options carefully and not just letting her kids shovel it in.

  19. Joanna says:

    I don’t like to tell anyone how to bring up their children … and I totally support what you say about Walmart, and about not making bad choices seem alluring. Why don’t you spend Sunday morning MAKING donuts – then she’ll understand why they’re not the greatest choice … all that fat, all that sugar … but she’ll have a sense of achievement, and you will feel better, AND there’ll be less nasties in whatever you make at home.
    Whatever you decide: good luck

  20. Steve Sando says:

    Great post! I think you handled it really well. Personally, I would have suggested a better bakery if there’s one in the area, then you could indulge, too, and enjoy it. By exposing them to everything, they develop taste based on you. My kids will now tell me they hate the food at McD but love the toys.
    Real world parenting is a bitch but I think your daughter is lucky.

  21. rufwork says:

    WalMart’s image is low prices, but their prices, except on a few items, aren’t low at all.
    In my neighborhood (North Charelston, SC) Wal-Mart’s prices for groceries — here I’m talking milk, cereal, flour, Jiffy corn meal, etc, in addition to the processed stuff — are seriously cheaper.  Milk is on the order of 40¢ cheaper a gallon, and for a while during the oil speculation was even cheaper, relatively speaking, than that.  Jiffy mix is at least a time a small box cheaper.  It’s really difficult to justify not going there vs. larger chain stores if the Wal-Mart’s not out of the way.
    The real issue with the story is that I don’t see much value going to Wal-Mart without a list in mind.  Who browses Wal-Mart?  What did the author think they were going to find there?  Sounds like a self set-up.  Be careful.  If you had a buggy full of locally grown veggies (which my Wal-Mart has, and I’m thankful on some level profit matches progressive agendas in this sense) and good, whole foods for less, you’ve got a good starting point for explaining precisely why you’re not going to buy a donut.  
    If you have an empty cart and have been idly looking through a store that’s “like entering a minefield”, the implicit message to your child is clear: There’s gotta be something in here I want.  And if “everything” is cruft, well, good sound logic says there must be some cruft in there you thought you’d want.
    Being a smart shopper sounds like the best way out here.

  22. Patriot Henry says:

    My mother never let me eat junk food.

    My first splurge was on a 5th grade trip to Boston where I ate an incredibly huge brownie ice cream thing.

    My second time with junk food was on an eighth grade trip where I ate two pounds of hard candy and was sick for two days.

    In high school I was given cash and access to a junk food sales booth in the public high school cafeteria. I soon established a regular lunch diet of 12 snack cakes and a Snapple.

    Then I got a job and discovered one of my favorite meals – a dozen Dunkin Donuts and a couple of fritters for dessert. I was able to eat a dozen donuts in well under five minutes.

    Eventually I quit eating so much sugar but have had health problems ever since. I seem to suffer from reactive hypoglycemia and am unable to handle sugar. My blood sugar is constantly roller coasting and it will be many years or decades before I regain full control of my health. I’m just glad that my metabolism has meant that I never gained any weight – if I had gotten fat I’m quite sure I’d be stuck in that vicious cycle of eating and depression.

    I’d suggest making donuts from scratch.

  23. Ken says:

    This is a magnificent post; thank you for sharing.
    I’ve not read the research, but I marvel at how effectively my parents raised me with respect especially to sugary foods and violence on TV.  There was sugar in our house, certainly, but not too much, and not all the time. Sugary cereal and Hostess products were to two sugar-lust items of my childhood. Somehow, they convinced us that sugary cereal was ok on the order of 2-4 boxes per year; it was exciting when we’d occasionally be invited to choose: ok, this week we can get a box — frosted flakes, frosted shreaded what, cinnamon life, or … oh, what were those honey-glazed cornflakes with raisins in? There were never marshmallows — they had us thoroughly convinced that those were dreadful non-food entities.
    Likewise, television was allowable, but generally expected to not include gratuitous violence.
    Somehow, both of these habit stuck. I was allowed a taste of these semi-forbidden things; they were not the mysterious Other, but neither were they commonplace. I learned about moderation by practicing moderation; I hope your kids will do the same.  Good luck!
    (The same worked with alcohol, btw — I was introduced to it on a semi-regular basis at holiday meals a few times a year; first time I ever got tipsy was playing scrabble with my parents when I was 18 or so. I enjoy a good tipsy, but I have no patience for bad wine, cheap beer, or serious inebriation.)

  24. valereee says:

    Ali, how would she have responded if you’d said, “No, I won’t buy you a donut.  But how about we make cookies this weekend?”  

  25. Melinda Hemmelgarn, M.S., R.D. says:

    Ali, I’m the  mother of two grown children. I so understand how you felt at Wal-Mart.  And bravo for you for being firm. Your daughter was actually testing you. She wants a mom who will look after her best interests and do the right thing. One suggestion for the donut dilemma — offer to make some from scratch with her. A really basic cookbook — Betty Crocker, for example, will give you step by step directions, and then you can use organic flour, sugar and oil. You can take pictures of the process and put it into a book. So much better than store bought and a real treat because she gets to spend extra time with you and learn a life skill — cooking, not to mention science and math.
    Keep up the great parenting. And check out the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood where you can join with other parents and professionals trying to protect our children’s innocence and health.
    Best wishes,
    Melinda (a loving parent, like you)

  26. once a kid says:

    Ali, have you considered reading this blog post to your daughter sometime?
    As a kid, it was never enough to me to be told that certain things were for “sometimes,” or that they belonged to that vague category of “unhealthful.” I remember many kids understanding more than adults generally give children credit for, and I think that the specifics of what was going on inside mom or dad’s head every time they said no to donuts would have meant a lot to me.
    Don’t ignore the power of disgust. There are plenty of kids and adults who swear off fast food or other junk in horror after hearing about what’s in it, a la Fast Food Nation. Sometime when you guys aren’t engaged in a food struggle, show and tell her what is in industrial-produced foods that’s worthy of disgust, and let her see you with an expression of visceral gross-out on your face — like the stuff isn’t worth eating.
    I also vividly remember being shown photographs of a dissected, clogged artery by one parent, who was a surgeon, and explained that that was what was happening to young people he saw in his practice who were eating junk and smoking. Utterly vile. It made an impression. As did being handed a plastic bag containing real, preserved tar-stained lungs by the other parent, also a doctor who had gone to some kind of repository held by a hospital nearby and asked if they had something that could be shown to patients. I was taken along with the lungs to a public health gathering at a nearby school where I was “in charge” of showing them to children who stopped at our booth while the docs explained why the lungs looked the way they did. The expressions on the faces of some of the “big kids,” then fourteen, fifteen, seventeen years old, sealed the deal on it for me. They looked so grossed out by the cigarette-stained lungs. Any cachet was lost — I was never going to smoke.

  27. GS says:

    I think the real issue here is that your daughter didn’t want the doughnut until she was manipulated into wanting it by the store.   A situation like this could be used to teach critical thinking about product placement, marketing, and the difference between needs and wants.  I think it would be worth discussing the ethics of manipulation and expressing your resentment of Dunkin and Walmart for making her so upset. 

  28. Jasi says:

    You could make a few donuts with her on Sunday.  You’re the parent.  If you don’t want her eating junk, draw the line or distract.  Don’t whine.
    Seriously, just fry balls of a basic whole wheat dough you’d use for pizza and inject home made preserves, pulse some turbinado sugar and cinnamon in a coffee grinder and give it a roll.  3 home made donut holes have got to be better than RED DYE #40!!! DUN DUN DUN!

  29. Chris says:

    Ali–My oldest is five and we have similar struggles. I do like the “let’s make it ourselves” tactic. She’s a DIY kinda girl, so that works for us, both with food and other junk she feels she must have. And while I just don’t shop at Walmart, ever, even Goodwill has junky plastic toys I don’t want in our home, so we still have the same debates.

    Here’s a baked donut recipe you and your daughter might try, from the author of Super Natural Cooking (this one’s not exactly super natural with the all-purpose flour and white sugar, but still a huge improvement over DD):

  30. Marcia says:

    This was a very good post.  I struggle with this sometimes too.  But you never know how your children will react.  Some previous posters say if you restrict junk food, they will go crazy for it.

    My parents restricted junk food.  My brother and I are fine without it.  Oh, the occaional bit is okay, but overall I feel better off if it’s just not in the house.

    My sister, however goes crazy for it.  And she can’t say  no.  She has it in the house because she remembers her childhood and doesn’t want to “deny” her child the chips and cookies.

    So really, you can’t say one way or another how restricting food will affect your kid.  Depends on the kid.

  31. Paul says:

    It sounds to me like you had a tired little girl on your hands. And combining that hell-hole with the temptation <i>with</i> a tired kid is a frustrating, tough-to-win situation. It sounds to me like you made the best choice, all things considered.
    In the end, it’s not really about you and your daughter though. What you’re really getting at here is the fact that you can and will make the choice while far too many people will simply give in to the temptation to mollify their kid at that moment in that dehumanizing environment. Too many parents (and people in general) remain dangerously ignorant of their pathological need to consume constantly—to have a soda near at hand or junk food readily available at all times.
    Good post.

  32. nuffsed says:

    Is this about WalMart or Dunkin Donuts?   Not all WalMarts have Dunkin Donuts in them.  While I’m no fan of Walmart and also get a run-down depressed feeling when I shop there I really don’t see what this particular commentary has to do with them.  It sounds like your problem is with DD.  Why do you think WM (or Target with Starbucks, pizza and whatever else they have in their stores) are “manipulating” you into buying junk food? Do you feel the same way when you walk past a junk-food store downtown? In the mall?
    My local Walmart has a McDonald’s in it instead. And I’ve never had a problem telling my kids “no” when they’ve asked to stop in there on the way out. 

  33. Grey says:

    I’ve wondered how I will deal with this once we have children. I know my hubby will give in to the Dunkin Donuts – anytime I send him to the grocery store he usually comes back with some prepackaged cookies if I havent baked any goodies at home in a day or so. Thankfully, he has stopped bringing soda home, most of the time.
    My mom rarely bought sugar cereals, and in my college days, I proved to be proof-positive that restricting that may have been an error. I ate Lucky Charms for breakfast and lunch. Sometimes dinner. Gross….
    But then, maybe the error was that the “no” answer my mother gave when my brother or I asked for crap food was always “because it’s not good for you.” If mom had been able to explain what happens to the body, and how those sugary marshmallows and their dyes were bad for us, maybe it would have made a difference.
    I’ve wondered if I explained how deceptive our world is, how betrayed we as consumers really are – tricked into buying cheap food that is bad for us, and then forced to spend our hard-earned money for insulin and pharmaceutical drugs which are also of dubious origin, would my kids understand? Would they comprehend that I am trying to protect them, to give them the best start in life I possibly can? Can I explain to them that the world is a terrible place driven by greed? Could I really be that cruel to them?
    I too thought of suggesting to make doughnuts – then I also wondered if it could be a financial lesson as well. Could the $2.59 (or whatever doughnuts cost) be better spent toward something else? Could I break the cost of the doughnut down in terms of how many minutes Mommy or Daddy has to work in order to make that money?

  34. Howling Hill says:

    What’s interesting to me is how you framed Dunkin’ Donuts as a “treat.” I’m attempting NOT be rude but please explain to me how fast food is a “treat.” If you’re framing it this way then, of course, it’s a treat. But if you frame it as non-treat (maybe a punishment?) then she won’t think of DD or any fast food place as a treat.
    It’s all in the language you use. Choose a different word to express fast food; “treat” is not appropriate.

  35. Nicole says:

    Ali, I can’t tell you how nice it was to read something like this. I feel the EXACT same way about junk food. I worry all the time about it. Maybe that’s because I can’t take my kids to a child centered activity without fear that there will be cookies and juice there. Always juice.

  36. whzikidforte says:

    You really took the words right out of my mouth! I had to endure several grocery shopping trips to Wal-Mart’s Supercenter, which lacks organic products! Where are the LifeFoods cereals (with the excellent whole grain cereals branded as Ezekiel 4:9) and other organic goodies? most of the generic brands may be low-cost, but most of them have refined starches and sugars, as well as additives. Worse, the Wal-Mart we usually shop in has a McDonald’s – UGH!

    I’m on the same boat as you on Wal-Mart, but you have to explore the Supercenter (the grocery-store-Wal-Mart mashup near our homes) to see the magnitude of the unbelievably high ratio of processed foods to whole, organic ones! I regret that I have to bear the burden of doing grocery shopping there, with all the fast food kiosks and refined carbs! I’ll write an epinions article about the shopping venue that has been the mecca of food-related meltdowns, tantrums, and disappointments in children!

  37. Sima says:

    Wow, this article was a huge wake-up call to me. I myself am 16 years old. I used to eat poptarts for breakfast, chips ahoy as a snack, peanut butter and jelly as a lunch, ice cream, and a huge plate of spaghetti and texas garlic toast as dinner. I am amazed by the fact that I did not gain weight. I used to eat like this about 6 months/1 year ago. Now, I eat things like fruits, whole wheat bread, fat free turkey breast, 1% milk, almonds, etc. I occasionally treat myself to chocolate. I had a York peppermint patty today for the first time since 5th grade. I haven’t had “real” chocolate in a long time, and to be honest, I don’t miss it that much. Also, soda was always my drink of choice. Drinking water was out of the question (at the time). I am trying to establish a healthier lifestyle for myself, because I DON’T want to be just another one of those teenage girls with the fat rolls hanging over their too-tight pants and their stretch mark filled thighs. I’m glad that I took the time to re-establish my lifestyle before it was too late. To have the ability to give my future children healthy lifestyles too is another ‘goal’ of mine. That would be amazing.