Can we talk about Cheetos?
Cheetos get kind of a bad wrap. Their electric orange color isn’t exactly natural, and the ingredient list reads more like a Chemistry 101 stock shelf inventory than something you’d willingly eat.
Because of this, some people don’t let their kids eat them, which I totally get. My kid didn’t have her first Cheeto until recently, but not necessarily because I was intentionally withholding them.
Well, sort of.
Recently I’ve noticed that in a quest to be a perfect parent (whatever that means) I find myself fighting with her about all kinds of little things. Wearing appropriate clothing, limiting screen time, wearing a coat when it’s cold, not climbing up the slide, not eating junk food like Cheetos… You know, all the little things you deal with when you have a three year-old who is going on seventeen, and wants to try things her way before ultimately settling on whatever you were recommending.
This conflict isn’t just reserved for three year-olds, but rather begins much younger with societal pressures to do the very best thing from minute one. Pressure to be the perfect vessel, who has a perfect delivery, who breastfeeds, and who successfully gets their perfect baby to sleep in their empty crib, allowing them to find time to exercise to get back to their pre-baby weight within 15 minutes of giving birth. Pressure to encourage tummy time, and independent sleep, and skin-to-skin, and exposure to 30,000 words a day, and a diverse palate of organic purees, and and and…
I spend so much of my day focusing on these little things that it’s easy to lose sight of the most important lesson of all: Kindness.
Above all else, raising kind children is the most important thing to me, as kindness is the glue that holds us all together. Kindness crosses cultures and genders and species, and gives us hope that all is not lost.
Being a perfect parent isn’t about withholding Cheetos. It’s not about successfully abiding by the AAPs screen time guidelines. It has nothing to do with how many tutus your kid wears to school that day, or if you co-sleep or sleep train. Breastfeeding or formula feeding or unmedicated births or every-drug-in-the-hospital births aren’t hallmarks of the perfect parent. None of this matters in the long run if your kid grows up to be an asshole.
Of course I’m oversimplifying this a bit, as we all are trying to make decisions that will benefit our kids in the long run. Like limiting their Cheeto consumption. But more than focusing on if the decision I’m making is best for my child based off some outside recommendation, I’m going to start focusing more on daily lessons of kindness, on celebrating kindness, and practicing kindness.
And sometimes that kindness comes in the form of a snack-sized bag of Cheetos.