From the Mouths of Children



I have been trying to find the piece of reportage. The one I viewed the other day on a national morning news show, where a hard-working American mom worked to budget for her children’s weekly meals. The reporter toured her kitchen, accompanied the woman to the grocery, watched her figure out the food budget.


I cannot find the tape online. Unfortunately.


Because what was never talked about, what was never questioned in the concerned woman’s struggle to feed her children on a tight budget, was the size of their father, who lives with them.


He was large. Very large. High on the BMI scale, with a girth that cried out for coaches from “The Biggest Loser”.


Let’s be very clear. The man needs to get slimmer simply in order to preserve his own health. If he continues on this path, chances are he will not see his children grow up. If he does live that long, he is almost certain to develop diabetes, cancer, heart problems, or the trifecta, which will affect his ability to be present and active in his kids’ lives.


More to the point at this time, he needs to get slimmer in order to preserve the money that feeds his extra poundage, and use it instead for his kids’ meals.


If money is tight and Dad is fat, then Dad’s taking food from his children’s mouths.


No one mentioned that. Dad was in the picture, walking with the kids, helping get them to school. Whether his wife had made the connection was unknown. The reporter totally avoided the topic.


Why? Too controversial? Too offensive? Too let’s-pretend-there-is-no-problem-here?


Look, when people complain about not having enough resources to feed or clothe or house or buy school supplies for their children, I listen. I give to food banks and Goodwill, contribute backpacks and pencil boxes, advocate for affordable housing, because all kids deserve to be protected and nurtured, especially when their parents do not bring in much money. Many of my neighbors and friends do the same. One of the reasons I admire Denmark is because the Danes – those peaceful ex-Vikings – have made a collaborative decision that none of their citizens will fall economically past a certain threshold. Now, that’s a society.


Yet there’s a series of questions that neither side of the US political aisle entertains, and that is whether the same children whose parents apply for aid have parents who indulge their own wants over their children’s needs, whose activities steal financial resources from the family, money that should be used to benefit the children.


Here’s a partial list of parent-indulgent behaviors, many of which are observable, and others could be easily ascertained through interviews with neighbors or co-workers:


Drinking alcohol

Using drugs

Tobacco use

Gambling and lottery tickets

Soft drinks/sodas

Game electronics/big-screen TVs

Viewing cost-attached porn

For-fee manicures/pedicures/haircolor/styling/wigs

Unnecessary trips (of any type)

Fast food

Going out to movies

Cable TV

Prepared foods that cost more than simple meals made at home

Infidelity (often costly because people spend money on appearance, meals, entertainment, hotels)


Good parents show their love for their children by placing their own desires below their children’s needs. In the same way, they prove they are responsible adults.


The next time you see a plea for money for children’s needs, you might want to ask the organization requesting your support how it goes about selecting which families to help. Do they check on the parents’ self-indulgence? Do they educate parents on self-restraint, helping them form support groups (it works for people letting go of excess weight!), and pointing out that a dollar saved on self-indulgence is a dollar to buy the food for their child’s dinner or pencils for schoolwork?


In this, I am neither on the right nor the left. This is a course that has not yet been taken, but is one that – especially considering the work the worried mother above is doing to feed her children healthily on a small budget, while their father’s excess weight demands extra food to maintain – all political parties ought to examine.


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