This weekend brought with it a valuable life lesson for B - and for myself. On Saturday I took him to a classmate's birthday party. Long story short, when they sat down to eat pizza, his friend remarked "pepperoni is bad for you" in relation to B's pizza choice. B, who had never heard this before, called out to me, "Mom, friend (who shall remain nameless) says pepperoni is bad for me". My first inkling was to say - your friend is right. However, most of the other kids at the table were also eating pepperoni pizza and I didn't want to cause widespread alarm among the children or even worse, offend the parents of the birthday girl who had dared to serve this "unhealthy" choice - which in all honesty, they probably hadn't given much thought to since pepperoni pizza is pretty much a customary kids party food along with other things like (gasp!) hot dogs. So stuck in a hard place, I said... "well...." and at this point the friend interrupted and assured me that "Yes it is bad for you. My mom says it is." So I offered up the best response I could think of at the time:
"It is okay to have a little bit once in awhile..for B...but whatever your mom says is what is right for you."
So this weekend we learned the lesson that different households have different values and rules and that pepperoni isn't a healthy meat choice but in our family we think it is okay to have once in awhile.
At this point, I feel compelled to say that we don't eat a ton of meat at our house and I do tend to avoid processed foods. We don't have sugar-laden treats often or salty snacks or any other kids convenience foods in our house and this was something that I felt really good about (up until yesterday when another mom showed me up for letting my kid eat pepperoni) since there is so much pressure on parents to buy these foods and lets face it, it is so much easier to pull out a granola bar, fruit snacks, fruit cup etc. than to make up a plate of crackers and hummus or cut up fruit. I didn't actually allow B pepperoni on his pizza until he was about 2 1/2. Up until then, he always got veggie pizza. But when he started to take an interest in eating what other people were eating, I did what felt right to me and loosened up and allowed it. What is the balance between being too strict and having your kids eventually resent this and possibly rebel and the alternative of being too lax and not providing a good nutritional base for your child? I thought I had this balance pretty much in check. But when I thought about it, this issue goes far beyond merely addressing food choices. The primary goal of Montessori is to foster independence but is independence being fostered to a flaw when children are being taught to aggressively pursue their own (read - their parents) views and be critical of others? Furthermore, is independence being encouraged with stricter parental controls being in place?