America’s obesity problem starts with mothers like me who reward good behavior with peanut butter cups, and mountain range-sized banana splits. My pediatrician said, “Motivate them with stickers, not food.”
I said, “Stickers? Kit Kat bars. Now, those are motivating. All I have to do is to get the kids to clean their rooms is open a 2 lb. bag of Kit-Kats, releasing the breath of food-grade wax and high fructose syrup.”
"Good god," my pediatrician said. "Consider their little arteries!"
I considered their arteries, and my over-reliance on Oreos, chocolate milk, and MSG- laden and artificially flavored Cool Ranch Doritos as parenting tactics. And I thought of my kids growing up, nourished by food-grade wax. What kind of mother was I? So I devised a plan: We would stop being American, we would become French -- at least when it came to breakfast, lunch, and le diner.
French people eat. Hell, they eat brioche, oozing cheeses, and the mashed up livers of force-fed geese. “French mothers probably bribe their kids with food, all mothers do,” I whispered my husband. “But in France, it’s French food, and the kids: Et voila! They don’t get fat! ”
“From now on call me Maman,” I said to my kids, puffing out my lips and wearing a chic little scarf. “From now, on we don’t snack on le crap.” Tears were shed over the last sherds of Doritos, but in a matter of weeks, they were cleaning their rooms for home-made brioche au chocolat. In exchange for a slice of tarte tatin, I could have peace for an hour, while I rearranged my now extensive collection of chic little scarves and vintage Yves Montand records. When I made pate, they tried it, which made me inordinately proud. They tried pate! I crowed.
When they whine and squirm at restaurants, I say, “Tut tut! That’s what les enfants Americans do. Now what would the French do?” And miraculously they fall into line, putting their napkins into their laps and asking me politely to order frites for them because fries sounds better in French. My daughter, who is 2, believes that the French are a subclass of fairies. There are brownies, and elves, wood elves, fairies, and now, the extremely well-behaved French.
The chores they happily do for French food have far exceeded any expectations; they even bargain with me. “I’ll walk the dog and take out the trash, Maman, if you make coquilles St. Jacques again,” my son said. My husband said, “If you make Julia Child’s coq au vin. I’ll take over doing the laundry." So I did, and I haven’t folded a pair of underwear since: behold the mighty power of le cuisine.
I’m raising my kids on baguettes and butter, like French kids and they're doing fine, watching French New Wave cinema, puffing out their little lips and saying "bouf." Just don’t tell my pediatrician. When we went back, he asked, “So how are the sticker charts going?” I said, "Oh, tres, tres bien."