Food for Thought

I love my little one so much. But the other day, she brought me into one of those moments you don’t find in that parenting handbook – the one they never issue. Immediately after collecting her from school, she asked whether I’d brought along a snack. Unsatisfied with my “no,” she replied that she was hungry.

“We’ll be home soon, and you can get something there,” came my response.

A short time later, she whined once more, “I’m hungry.”

“I’m Daddy. Nice to meet you,” I answered knowing how that annoys her.

I could see a ride-home theme developing here. Knowing that she had a long day and that she’s accustomed to an after school snack, I preemptively promised we’d be home soon and that she could grab a bite then; it would take fewer than 25 minutes or so to get there.

Several miles passed and my little girl complained again, except this time her bellyaches had progressed beyond mere hunger. With much more exasperation than before, she sighed, “I’m STARVING.”

Okay. Daddy didn’t bring you a snack and your belly’s not quite full – I’m thinking – but “starving?!”

My response: I reached for my Android phone, found the Internet app, Googled the word “famine,” found a picture of a famished Sudanese child (see photo) and placed the phone and picture in front of her.

“That,” I said barely able to contain myself, “is ‘STARVING!’ This little boy doesn’t know where his next meal is coming from. And he just may die. Now hush.”

That was the last she mentioned about starvation or hunger on that trip and since.

My daughter’s a good kid – smart, intuitive and insightful. She’s also in some ways typical of American children who frequently have little concept of how well things are for them; they lack perspective. My tween-to-be now has some perspective she didn’t have before.

I’m not entirely comfortable, however, with how I brought her perspective that day. I can’t help this feeling there was another way to effectively make my point. Could I have gotten through without the graphic image, or is that how you pierce the armor of the DVR generation? Did I need to resort to victimizing children on another continent by exploiting their plight for shock value? Isn’t that what our mothers did? Isn’t that what we promised not to do when we grew up and had kids?

Perspective changes on this side of the parent-child divide.

Yes, my daughter still has a lot left to learn about privilege. But apparently there’s much remaining for me to learn about parenting.


2 thoughts on “Food for Thought

  1. Having grown up in East Africa, famine images were not only in our newspaper but also in the streets. I have a visceral reaction to my American children claiming starvation, but having had real life images seared into my memory, I have never learned how to counter their whining, afraid of overreacting from my own development rather than theirs. I’ve never shown them images, and rarely chastised them with “I have seen starvation and you are not it”, so I applaud you your for having done something even if you feel the ends didn’t justify the means.


    1. It’s all part of the learning experience, Catherine. You have and advantage that I don’t have in that you’ve encountered famine first hand. I don’t think your children would mind you sharing your stories. One day they may even come to appreciate it.


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