How One Crunchy Cheeto Undermined Years of Parenting

We don’t snack on anything in the grocery store before we buy it, no matter what. That’s a rule that I’ve had in place for my daughter and myself since I can remember. While it may seem like a bit of an arbitrary rule, I want my daughter to understand that we can’t consume anything before we buy it or own it. This is just one aspect of honest monetary dealings that I want her to grow up with.

It’s the same reason I am careful about telling her it’s important not to break or damage items in stores, or items that belong to someone else. Once something belongs to her, she’s free to do with it what she wishes.

For the most part, she’s fine with this rule. She’s gotten used to it, and impatiently whines, squirms about or jumps on one leg at the cash register when we’re buying a treat. She knows she can’t have it until Mama pays for it.

The other day we were at Bulk Barn (where you buy things in bulk, so you’re scooping items right out of the bins). I wanted to buy some crunchy Cheetos, but I wasn’t sure if they were fresh (I’ve had stale Cheetos before, it’s not a very pleasant experience). I walked around looking for a salesperson so I could ask to sample one, but couldn’t find anyone on the floor.

Exasperated, and wanting to leave the store as soon as possible so as not to experience a four-year-old’s I want everything in the store tantrum, I opened the bin and took one measly little Cheeto out, and put it in my mouth.

I wasn’t thinking.

In the moment it took me to lift my hand from the bin to my mouth, I could see the years of teaching my daughter evaporating before my very eyes. Now I know what people mean when they say they’ve had an out-of-body experience. I knew what I was doing was wrong, I could see the perplexed look on my daughter’s face, but my hand somehow mechanically went from bin to mouth.

Then, exactly what I feared would happen, happened.

She looked at me for a moment, slowly reached her own hand into the bin, took out one single crunchy Cheeto, and put it in her mouth.

I stood for a moment paralyzed by my own foolishness. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her to stop because she had just seen me doing the exact same thing. So I said nothing, quickly scooped up some Cheetos, and we cashed out.

I did something wrong, and her fresh, innocent eyes absorbed it like a sponge. I could almost hear the little wheels of internal dialogue spinning in her head, saying if Mama is doing it, then it must be okay.

While it took me years of convincing my daughter, with words, to wait until we bought something before snacking on it, it took just two seconds of absent-mindedness to tell her in very real, visual terms that snacking was actually okay. What I taught her in that moment broke my heart.

Actions really do speak louder than words. 

Our kids imitate us in every way – down to the way we speak, eat, and treat other people. My daughter kisses my cheek the same way I kiss hers. She takes cues from me on how to treat specific friends and family members. She even uses the same words that I use, quite literally parroting everything that comes out of my mouth.

Our children actually become us, or slightly edited versions of us.

You and I might unwisely believe that as adults, we are very different from our own parents. But it’s just not true. My own obsession with clean financial dealings comes from my dad who wouldn’t accept even ten cents of extra change if given to him accidentally. When something doesn’t belong to you, you have no right to consume it. I learned that from him.

As I grow older I am slowly discovering just how similar I am to my father and mother. My turns of phrase, my stubbornness, my capacity to love – so much of it comes from them. It’s quite a scary realization when I notice these behaviours because it means my daughter will become an updated version of me.

What does that mean for me? It means that I have to vigilantly guard my tongue and my actions – it means that I have to legitimately be the person I want my daughter to become. And it’s hard, oh so hard! But parenthood has to make us better people if only for the fact that we are trying to raise better people.

One Cheeto set my parenting back a bit, but I suppose my daughter had to learn one day or another that her mother isn’t perfect.

Our Lord, grant us from among our wives and offspring comfort to our eyes and make us an example for the righteous.

Featured photo credit: Steve Axt

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