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Convenience food

Published March 27. 2010 09:00AM

Have you seen the ads on television for the packaged cereal product? A small box of cereal comes with a container of milk and a spoon. Parents are instructed to keep these packages in the refrigerator so that their child won't be deprived of breakfast when the parent sleeps late.

The first thought I had when I saw that ad was of my grandchildren. Then I got angry. I don't want my grandchildren getting up and going to the refrigerator to have breakfast all alone in front of the TV. I want my daughters and/or sons-in-law to wake up with their kids, make them breakfast and start the day together on a positive note. After all, that's what families are supposed to do. Luckily, my family does.

Then I started thinking about our society. We are making it very easy for parents to avoid responsibility. Sure, certain things that make parenting easier are appreciated. I had my oldest daughter before disposable diapers were affordable. Anyone who has been through diaper-washing and having them freeze on the line in the winter knows what a joy it is to be able to throw them away.

Also, today's television has an enormous amount of educational programming for children. Although I am not an advocate of sitting a child in front of a TV set all day, I do believe that some of the shows are excellent. Sesame Street has taught many children their alphabet and numbers. Barney the purple dinosaur does a lot of good for human relations. Before the days when TV was a built-in babysitter, entertaining our pre-school children all day was a real challenge.

Even the modern disposable baby bottle is a boon to parents. I remember the chore of sterilizing bottles. Today, that's a thing of the past.

Schools today also take a big burden off parents. Nutritious, warm lunches are served. Annual physicals and dental exams are given. Driver education classes. Swimming classes. Health and nutrition and sex and birth control and anything and everything in between.

So, in this age of more conveniences for parents, why are we having more and more children with problems? Shouldn't it be the reverse? Now that parents have more time to spend with their children, the children should be happier and healthier. However, that is not the case.

Most families have two working parents. In the past, that wasn't true. Today, if both parents don't work, the family income doesn't provide for necessities. So, the time that was gained by modern conveniences is lost by the current cost of living.

Another facet of today's world that impacts on the family is the high rate of divorce. When a single parent is trying to work and raise children, having an instant breakfast in the refrigerator is a time-saver.

Recently, a mailman told me a funny story. He was delivering cereal samples to the homes on his route. The little boxes were a pain in the neck to him, and he didn't enjoy the extra baggage.

As he went down the block, all of a sudden he heard a voice yelling "Mr. Mailman, Mr. Mailman!" Turning around, he saw a little tyke in his pajamas running after him. He stopped and turned to the child.

"Mr. Mailman! Mr. Mailman!" the little guy panted as he came up to the letter carrier. "What's the matter, son?" asked the mailman. The little boy looked up at him, and with serious eyes said "My momma told me to catch you. You forgot to give us the milk!"

We are certainly turning into a society that expects convenience. The day that mailmen deliver milk with the sample cereal will certainly mean that we have reached the bottom of the convenience barrel. Parents have a tough job, but to be a good parent means doing the hard work. There's no way to make that more convenient.

If you would like to discuss this or another Education and Family topic with Dr. Smith, she can be reached at her e-mail address: or in care of this newspaper.

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