There are many ways to embarrass your child. The one that has been causing much angst in our house is my bring-your-own behaviour at the cinema.
Arriving in the foyer, and having paid nearly £50 for the five of us to have the pleasure of watching it in 3D, my brood raised their eyes in weary resignation as I performed my usual ritual.
I bought one medium-sized container of popcorn (the only popping going on was out of my eyeballs at the price), and picked up two more boxes so I could share it out. I then reminded them I had brought our own small bottles of water (why would I splash out – excuse the pun - £2.60 for a bottle when I can get them far cheaper elsewhere?) and we went through to the screening.
"Ham or cheese?" I whispered in the dark a few moments later. I'm sure my son slunk lower in his seat. Not for my lot the saturated fat-laden hot-dogs or smelly nachos that our local cinema thinks is decent fare. Instead for years in the holidays I've timed performances to coincide with lunchtime. Once they've polished off a decent lunch, they are free to tuck into the popcorn.
Please don't get me wrong – I'm not a mum who bans all sweets or fizzy drinks. But I do believe in moderation in all things. A little of what you fancy does you much good – a lot of what you fancy (if that fancy is junk food) can lead to childhood obesity and premature death due to bad habits laid down in early years.
"Spot on," wails my friend Rebecca, who like me will be facing this half term secure in the knowledge that her eldest child, approaching 14, is likely to want to meet up at the cinema with her friends, and definitely without parents.
"I'm fully expecting her to return home and throw up – the first time she went out on her own she confessed afterwards that she'd eaten two Krispy Kreme doughnuts in quick succession. There was an offer – buy one get one free. What 13-year-old is going to refuse?"
And that's the problem: my gripe is that cinemas in particular offer all sorts of mostly unnecessary snacks which seem to know no boundaries in terms of price or size. 'Box of popcorn the size of your son's head, anyone?'
Yet you know the more you try and steer your kids away from devouring half their body weight in sugar, the more forbidden it is, the more disapproving you are – the much more altogether tempting it is.
Maggie O'Donnell (been there, done that) experienced two different reactions when her teenagers first started going out with their friends on their own, and in particular to the cinema. "My son was so not into food anyway that being able to buy, unchecked, unlimited amounts of Slush Puppy and jumbo-sized bags of sweets wasn't an issue," she recalls.
"But my daughter went down the whole 'let me buy as much junk as I can and then hide all the evidence' route. She was never hungry for supper. In the end I had to give her an ultimatum: if she couldn't exercise some self-control I would have no option but to ban her from meeting up with her friends, because she couldn't be trusted. Draconian? Perhaps. But it's worked. Years later she thanked me – some of her friends are still battling with the aftermath of weekend afternoons spent stuffing their faces on junk."
So whether my older children like it or not, before being allowed out this half-term they will be reminded that a large bag of popcorn apparently contains 1,800 calories. Since they'll be coming back to a home-cooked meal at the end of the day which I shall be making sure they eat every morsel of – they had better leave enough room for it.
More on Parentdish:
Do you agree that forking out for costly, sugary snacks is unnecessary and establishing bad teen habits?
Or is it all part of the treat?
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