Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Calculated Risk of Joy

Your first kiss. Getting your driver’s license. The thrill of that first roller coaster. So very many firsts are unforgettable. Yesterday held such a magical moment for my 8-year old son Ryan. Because yesterday, after completing a grueling week of physically demanding and oh-so-globally aware –indeed gloriously green, Rock Climbing Camp (here it comes), I indulged Ryan in a life-altering first. His first Big Mac.

The drive-thru lady handed me the fragrant paper bag, and as I balanced it on my lap while trying to clear my cup holders, the entire car was perfumed in eau du French fries. Forget lavender and eucalyptus, this is the intoxicating aroma of carb-kings everywhere. Ryan must have sensed his booty was at risk.

“Pass me the bag,” he demanded.

“I’m making room for the drinks,” I said, clearly getting high off the fries.

“Pass it to me now!” he insisted.

I put my small diet coke (yes, that is all I ordered for myself) firmly in the cup holder and pulled away from the window.

“Can I have it NOWWWW?” Veruca Salt whined from the back seat, desperation mounting.

“Absolutely,” I said with complete calm as I stealthily stole five fries from the bag. “Here you go!”

And then there was silence. You could have heard a fry drop in the car. A few minutes went by and then the Roger Ebert of fast food said, having dissected his two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun, “Wow Mom, it’s like two burgers in one.” His voice trailed off into mmm’s. And when I figured he was done, I said “Ryan, this was your first Big Mac, so can you describe it for me in one word?”

He paused and then said simply, “OHMYGAWD!”

In my defense, I waited eight years to introduce Ryan to the “gateway drug” they call the Big Mac. I prepared him for this day by feeding him healthy food, teaching him the value of exercise and making him watch “Super Size Me” –the documentary about the impact of eating fast food on your body. By the time Ryan downed this first Big Mac, he was wise enough to ask me “Mommy, is this as bad for me as it is delicious?”

Knowledge is power when it comes to all things, including food. It’s always good to know when you are making a poor decision and the consequences, right? So, it was with great joy (and horror) that I learned California is the first U.S. state to force fast-food restaurant chains to post calorie information on menus.

"This legislation will help Californians make more informed, healthier choices by making calorie information easily accessible at thousands of restaurants throughout our state," Governor Schwarzenegger said.

Can’t you just smell the avocado on his breath?

According to the California Department of Public Health, Californians have gained 360 million pounds over the last decade. One in three children and one in four teens are overweight or at-risk, while obesity is listed as the second deadliest cause of preventable death among Californians after tobacco.

So, while my son was “lighting up” his first Big Mac, I decided that life is too short to always make the wise decision. Sometimes we have to take calculated risks in the name of blissful yet fleeting joy. Ryan’s first Big Mac was one of those moments. I am glad I was there to be his drug/joy dealer.

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