Angry mom

This was originally posted as my alter ego, “The Wellness Bitch.” Please take that into consideration as you read it. The WB posts with a slightly different tone. Considering the relevance to my Aliyah experience here in Israel, however, I choose to re-post it, despite the chance that it might incite my friends and alienate my neighbors.

With any luck, though, maybe a few of you will join me in a “Makolet Ban” or an “Anti-Makolet March” or at the very least, one “No Makolet Day” each year. 

I feel blessed in my life for the moms who get it. I’m glad for the ones I’ve met in real life and the ones I have come to know and love virtually.

It’s these moms — the ones who struggle day in and day out to provide their families with their version of “healthy” despite society’s constant roadblocks — that bring me back down off the angry ledge. It’s these fellow moms who struggle as hard as I do; who understand the often daily battles I fight with myself and my kids. The struggle between giving my kids what they want and giving them what I think they need. The struggle between saying yes and saying no. The struggle between choosing to fight a battle and choosing to lose it. The struggle between choosing easy and choosing hard.

I need such a support group desperately here, in my real life community, where I am forced to make choices all the time between what I know is right for my kids and what other moms let their kids get away with.

I’m feeling very, very “angry mom” lately.

Here, in the small community in Israel where I live, there is so much I love. But what I hate to my utter core is the “makolet.”

The makolet is basically a corner grocery store. The Israel equivalent of a NYC bodega. Internally, I like to call it “the kiddie crack house.” Sure, conceptually, it’s nice to know I can run up the hill for a carton of eggs or a package of baking powder, but 99% of the time, it’s the bane of my existence here and representative of something I really can’t stand about Israel: For as advanced as this country is, it is still very far behind in the healthy eating revolution, and in denial that what you feed your kids contributes to their physical and emotional well-being.

Israel's national snack food, bamba

Every day here, it seems, the average Israeli child walks out from his preschool and is taken by the hand to the makolet where the average Israeli parent buys his child the average Israeli after-school snack — namely a popsicle, a chocolate milk, a snack pack of peanut butter puffed corn, yogurt topped with candy or just plain candy.

It’s the Wellness Bitch’s worst nightmare. Can you imagine?

A family "favorite"

For over a year, I’ve tried to make peace with the makolet. My husband and I have tried various incentive plans to get our kids on board with the idea that we don’t feed them makolet crack every day. These are kids who, up until a year ago, were happy to get candy once a month at a birthday party, and whose daily sweet treats included an organic sandwich cookie or a beet-colored fruit roll up. Now, these kids can be seen walking once a week clutching a bag of “Kliks,” slurping on sour gummy worms, or sucking down a spray bottle filled with the EU version of Red #40.

We’ve tried “Makolet Day,” one day a week when our kids get to pick something from the little store. But one “Makolet Day” a week suddenly turns into three when Saba comes to visit, or when the 3-year-old goes home with a different parent for a playdate and the two kids wind up sucking down “Shock-o,” the  chocolate milk drink packaged in sports bottles mechanically engineered for preschoolers’ tiny mouths. “Makolet Day” becomes a way of life here when my kids are treated to a “krembo” by their teachers or tutors or soccer coaches for doing a job well done. “Makolet Day” in not just a day here when it’s piled upon birthday parties and holiday celebrations and kiddushim, for which the focal point is sugary, processed crap masquerading as food.

Yesterday, I lost it because my daughter walked out from preschool with a snack bag full of candy thanks to an in-school birthday party (which they seem to have twice a month here). I told her she could have the birthday candy or “Makolet Day,” not both. She agreed. She proceeded to eat a handful of m-n-m’s and then ran to the makolet to pick out

"Krembo" the Israeli chocolate coconut cream treat

her weekly treat. When I reminded her of our agreement, she had a meltdown. That melt-down turned into a kicking and screaming performance for all my friends and neighbors (Did I imagine the tongues clicking in compassion for my daughter ?)

As I buckled her into her car seat, I screamed out loud in frustration to her and her two brothers, “That is it! No more makolet! I hate the makolet. I hate it so much I am going to come here in the middle of the night and spray graffiti all over the makolet! Do you hear me?? Graffiti!!!!”

Don’t you love days like that? When you are so angry, and yet so defeated, that graffiti is your best threat? (What would I even write? “F-off Makolet?” “Die, Makolet, Die?” And, really, how long would it take before they discovered the English expletives belonged to me?)

Don’t you love it when, in an effort to do right by your kids, you completely do wrong?

Don’t you love it when their meltdowns produce your meltdowns?

Somebody, please hand me a Krembo.

For years, I was luckier than I realized. I had a built-in community and support system in New Jersey. I lived in an educated, middle to upper middle class, health conscious neighborhood. I had a Whole Foods Market ten minutes to the West and one ten minutes to the East. I had a “Holistic Moms” network nearby, five yoga studios to choose from, a “green thumb” and a “wellness” committee at my kids’ schools.

For all that I gained when I moved to a small, country kibbutz in Israel, I lost that wellness-focused community.

And now I have two choices: I can stay angry or I can build…community, that is.

I do both really, really well.

I simply need to choose now, as we all do at some point, which one serves me best.

I recently mentioned to the members of my bi-weekly woman’s group that I think it’s time I start speaking up — getting “my leader on,” so to speak. On the one hand, it’s been nice living in my bubble, the one in which I pretend like I don’t have much of an opinion and don’t have experience leading community efforts for change.

Inside this bubble, I’ve allowed “little Hebrew” to become synonymous for “little voice.”

But the truth is, I have a voice. And it’s loud. And it’s lonely hiding here inside the bubble.

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10 thoughts on “Angry mom

  1. Hey! I think we live near each other. Luckily I homeschool my kids and they hardly EVER go to the makolet.
    You can find out more about our healthy and frugal lives here in the Jezreel Valley – new olim too – on my blog (well most of it is food with a few life tidbits…)

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  2. My advice as a kibbbutznik is that a) Try and influence your community where you can but accept that you can’t change the makolet thing since most people probably don’t see it the way you do. It’s also a hard fact that you probably didn’t imagine the tongues – and often kibbutz is a balance between principles and the status quo. What you might be able to do is to try and influence the kids houses/after school center to have healthier snacks available for the kids.

    b) Try and walk that kibbutz thin line, where kids generally want to be like the rest of the kids, and the pull of group behavior is strong. IMO there is some process of acceptance that you have less control over your kids’ diet than you might elsewhere. And think about the other stuff you did give them by moving 🙂 On the other hand we do need those family boundaries in place. The best thing I find was simply to have makolet days that are agreed in advance. If my kids went on a different day for some reason, then the day gets swopped for that week. Then to discourage that “but all my friends… thing I try and keep something that qualifies as sweet (but healthy) at home so they don’t feel too hard done by. As they got older they know how to balance the amount of junk over the week. My 12 year old will now say – I went to the makolet yesterday, so I’ll get something small on Friday.

    HTH
    Rain

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  3. While I agree with you 100% regarding the availability, and even encouragement to snack on crap, I don’t think this is a phenomenon specific to Israel. If anything, the U.S. is known the world over for its rates of obesity and diabetes. I remember as a child growing up making regular visits to the candy store after school. In fact, there was a time when I would fill up on Cheese doodles, Twinkies, or Hostess Apple Pies, and then refuse to eat dinner later on. This is a problem everywhere, and it’s one I also dread dealing with here in Israel once my son starts to go to school.

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    • Hi Nocturn: I think about this a lot. And you are right — it’s a problem I fought in the States too. Even in my upper middle class NJ suburb. But what I have found here — and I will say it out loud even though it’s not PC. Is that really smart people I know, people who take care of their homes and their bodies, still feed themselves and their kids complete crap. It’s mind boggling to me. In the States, there is somewhat of a demographic divide. The poorer, less educated are often the ones who are feeding their kids packaged processed food (not always, for sure, but stereotypically so.) Here, I live among smart, thoughtful, even mindful people, and we as a community, have no stance on health. Our kids learn nothing about how to feed their bodies what they need to learn and play. It makes me really sad and frustrated, as you can see.

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  4. Pingback: Breakfast of Champions | And Yadda Yadda Yadda . . . I Made Aliyah

  5. Bottom line, Israel doesn’t have the obesity problem they do in the states, probably because kids are usually oodles more active here than they are in the states and parents are way way less neurotic.

    You should try letting go a little. I think a treat a day is perfectly fine, as long as they are getting healthy food the rest of the day. I think it’s much better not to have a “stance on health”, rather, eat good, healthy food, enjoy it (and that bag of Klik, Bamba or popsicle) and then go for a long bikeride or other kind of exercise.

    They learn nothing about how to feed their bodies? I think when salad is an integral part of street food (felafel), and healthy food is plentifully offered alongside the junk at the makolet (unlike the average convenience store in the States, where my husband was shocked that you couldn’t buy yogurt and cucumbers on one of his first business trips) we’re way ahead of the game in terms of “teaching” children about healthy eating. I think it’s much more effective to have a culture that values real food than have to teach kids how to eat healthy.

    Instead of lamenting about how you don’t have your mindful wellness bubble anymore, why not just help your kids learn how to cope with the real world and how to balance junk food and real food. The life you describe in America sounds like a parody. A sliver of a percentage of the people of the globe live like that. Teach them how to love healthy food and limit junk food and they’ll be fine, even without a wellness bubble.

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    • Hi Abbi:

      Not true. Obesity is a growing problem in Israel. See just this one study. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15847200

      In addition, Israelis have the worst teeth I have seen in any modern westernized society. I am sure this is not solely related to minerals in the water and has something to do with sucking down choco and soda.

      As for my own kids, I am already doing as you suggest and have basically been educating them about healthy eating since birth. They know the difference between a protein and a carb. The know what foods make them feel good and what don’t. I totally agree with you about salads in the classroom (though I would prefer organic, but that’s just a pipe dream for now). Israel is way ahead of the game in that respect. But giving just because a kid eats salad at breakfast everyday (assuming he eats it) doesn’t mean the Nestle crunch cereal on Fridays or the popsicle or gummy bears every day after school is ok. It doesn’t cancel each other out.

      I appreciate your opinion and really thank you for joining the discussion, but I still think Israel has a long way to go in this area.

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      • I’m really late in this conversation, I only discovered you now.

        As well as the junk food that is a problem in many countries, Israelis’ teeth are bad because they don’t take care of them. I was shocked when a friend’s son had to have a root canal at age 5. FIVE!!!! I asked the dentist next time I went, and she said it’s common even from age 3, because Israelis don’t brush their kids’ teeth, there isn’t the same education as there is in the US and Europe. they can go weeks without touching a toothbrush, and it’s not only the kids. My brother in law is a native Israeli, and my sister said it’s all she can do to make sure he brushes a couple of times a week.

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      • I know I might get some slack from my native friends, but I think it probably lies both in education and in parents’ general resistance here to “make” their kids do anything. My kids (9, 6, and 4) never want to brush their teeth. The only one who remembers ever to do it on his own is the 9 year old — and maybe only 3x a week on his own. I have to literally carry the 6 yo to the bathroom, sometimes crying AND I have to brush for him (which good dentists tell you parents SHOULD do til like age 7). As my general beef about parenting here has to do with overindulgence, I wonder if some parents simply don’t want the fight.

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  6. Hi Jen –
    I’m so with you. I totally relate to your anger and struggle with this since we made aliyah last August. It does feel overwhelming at times when I contemplate how much crap is available to my children — and how the right to be in control seems to be mocked by everyone around me.

    My husband is Swiss and we have lived there (though I am American) for the last 10 years so our three kids were born and grew up there. To be sure kids eat junk food there but the schools and most families (or maybe just our friends?) made a lot of effort to enforce healthy eating — no sugar at all in snacks at one school, fruits/veggies for snacks at another and required tasting of each thing served at lunch. My kids were used to limited treats and didn’t whine about it too much.

    I know I have to change my tune a little bit here but it’s so frustrating that there is junk food everywhere and that my kids see everyone eating it all the time. And that people offer it to them without asking me if it’s ok. The part that really gets me is the popsicle/ice cream/bag of junk food right around 5:30ish after the chug. I want my kids to eat dinner not crap. I’ll let my kids eat crackers and some other useless calorie item ..but they are so hungry and eat so much that I have to feed them three really good meals a day. I find I’m in the kitchen all the time but I also know that when I send them out full they are less likely to eat the parade of junk.

    I’ve been teaching high school for the last 10 years though I have a masters in international health. I have long thought about going back to study nutrition and work in nutrition education … moving here I’m even more convinced that’s what I want to be doing. It’s great to know there are like-minded people out there.
    Laura

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