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How marketing creeps into the kitchen cabinet

Submitted by on Monday, 13 October 2008 No Comment

Some things simply sneak into your life when you’re not looking. Kind of like that stealth move-in a boyfriend pulled once. It started with a razor, morphed into “I’ll just throw my laundry in with yours” and was capped when I cleaned out a closet.

That’s why I laughed yesterday as I read an article about marketing milk to children through cartoon characters. I have to admit, it’s hard to argue with pushing milk on kids. The rest I can quibble with. SpongeBob hawking carrots when he also pushes sugar-loaded yogurt? Which pitch do the guys trust?

That doesn’t happen around here! We’d never buy dye- and sugar-laden applesauce because Scooby-Doo tells us to or snacks because a super hero backs them. I’m smarter than that!

Big Guy interrupted my self-congratulatory reverie.

“Hey Mom, did you remember to get more Batman fruit snacks?”

Uh-oh. Caught being a victim of marketing. And of letting Big Guy eat artificially colored crap, which we keep to a minimum because of his asthma.

Saturday’s cash register tape tells the full tale of my tumble:

  • The fruit snacks, $3.49 for a box of 10.
  • Lightning McQueen Teddy Grahams, $3 for 9.5 ounces
  • Scooby-Doo Go-Gurt, $2.98 for eight 2.25 ounce tubes.

I paid $2.98 for the equivalent of two and a quarter cups of yogurt. Burns me up.

But the guys and I have a deal: They get to pick one treat each per grocery trip — I cut them some slack Saturday. Usually, it’s dye- or salt- or sugar-loaded crud I’d rather not have in their mouths, but I keep my mouth shut.

Other than that, they have to listen to harpy lectures about health, money and good decisions.

“Do you think the Go-Gurt tastes better because Scooby-Doos on the tube?” I’ll ask.

OK, bad example. It does taste better to them because it’s loaded with sugar. I’d still love to kill the person who showed baby Big Guy yogurt other than Mountain High. Or, even better, the homemade stuff he used to gobble fresh from his grandfather’s kitchen.

“Do you think the carrots are better for you because SpongeBob says so?”

Another bad example. Big Guy wouldn’t eat a carrot if he were within seconds of starvation. Little Guy would gobble them even if Osama Bin Laden were on the bag.

The bigger point: I was living in Momma La-La Land when I thought I could shield them from this. Just as I’m kidding myself when I swear off donuts forever. Even if the guys didn’t watch television, they’d pick it up practically by osmosis from cousins and friends.

I don’t have a problem with manufacturers trying to hook kids through milk cartoons. It’s their jobs to sell stuff. It’s mine to teach the guys to make good decisions.

I do have a problem with once-revered publishers such as Scholastic selling Bratz books in schools, all in the name of capturing “reluctant readers.” Sheesh, is there anything we won’t pimp on children under the notion that “kids don’t like to read”? It makes me ill that this increasingly is accepted as gospel.

By and large, though, those are my parenting problems, challenges that come with raising kids in the 21st Century.

Oh, and a funny thing about our Saturday fest of crappy food. They haven’t touched any of it since Sunday morning. Not the Go-Gurt, not the Teddy Grahams, not the fruit snacks. Used to be it all was inhaled in hours.

Guess they’ve figured out that it doesn’t really taste that much better after all.

I’ll remind them of that next time.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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