Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mind Your Own Beverage

I took Westley to the grocery store at lunch time because we were out of soy milk. Our supply of sippy cups had also somehow managed to dwindle, so I picked up a package of those as well. The cashier asked politely, "Just those two things?"

"Yes," I said. "It's hard to have a sippy cup of milk if there's no milk and no sippy cup."

She laughed. "That would put a damper on things."

Then the woman in line behind me spoke up. "Did you know there was a study--?"

Let me stop right here and say I was completely ready for her to say something about pacifiers. Westley had his pacifier planted firmly in his mouth, and because he's tall and slim and dressed like a little man, he looks like a "big boy" who shouldn't be using a pacifier. Whenever we go out in public and he has his pacifier, I'm always just a little on edge. Before I had a child, I probably would have noticed a kid like Westley and thought, That kid is too old for a pacifier. I wouldn't have said anything to the mother, but (clearly) not everyone shares my boundaries regarding what is and is not OK to say to strangers.

But whatever. I thought I was in for a paci-themed tongue-lashing--about how I was delaying his speech, ruining his teeth, setting him up for a future as a chronic nail-biter or a chain-smoker or a masochist. All right.

"Did you know there was a study that said boys shouldn't drink soy milk because it's bad for their testes?"

She said it very sweetly, like she was basking in a warm glow of having done her good deed for the day. I was momentarily dumbstruck. I mean, I don't usually bring up testes in the checkout line. Do you? It just seems like bad manners.

I said, "Yes, I've heard that. But our doctor isn't concerned about it and we try to follow what he says."

"Well, 'cause I'm a pediatrician, too, so..."

Of course. Perfect. Fucking perfect.

"He drinks lots of other non-dairy milks--" I started, lying, suddenly afraid for my son's balls. The truth is, we've tried giving Westley other non-dairy milks, and the only one he likes is vanilla-flavored soy. The thing that tastes, to my palate anyway, the most like breast milk.

The cashier thrust the receipt into my hand, saving me. "Have a nice day," she said, with a little extra cheeriness.

"Thanksyoutoo." I didn't look back at the pediatrician-woman, and pushed Westley in the shopping cart through the automatic sliding doors and into the safety of fresh air.

On the way to the car, I thought of half a dozen better responses to this woman's question, including, "Which study was that?", "Who funded that study?", and "Did you know there was a study that said mothers hate unsolicited advice from strangers?" I wish I had remembered my mother's stand-by reply: "Thank you. I'll keep that in mind." It's more polite than saying "Mind your own fucking business," but still ends the conversation.

On the drive home, I tallied up all the sippy cups of soy milk Westley drinks over the course of a typical week. My stomach just sank. It didn't help, of course, that my adorable little dude was sitting sweetly in his car seat, oblivious to my mental anguish, saying "poo" (his word for "pool") over and over.

"I would love to take you to the pool right now, buddy," I told him, "but there's no pool today."

"Puck!" he said, as we passed the park.

"Yep. We'll go to the park after nap."

At home, I put Westley in his crib to nap and immediately Googled "boys and soy milk." I was instantly reminded that, just like with fluoridated water and plastic bottles and everything else, there are many opinions citing widely varied sources. When it comes to soy milk you can find studies in favor of, studies against, and lots of people ready to take sides and form teams. By far the most interesting to me is the "Soy is a Liberal Conspiracy to Turn Our Children Gay" team.

Westley's pediatrician doesn't have a problem with soy milk. And I know that by drinking it, Westley is getting protein, calcium and vitamins. It's possible that I'm being naive, but he seems perfectly healthy. His growth is right where it should be according to his doctor, and he's happy, energetic, and rarely gets sick. Still, I hate that some random woman who I will probably never see again can make me feel like a bad mother.

She probably thinks she's being responsible, educating a clueless young mother in the grocery store. Maybe if she had started by saying, "Excuse me, I'm a pediatrician, and..." But even then, there's a load of assumptions about me and my life that comes with that unsolicited remark. I wish I'd been able to convey that to her. But I didn't have the balls. Probably all the soy milk I've been drinking.



Jessica said...

For similar reasons I switched to vanilla flavored rice milk. I had to mix the two for a couple of weeks until he liked just the rice milk. It sucks... I'm sure rice milk has too much sugar or something.

We can't win, just dodge balls (no pun intended).

I've been meaning to write a post about it, too...

Allison the Meep said...

Strangers chiming in with opinions about how you're raising your child, pediatrician or not, are just obnoxious.

sarah said...

well, my non-medical medical opinion is that the little one actually won't be utlilizing any of his boy hormones for a few years and therefore it probably wouldn't be an issue anyway. The Japanese haven't balmes soy for their lack of children they have blamed their working habits -- just make sure that baby Optimus learns the value of leaving the office at a reasonable hour.

candace said...

Well you should be happy to know that I got the soy and hormones talk yesterday at a mom's group (go figure, self righteous bitches).

Anyway, what she said (while I was giving Emma chunks of tofu to gnaw on for lunch) was "should you be giving her so much soy, how much is ok?" I replied, "as much as I want and as much as she will eat." She then said "then what all the hormones, are you worried about the hormones?" I said, "nope because everything has a lot hormones in it, including the milk you let your kid drink, I would be more afraid of what they put in that."

Damn that's right put her in her place! I also said that the pediatrician told me to give her tofu and soy milk because of all the protein and vitamins.

I really hate all the crap I get for being a vegan mother with a vegan child (as some say, is she vegan too?). My child is very healthy and people should mind their own damn business. Can you imagine if I went around and informed meat and dairy eaters of all the chemicals in their food? I would probably be shot!

BTW I also love the soy turns boys gay argument, sweet that just means more friends for me!

Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com said...

I'd say ignore her. The people most qualified to make decisions about your children's health are you (parent) and the pediatrician you've selected. I hear unsolicited advice all the time about how to deal with my Crohn's disease and the fact of the matter is that none of those people know my medical history or charts like my doctor and I do.

It's the same with Westley. You're doing a great job.

Maggie May said...

Ack stranger advice is so annoying. And hello :)

Liesl said...

Yeah, and pediatricians recommended cow's milk for years because OF COURSE cow's milk is really perfect for little humans. And at one point they recommended supplementing six-week-olds with OJ because surely they need extra Vitamin C. Pediatricians can be just as wrong as any other human, but they should recognize that changing everything because of the latest paper isn't usually the best move. There's always another contradictory paper later on.