I made chocolate-chip cookies last week. I baked a double batch so I could take some of them to a Pedal the Cure fundraiser that Beth and Curt were hosting, and would have some to take to my friends who just had a new baby, and would have some left over for our house.
Since I was baking them for other people, I didn't enlist Zuzu's help, but later in the day, she asked me if she could have a cookie.
She was so excited when I gave her the cookie. She held it in her hand and said, "This is so yummy, Mommy!" She held it up for David and my parents to see: "Mm-mm! This is good!"
She still hadn't taken a bite.
She took the tiniest little nibble off the side. "Yum-yum-yum!" she said enthusiastically.
And then she just kind of sat there with the cookie in her hand.
"Honey, you don't have to eat it," I told her.
"Okay!" she said. She put the cookie down the table and went off to play.
Zuzu obviously does not like chocolate-chip cookies. She doesn't have much of a sweet tooth at all. She isn't into ice cream, and she'll eat plain Greek yogurt by the spoonful.
But she obviously knows she's supposed to like chocolate-chip cookies.
A three-year-old, whose television exposure is pretty limited, whose parents generally try to eat pretty healthy, whose schools have never served sugary snacks, can recite the things she's expected to say about chocolate-chip cookies, even though she doesn't actually want to eat them.
It really makes me think about all of the other unintentional messages that we send her, and how readily she absorbs them. And then consider all the messages that our society is sending her about how she is supposed to act and look and think and feel.
Liking chocolate-chip cookies seems pretty harmless, and we all laughed at her enthusiasm for a treat she obviously didn't want to eat. But what happens when she starts to absorb other kinds of social messages? You know the ones I mean--Math is hard. Girls should be skinny. Alcohol makes everything more fun. A little more troubling than Chocolate-chip cookies are delicious.
She performed the cultural ritual of celebrating a chocolate chip cookie even though she didn't really want to take part in it. She wanted to be part of what everyone else makes a fuss about (even though we didn't realize we were making a fuss--we obviously were!). Like every kid, she wants attention, pleasure, positive reinforcement. That's normal. But it's scary to think about how quickly she'll want those things to come from places other than her parents, and how the cultural messages about what will bring her attention, pleasure, and positive reinforcement are not necessarily the messages I want her to receive.