Without milk, life with kids would never be the same

HAPPY EATER

October 07, 1992|By ROB KASPER

Like many parents, when I read about the recent attack on milk, I got scared.

Here were these doctors with white coats and long titles saying that kids should not, repeat not, drink their milk. They claimed that research indicated cow's milk might give kids juvenile diabetes or lower their blood pressure.

They asserted kids should get their calcium, an essential nutrient in cow's milk, from kale, broccoli, collard greens or spinach.

I was rattled, but not about the health considerations. I figured like most scare-the-pants-off-parents nutrition stories, this one would soon be shot down by another group of doctors with more white coats, longer titles and better research. It was. It is now OK for kids to drink milk, parents are just supposed to worry about it more.

What had me shaking was the possibility that amid the furor, the flow of the white stuff would dry up. That the reign of milk, the ruler of my life, would end.

This would be a modern family crisis. This would change my lifestyle.

The end of milk would, for instance, change my commuting patterns. No longer would I automatically stop at the store on the way home to replenish the household milk supplies.

Like many parents, these mid-week milk runs have become a part of my life. If I drive straight home I feel guilty. If I stop at the store and don't walk out carrying a just-in-case gallon of milk, I feel unprepared. It would be a hard habit to break.

Moreover, there would be societal consequences. Namely, lots more traffic jams. Instead of ducking out at rush hour and into a store parking lot, thousands of mid-week milk fetchers would be forced back on to the streets, adding to the traffic jams, slowing down commuting times and no doubt raising blood pressure levels.

The end of milk, would also mean an end to "chocolate wars." at the kitchen table. In this struggle, kids battle over which type of chocolate -- liquid or powder -- makes the best coloring agent for milk. If there is agreement, on that front, the battle is quickly joined over how much of the dark stuff you should put in. There is the "just-cover-the-bottom" contingent, the "quarter-inch-up-the-side-of-the-glass" school and the "let-it-bleed" camp.

Any time three kids are gathered around a glass of chocolate milk, a battle follows. If milk were gone, the kids would have to fight about something else.

The decline of milk would also mean the disappearance of the "milk measles." These are the white spots that show up on any floor traveled by milk-carrying children.

A few years ago, the hall outside our family room was so covered with spilled milk spots, that I considered going with the decorative flow, and painting the entire hallway floor with white polka dots.

The end of milk would also mean I would no longer have to restrain my smart aleck instincts when the grocery store cashiers ask me as they regularly do, where I want them to put the heavy jugs of milk. Do I want them in flimsy plastic bags that will cut off the circulation in my hand? Or do I want them in a thin paper sack that will split open when I lift it out of the car?

The end of milk would mean the end of cereal as we know it. Milk is the great cereal wash. It is the river of white liquid that carries Cheerios, Cap'n Crunch, Raisin Bran, and Wheaties into kids stomachs. This is the soggy stuff of life, the stuff my kids eat endlessly. The stuff, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture food pyramid, we all should eat a lot of.

Now that the fury has passed, I feel the case against milk was overblown. That the link, for instance, between getting diseases and drinking milk is weak. I have read that some of the docs on the anti-milk bandwagon were accused of letting their animal rights sentiments cloud their judgment.

For me, the milk question boils down to a matter of choice. Namely, if the kids don't drink milk, what will they drink instead?

Judging from the few times our household has run out of milk, the answer ain't broccoli juice. The drink of choice is something that has a lot of sugar, and maybe, maybe a trace of a nutrient.

What this has taught me is that the reign of milk will never end. Perhaps "never" is too strong a term. The milk-run lifestyle will not be overthrown until kids choose a pile of kale over a glass of chocolate milk. Or until they eat their Cheerios floating in spinach juice.

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