If Someone Takes In Your Child For A Year, You’re Not Allowed To Get All Judgy About Processed Food

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We all want what is best for our kids, but sometimes we disagree with other people about what “best” means and how it is achieved. That can be difficult when someone else is responsible for one’s children, but it is important to remember that when someone is doing you a huge, enormous, monumental favor, it is time to stuff a sock in your sanctimony hole.

A mother wrote to Washington Post advice columnist Carolyn Hax with a very difficult problem. She has two children, now three and six years old. Last year the younger child was diagnosed with a serious illness and spent a year being treated at the hospital. For most of that year, the then-five-year-old lived with the mother’s sister. That must have been extremely difficult for everyone involved, especially the child. But when the mother got her six-year-old back, she was horrified to discover the child had developed a resistance to bedtimes and *gasp* a taste for processed food.


The six-year-old was clearly broken by a Happy Meal, not the sibling illness and the upheaval at home, so the mother wrote in to ask Hax what to do about it:

“Now that both my children are at home, I noticed the attitude and behavior of my 6 year old is very different and clearly my sister runs her household much more relaxed then I do, with more processed foods, no set meal times, and lax bed times. My 6 year old is strongly resisting getting back into the routine of our house. I approached my sister asking her more about her household, and she made a comment about how the last year was hard on their family, and she had to cut some corners. This made me see red. The last year was hard on HER?! My child was in the hospital for a year with a rare illness and she thinks last year was difficult for them? We ended up getting into a huge argument, and a lot of things were said that we’re highly emotional.”

I think we’ve all seen enough parental sanctimony for alarm bells to start going off when someone says, “I approached my sister asking her more about her household” and then a huge fight breaks out. The letter writer didn’t innocently show up asking for more information; she showed up on a white horse named Judgment to pick apart the sister’s “relaxed household” and “processed food,” and all this happened after the sister took in a stressed-out five-year-old for a solid year just to help her family through a serious crisis.

Welcoming another child into one’s home for an extended period of time is no small feat, especially when that child is dealing with a sick sibling; distracted, worried parents; and living in a whole new household for a whole year. Yes, this situation was unimaginably difficult on the parents, but it was also difficult for the five-year-old and for the aunt and her family as well. For the mother to show up after the fact and complain because this monumental favor sometimes involved the aunt making do with pizza bagels or a missed bedtime is just unconscionable. The fact that the aunt did all that without complaining, until the mother showed up to criticize the aforementioned pizza bagels, makes her sound like a big damn hero in my book.

The letter writer owes her sister a huge apology and a lot of thanks, and will probably be eating organic, free-range crow for a while.