First Things

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Terry L. WelchTerry L. Welch

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While I've been looking into dairy collectibles this month, I've been thinking about the way that the American diet has changed. It used to be, many old-timers told me, that the skim milk they would siphon off was just fed back to the cows; considered, for the most part, not fit for human consumption. At least not palatable. Today, you have to look hard just to find real butter and even the clerk at your local market will shoot you a withering look when you toss some eggs and good marbled meat onto the checkout counter.

But, despite our country's lean food obsession, more Americans than ever have weight problems. Even children are fat. Children! I know I'm too young to be experiencing nostalgia, but I can't remember a time when my friends and I would have sat still long enough to gain weight.

Therein lies the problem, say pediatricians. Today's child is much more likely to play video games than baseball, to have a CD player than to be expected to do evening chores.

And the subject of discipline is another matter. In a recent survey, very few parents described their role as parents as the 'teaching of discipline.' When asked to choose from a list of options, the majority said that their job was, instead, to 'nurture' their  children. If you really look at what the word means, you could basically say the same about a tomato plant. Trees should be nurtured. Azaleas should be nurtured. Children should be educated and loved.

All this nurturing hasn't proven to be beneficial for the American family, either. I mean, if this was working, it would be one thing. As it is, family ties seem to be weaker than ever.

So, while looking at the old cream separator ads, I noticed an odd thing. There were children working in those quaint slices of Americana - children turning the crank, children bringing in the milk. Now, I know that these are just ads and are idealized ideas of family, but there might be something to the idea that a family in which work is shared wouldn't only be closer, but also healthier. Fatty meat and milk are no worse for you than lean, if, while watching your diet, you're also watching four hours of television every night.

So maybe, just maybe, the next politician who talks about TV being evil or how we must bring back 'family values' ought to be ignored. Maybe American families need something as simple as a separator to bring them back together.