We’re all going to hell. Unless Parker saves us.

Dear Friends,

Like every child I know, my daughter Kate developed her own vocabulary as a toddler.  Her name for our cat “Rudy” was “Heidi.” Her word for “swimsuit” was “suitcase.” And her word for “ice cream” was “hamma.” (I know, not even close.) It was a little odd, but we quickly adapted to her dialect and played along.

The one word she never had difficulty with, interestingly, was Wal-Mart. She uttered her first sentence shortly after turning two. We were driving by Wal-Mart and she excitedly exclaimed: “Wal-Mart. Go in. Pay for. Have it!” (By the way, I tried to get Sam Walton’s marketing folks to buy the phrase as their new tagline, but they didn’t love the spare beauty of it nearly as much as I did.)

And since that day more than 16 years ago, Kate has been an intrepid shopper, accompanying me on nearly every trip I’ve ever made to a retail establishment. When she started driving, I gave her an American Express card with her name on it. I did it mostly out of convenience. I didn’t want to scramble for cash every time she needed gas or school supplies. But what I immediately discovered was that it allowed me to send her to the grocery store on a whim.  Need a gallon of milk? Send Kate. Out of bread? Send Kate. Have a grocery list of 32 items from allspice to yams? Hey, grocery girl! Hit the road, stat!

She is such an enthusiastic grocery shopper that Mr. Mom and I rarely go any more. Of course, the Devil’s Bargain (and there’s always a Devil’s Bargain with your children) is that Kate buys whatever else she wants, parents be damned.

After all those years that Mr. Mom and I fed our kids bean sprouts and whole-grain bread and played Scrooge about soda pop and junk food, our pantry now overflows with every snack food known to the commercial food industry. We’ve stopped asking in an accusatory tone, “Hey! Who bought all these potato chips?!” Instead, we’ve been known to exclaim, “Cool! Fruit Gushers!”

Take a peek at our pantry:

I know. It’s a teenager’s dream. Which probably explains why so many other teenagers hang out at our house. (It could be the ping-pong table, the X-Box Live, the dirt bikes and/or the dirt bike trail out back, but I’m guessing the pantry and the spare refrigerator in the garage stocked with soda pop are the biggest lures.)

And I’m sad to report that Mr. Mom and I have become hearty consumers of Kate’s shopping largesse. I saw him walking around last week carrying a box of donut holes as if he feared setting it down might mean sharing. Last night, he ate the very last Pita Chip not 48 hours after the bag entered our house, and I hadn’t yet tasted a single Parmesan-y flavored morsel. As I type this, I am eating Pringles Dill Pickle Extreme chips.

(They are totally addictive. Do not try them! Unless you’ve just consumed a bag of Fruit Gushers and need a salt chaser. Then totally try them!)

I do feel kinda bad about what this says about us. I mean, Mr. Mom and I both read Fast Food Nation more than a decade ago and became converts. We read Sugar Busters almost 20 years ago and bought our own grain mill so we could bake whole grain bread. We went to the movie theater to see Super Size Me and made Kate go along and endure a lesson on the evil that is McDonald’s. I was Macrobiotic for a year and vegetarian for several long stretches. And we own, yes we own, a copy of the documentary Food, Inc.

(Haven’t heard of it? Good lord, click here. Then prepare to lose your appetite.)

We have been walking-talking nutrition proselytizers, now shamed by the seduction of an accommodating teenager and the lure of packaged food.

The only upside is that Kate goes to college in a few months and we’ll be back to fending for ourselves, grocery wise.  I can only pray we lose a few pounds and save a few dollars. (Note to self: revoke American Express card before she leaves town.)

By the way, I have no fear that Parker will pick up where Kate leaves off. His ability to side-step anything resembling effort is legendary. He wouldn’t walk across the room to hand us a donut, much less drive to the store to buy us one.

With gratitude {for my son’s tough love in the face of so much temptation},

Joan, who once convinced her small children to eat tofu by calling it “cheese” but now hides the Cheese-Its under her bed as an act of conservation