The pang in my chest caught me by surprise as son three said after school one day, kids at school had been laughing at him.
‘Why?’ I demanded. I was ready to rip into the school for allowing those kids to laugh at my gorgeous guy and into those mocking tweeters, and anyone else around me that dared say a word.
‘Because we don’t have a microwave,’ he smiled and half rolled his eyes. ‘They want to know how we heat up food.’
My mouth dropped. I didn’t know how to respond.
‘My friends laugh at me too,’ said son two. ‘Because we don’t have a microwave. We’re the only ones that don’t!’
‘And we still have a T.V. that has a big bulge in the back,’ chimed in son one, stealing my attention from son two. ‘My friends laugh at me for that! And my grey runners. Everyone else has coloured ones.’
I looked at the three boys sitting around the dining table, peeling the melted dark chocolate that coated the fruit cake I’d baked on the weekend and eating that before the cake. They seemed happy enough. I didn’t think they were too concerned.
‘And one kid in class wanted to know why I was eating two apples,’ said son three, licking his chocolate. ‘I could eat three!’
‘I want to know when we can go on a holiday and relax on a beach, like in a resort.’
Poor kids! What have I done to them? But no. As a parent, I’ve done what I believe to be right. ‘Well, microwaves are no good,’ I said. ‘They kill off all the good stuff when you heat things up.’
The nurse’s voice resonated clear in my head, telling me when I had son one to never use a microwave to defrost and warm stored breast milk from the freezer because the microwave would damage the milk. She gave me research to read that outlined how a microwave changes the milk’s composition and causes a loss of nutrients and important immunological properties found in it. I deduced from that, that if a microwave can alter breast milk, it must change the properties of other foods too and so I never bought a microwave.
The three boys looked at me, smirking while eating, as if enjoying seeing me squirm at their interrogation.
‘And the T.V., well, it still works doesn’t it. Why buy another one if this one still works? That’s just a waste.’
‘We never get to have tiny teddies or shapes for school,’ said son two. ‘I haven’t got any good stuff to trade at lunchtime! No-one wants sour dough bread for lunch, except for Ticky. He loves it. But I haven’t got anything else good I can trade.’
The way he’s scoffing into the cake now that he’s finished the chocolate coating, I don’t think he’d want to trade his cake with anyone, that’s for certain! ‘I give you brain food,’ I said. ‘You know that. You all studied the brain at school and understand what it needs.’ They’re smart enough to know that.
They begin talking about a teacher at school and I drift into my own thoughts. They’re not bothered by not having those things and I think in a way, they like standing out as not being the same or one-of-the-crowd. They reek of individuality, in their sourcing of clothes from nonstandard shops like op shops and in their confidence to say no to their friends at a time when peer pressure is at its greatest. They’re not afraid to have friends from all walks of life.
As a parent, I do the best I can to raise my children and give them opportunities to experience, such as to travel around Europe and Asia as backpackers and not as tourists, or grow plants from seeds to pick their own beans, mandarins and apples, and to collect fresh eggs from our chooks. All parents give their own opportunities to their children. And our parents did the same for us.
It’s just that my experiences for my children happen to include learning to cook and heat food in a pot or in a conventional oven, and sometimes over a coal fire while camping.