As a pseudo-barista at the fast food equivalent of a café, I’m well acquainted with failure. I contribute to society only as a pair of minimum-wage hands, and my customers never let me forget there are drinks on the menu more valuable than an hour of my labor—in market terms, a single gulp of espresso is equal to fifteen minutes of my dumb ass lifting and unloading crates of Iced Lemon Pound Cakes. So know that I don’t presume to pass judgment from some intellectual or ethical high ground.
I am but a humble failure, looking out across the counter and seeing in you, the parent, a reflection of myself: that dull, idiot reflection that can’t seem to realize how horrifically it’s fucking up. I’ve tried to ignore it. God knows I’ve tried. I ignore so many of the horrible things I see here. The middle-aged man removing his ring as he waits for his mistress. The puddles of bulimia and the discarded pregnancy tests. The insistence that we “just smile and nod” when the customers refer to the black barista as “boy.” The man who, angry he could not cut in line, whipped out his dick and pissed on the floor just to watch me clean it up.
In a world with painkillers and Jameson and a wonderful, beautiful partner, I can come close to forgetting these things. But you’re so consistent and flagrant that I just can’t ignore it anymore. It breaks my heart to see you failing this way. Failing your children! And I would mop the piss of every bulimic philandering bigot forever if you would only realize:
Your child does not need a latte.
That’s all. I’m not asking you to give up meat or care about Darfur. All I’m asking—all we’re asking, the people who will one day share a workplace and a world with the living sum of your parental decisions—is that you stop feeding your children fancy coffee drinks. As proud as you might be of your eight-year-old daughter totally nailing your order of two (triple / grande / three-pump white mocha / two-pump toffee nut / non-fat / no foam / extra whip / extra drizzle) mochas, it doesn’t change the fact that what you’re giving your child is an energy bomb dumped in an obesity drink. Please reconsider.
Please remember this an hour from now, when the store has to watch you yell at your daughter to sit still, to focus on her homework, to stay in her seat. Please give it some thought while you drag her by the wrist to the back seat of your SUV. Please don’t forget it at the parent-teacher conference, when you find out your daughter is having trouble focusing, or at the therapist’s office, when you discover that the way she often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat / often leaves seat in situations in which remaining seated is expected / often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly / often is “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor,” / often talks excessively means she meets the DSM-IV bullet points for hyperactivity and might warrant consideration for ADHD medication. After you flatten the affect of your beautiful, wonderful child, please remember:
Your child does not need a latte.
How many sodas did your mom let you drink in a day when you were a kid? One? Two? Three?! Three is too many and makes me think you had a fat mom. A single Coke has 35mg of caffeine, and remember how buzzed you felt after a couple of those? Right? Like you could kick off your Jordans and your Starter jacket and just moonwalk right across your stupid teacher’s desk?! That’s because children don’t have the same tolerance for caffeine that a latte-buying parent like yourself might. So can you imagine how your daughter feels when she downs a medium latte and the 150mg of caffeine it contains? We’re talking five bottles of soda. We’re talking more than twice the federally recommended 62.5mg daily limit on caffeine intake for 7 to 9-year-old children. In a single drink. That your child hasn’t started shooting lightning from her over-caffeinated fingers like the emperor from Star Wars is a small miracle.
And don’t think that because a Frappucino resembles a milkshake with its whipped cream and chocolate drizzle that it’s somehow an innocent alternative. I realize your daughter looks adorable scooping spoonfuls of whipped cream from her Java Chip Frappucino—nobody’s arguing that—but she’s drinking twice the recommended daily sugar intake for a normal-sized human and over 100mg of caffeine. Has parenting become so stress-free and routine that you’re looking to ramp up the difficulty? Is your daughter on the way to visitation with your ex? Is this a vengeance-Frappucino? Because how do you not realize that:
Your child does not need coffee in any form.
Maybe it’s nothing malevolent. You’re at the coffee place on the way to school and work and it’s early and you want to get something for your kid because it makes her happy, and you love it when she’s happy, and you love it when she hugs your leg with those tiny grateful arms and says thank you! because it makes you die a little in the very best way. Maybe that’s it. And I get it, I really do. I’ve done any number of shameful things for the affections of a cute somebody. But this is hurting your child. This is making her die a little in the very worst way, and the smiles you buy here won’t help with her insulin resistance, or remove the extra weight, or erase the memories of all that yelling. How happy will she be when she enters middle school overweight and addicted to Adderall? Please don’t start your child down a road that leads to young adult novels and the comments section of internet magazines. For all our sakes.
Try something different for a while. You’ll be a few bucks richer, your kid will be less of a handful, her teachers will hate themselves a bit less, the grass will be greener and the sky bluer and the sun warmer and, I dunno, that’s just how it feels for me, the loser psuedo-barista, every time a parent brings a box of apple juice and a banana to the register. So do that.
Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a hobo showering in the men’s room and I need to make sure he hasn’t stolen any Mumford and Sons CDs.