Even though I am doing the very best I can for my kids’ health, even though I run a health-oriented web site and write books and speak all over the U.S., full time……even though there is no junk food in my house….I cannot control everything my children eat.
“Controlling” what the kids eat is a really great idea when kids are young. It is a word mostly excised from your vocabulary, as the kids get older. I control the food that I purchase and make, still. I don’t buy junk food. But “control” what teenagers eat away from home? No can do.
I certainly will not compete for “Most Favored Parent Status” (ask any divorced parent about that game, which I refuse to play) by turning into Pop-Tart Mom.
These are ways I remain happy despite the fact that I sometimes have to watch my children being fed a meal of Skittles and hamburgers. Despite that fact that I can’t influence their father and his wife to stop feeding them harmful chemicals.
I remind myself that I have done the best I could, and I have educated my kids about what I know. This dramatically increases the likelihood that they’ll have a healthy lifestyle for life despite living in a polarized “food schizophrenia” now. My one child who does not live with me comes home while she’s at athletic camps or tryouts, so I can feed her well, for energy and peak performance. This is initiated by her, not me.
I take some satisfaction in knowing that, while they tell me they often don’t have healthy options when they’re not with me, and I know not all their choices are good ones, on the other hand, they know what’s good and bad and they make better choices than the rest of America. All four of my kids love salad. They all love fruit. They are not afraid of green food.
(That said? Last night a friend brought us his “raw soup.” It was pea pods, red peppers, cucumbers, and avocado blended smooth. I thought it was fine. The kids didn’t like it but the oldest two just ate it. The third gave me some grief.
The fourth? He wailed and sobbed, he gagged, choked, begged, pretended to puke, rolled his eyes back in his head, claimed he was going to die, begged for salt, then cycled through all those tactics again. Ridiculous. I told him to get up and walk away, several times, but he wanted the whole-wheat zucchini bread his sister was making, so he stuck it out. And he curled up in my lap, after, and cried as if he was made to eat a bowl of wiggling termites on Fear Factor.
I tell you this so you’re reminded that I’m a Mom In the Trenches, too. Makes for some good laughs later, though! The drama could win an Oscar. This boy of mine is officially the most emotional human I’ve ever known.)
The point is, the rewards aren’t all being achieved right now. It pays off over a lifetime, to teach our kids while they’re in our home, what good nutrition is. And then practice it right in front of them, making good choices ourselves.
After all, I had wonderful examples in my parents and my maternal grandparents. And yet I spent the entire decade of my 20’s eating mostly junk.
I have observed that my friends who are the most open minded to what I feed them when they come over (sprouted, living, raw stuff) always tell me how their moms baked homemade whole-wheat everything, and juiced carrots and celery or made green drinks, and shopped at a health food store.
And my friends who won’t try anything and make funny faces because they say “I have a strong gag reflex!” or whatever? They’re universally the ones who were raised on the Standard American Diet.
Some of the benefits of my children having a good example, a lot of childhood education, and far better nutrition than other kids in America transcend the nutrition they get today. They will be adults who aren’t squeamish and avoidant of natural colors (like green!) and textures and new foods. Flax crackers and baby-turnip stir-fry and edamame for a snack and raw-vegetable soup will seem like home, instead of crazy-people food.
These are ways, mostly self-talk, that I find helps me not hyperventilate about things I cannot do anything about related to my kids’ nutrition. Gone are the days that I can take alternative treats to the pre-school teacher and ask the children’s organization at church not to feed my kids candy. My kids will make their own way and make their own choices. Moving more gracefully, rather than less so, into that space of parenting teens and young adults, helps me let go and allows them to learn from experience.
If you have tips, I’m sure some single moms would appreciate more of them!