Ok, this is my own blog, so I can vent here. One thing I don’t understand—in this culture, or on a more individual basis—is eating healthy. There is so much hypocrisy and bondage when it comes to eating, that I don’t know how we expect to raise healthy children.
Take the moms who, as I mentioned in an earlier post, brag that their child never had a taste of formula. This would be an ok boast, I suppose, if it filtered down into their child never having a cupcake. But I bet that same mom gave them junk food on their first or second birthday! So why brag about never having formula? Is formula worse than cake? I’m not sure I would want to say that.
There’s also confusion in my son’s preschool curriculum. At the same time they are teaching kids about using healthy ingredients in cooking class (i.e. they made apple pizza one day), they get them all excited about making Kool-aid playdoh, having ice cream sandwiches at the end-of-year picnic, celebrating birthdays (yes, with cupcakes), and playing Dunkin Donuts ordering schemas for language therapy. I’m doubtful the kids are going to get the message right.
Most women’s magazines are rife with self-contradictory messages too. In ten pages of the same Woman’s Day, you can find an article on heart disease encouraging women to eat healthy, recipes for fruit and veggie smoothies, encouragement for kids to get outside so they avoid childhood obesity, and ads for natural farm-grown pistachios… AND an article on how you need to indulge yourself because life is hard, recipes for Oreo pie, encouragement that your kids will love Christmas because of all the cooking that comes with it, and ads for Handi-snacks and Dove chocolate. How can we hear such both-sided messages and come away with anything except schizophrenia?
It’s impossible, and our culture reflects it. And it seems to me that while the healthy is getting healthier, the unhealthy is also getting unhealthier. On one hand we have more healthy options than we ever have before, including such novel things as veggie fries (which are pretty good!). And if you pick up a book on keeping your children healthy, you will probably get overwhelmed with suggestions about how to do it: organic fruit, vegan diets, reverse osmosis water, natural gardening, avoiding plastic containers, using all-natural soaps, wearing linen clothing, etc. Who can do all this and still fit into normal life? Is it really true that your kids can find tomatoes and cauliflower a good afternoon snack?
But if you don’t make any effort to keep your children healthy, and you allow them to just drift along in “normal life,” they will be surely bombarded with unhealthy options: grocery store packaged food, McDonalds for errand days, cake at preschool, candy from the bus driver, lollipops at Sunday School (my two year old even gets gummy bears for saying his Bible verse), food ads all over TV, and of course the normal holiday or celebratory cooking at home. Add this to tidal flood of cool computer games, video systems, television, online media, and “safe” activities indoors, and you get one obese, unhealthy kid.
And so we are back to schizophrenia. We want our kids to fit into normal life without making it too weird or difficult to maintain (i.e. eating is NOT the main task of childhood, or the main priority of motherhood). And yet we want our kids to be separate from the trends of normal life because we want them to be happy, prosperous, and full of years. We know they’ll end up with heart attacks or cancer like everyone else if they continue the American route, by default.
And, the straw that breaks the camel’s back is, of course, the schizophrenia in many of our personal lives. How many women are on a diet but can’t forsake their chocolate? Working out but addicted to coffee? I know I am, at almost any given time. How many of us fear bad eating habits in our children, but don’t have great ones ourselves? Or want them to grow up healthy but don’t take care of ourselves? This hypocrisy can be hid for awhile when the kids are young, but eventually it will come back to bite us. Even a four year old is able to sense injustice if you say no grape juice but they find out you like candy bars… It takes only a brief interlude into Sugarland to know what foods belong in which category, and which ones everyone else but them gets to eat! Even if they’ve never even had them before.
So how to solve the problem? I am stumped. I admit I still haven’t figured out how to delicately tread the balance of separation from the world’s system without being weird. I have experimented with several different philosophies, and none of them have stuck permanently. School, grandparents, parties, and playdates with other children are usually the biggest culprits. (Most moms I meet seem to carry an entire grocery store just to the local playground =) But right now I am currently trying to stress healthy eating as a rule (the main diet), but not worry about what other people give them. That used to really bother me because of the frequency of intrusion into my healthy desires. But I am realizing I can’t change other people, only myself. And I don’t want to make my kids weird. Or deprived and then secretly lustful. Besides, I am lucky enough to feed them the majority of their meals. So while my kids have now dabbled into the sinful world of cookies and candy—one even had formula as a baby, as I have talked about elsewhere, oh no!!—and they may occasionally resent the food they get at home (at least, the first home-cooked meal after a good sugary one somewhere else), that’s the way America admittedly is… always a place or event to break the rules! And I personally still enjoy that surprise muffin or bagel at the dry cleaner’s. So for now, I guess I’ll have to live with it.
At least, until I change my mind again =)