I am annoyed, supremely annoyed. Though I would love to present my voice in a more gentle, polite manner regarding this issue, I am afraid that I find it impossible to do so.
I am tired of swimming upstream on the issue of healthy food vs. junk food!
I fear I have no choice. If I am not the broken record in my children's life, then who will be? Society? Ha! That ship has sailed. Americans think it perfectly normal to eat petroleum products and drink liquid diabetes. When people learn that our youngest has never been to McDonald's and our eldest two have been there exactly once (when I was in the hospital giving birth to the youngest), they are less than impressed. "How will they ever relate to their peers?" they wonder. Gee, I don't know. Maybe they could talk about a book they enjoy or they could run around together on the beach. Or they could play? That is what kids do.
How about church? Surely our church, our mostly wonderful church that embraces beliefs from all of the major world religions, religions that believe such things as our bodies being a temple (Christianity) and that mental and physical fitness must be stressed (Sikhism), walks the walk and serves healthy food? Not so much. Not only is the kids' table at coffee hour chock full of such delectables as donut holes and fish crackers, but each and every time I have broached the issue of serving healthy food to at least the kids, I have been politely poo-pooed (to be fair, I have yet to discuss this with our newest coordinator). It is, after all, convenient for some to have the kids happily huddled around a sugar pit so that the adults might chat without interruption.
I hit the web searching desperately for some support and find the comments of parents bashing another parent who does not let their child drink soda. Again, it's the "everybody's doing it" argument and "It's perfectly normal" discourse. I wonder how they will feel about those arguments when their kids explain away their recreational drug use or drunk driving in the same way.
Now, some of you might be laughing hysterically, ready to comment that I am an "idiot" (apparently a favorite exhortation of soda supporters regarding soda haters on the web). "Did she really just equate drinking soda with using drugs and drunk driving?" No, I did not. Read it again. I am equating the mindset that since everyone else is doing it, it must be okay with a natural decline into making poor choices, such as recreational drug use and driving drunk. Is that really an argument you want to use in deciding what is healthy and what is not healthy for your children? "Everybody else does it." "You don't want your kids to feel left out." "You don't want your kids to be different."
Here's the thing. I do want my kids to be different. Mostly, I want them to be different than me. I grew up on Twinkies. I lost my first tooth in a Hostess Ding Dong. Every lunch of every day of my high school career was a huge bag of Ranch-flavored Corn Nuts and a Coke (Saccharine-laced for the latter two years). And so, ironically, I have also spent my entire adult life feeling left out. It's no fun wearing a cover-up on the beach, no fun being on a constant diet when everyone else gets to eat the brie at the party, and no fun walking the 5K while runners rush by (And don't think for a minute that a teen with a fast metabolism who is eating junk but is still thin is getting off scott free. Their health is still suffering and their metabolism will someday slow down).
If you really think your kid is fitting in nicely because they eat every Oreo handed to them and every Dorito set out for a snack, ask them how much energy they have during the day. Ask them how tired they are during their afternoon sports. Ask them how clearly they are able to concentrate during fifth period, the one right after lunch, and how well they sleep. Or maybe they don't know the difference and that's okay with you because you so desperately want to protect them from being different.
So then, let's address this popular argument: "They are going to do it anyway and they will rebel someday." Let's go ahead and apply that to some other aspects of a child's life. Here are a few: "If you require your kids do their homework or study, they are just going to rebel and never work hard at anything." "If you don't let your kids drive without a license, they are just going to do it anyway." "If you tell your child they should never shoplift, they are just going to do it in secret anyway."
And, you know what? They might do it in secret. That doesn't make it okay to abdicate your parenting responsibilities. At least, when they are walking into McDonald's with their teen-aged buddies on their own time, they have the seeds of a conscious rattling around in their brains. At least they know that you feel concerned about how they are treating their bodies. They know that you care enough about them to not want them to eat junk food. At least they grow up very well aware that there are problems with certain behaviors and choices and, though possibly unpleasant, they will have to eschew them in favor of things like staying alive. Every person I know who grew up in a home where their parents emphasized healthy heating now eat healthily, even if they did enjoy a short culinary rumschpringe at some point (while those of us who grew up where healthy eating was not a priority just continue eating junk until something like our health or our self-esteem gets in the way).
Finally, let's talk about their little taste buds. The desire for the likes of high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated fats, Monosodium Glutamate, and Disodium Inosinate is not innate. No child is born craving these. They are taught to crave them. If you really want your kids to eat healthy foods, don't introduce them to these flavors. They might get them outside of the home, but at least you can control what comes into your family kitchen. The less they eat of these types of Frankenfoods, the less they will desire them. And if you use the argument that your kids won't eat anything else, I am going to scream. Trust me, if your child is hungry enough because those options are not available to them, they WILL learn to eat other foods. If your son preferred not to brush his teeth, would you give him that option? If your kids preferred to go barefoot even when it is snowing, would you be okay with that? When, as with brushing teeth and dressing appropriately, a child has no other option but the food placed before them, they will eventually eat it.
Guess what, you will not be a bad parent for only giving them that one option. It is how the entirety of humanity has eaten, less a relative few decades.
Having said all this, my children, as well as the children of families I know who also eschew junk food, get plenty of treats. I make them homemade cookies, with real sugar and everything, homemade mac and cheese, with whole food ingredients, and homemade pizza, with a dough that has about 3 pronounceable ingredients. They love them more than anything processed they might try. They also love the Korean vegetable stew we had last night, a tray full of vegetables and hummus, and homemade ice cream made solely from strawberries, bananas, and cashews.
Confronted with junk food any and every time they leave this house, sometimes they feel left out. No doubt, when they are older, they will sometimes rebel. Occasionally, they are burdened by my concerns about their health. I don't care. I am not their binge buddy. I am their mother. I brought them into this world (well, I had help from the birth mother of the elders) and I would like to see them outlive me with energy, vitality, good health, and a hearty dose of critical consciousness.
So sue me.
I write. I knit. I create vegan, gluten-free food. I homeschool my three children, two of whom joined our family through adoption from Haiti. Then I write about it all on my blog, Adventures in Lakeschooling
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