January 27, 2005

The Slow Creep of Commonality

All of sudden you wake up one day and you realize that your good intentions and convictions have gone past you and you are just living your life the "normal" way. It did not happen in a way you were conscious of, it did not even appear to be happening and you did not realize it until it was over. This is what has recently happened in our family with regards to nutrition.

Those of you who have known me for years know that I have some pretty strong convictions about nutrition and the food we eat. When it was just Serona, Rhia and I we were VERY good about eating proper nutrition and eating the "right things". I can remember not understanding why others would not make the simple choices that we were making for their own families. I could not understand what parents were offering their kids as snacks and why my own would eat healthy snacks and like them. This attitude of judgment continued after I had Ciaran as well. Then something happened, and I find myself with a kitchen that includes Teddy Grahams, Honeycombs, apple juice and pudding! To many of you this may seem like no big deal but to us when we realized it was a big deal.

For years I have been very into organic food and feeding kids whole foods and healthy snacks. I even gave a talk about how to get your children to eat healthier things. I called it moving beyond Goldfish, which for some reason seems to be the child snack food of choice. Then we started spending a lot of time around other kids and I found myself getting a guilty mom complex and my actions weakened while I knew my convictions were true.

You can only make your kids eat fruit leathers and tofu so long while others are eating chips, candy, and cookies all around you. The kids start to balk and you start to question your right to withhold those things from them. I found my standards weakening just a little bit at a time. First it was letting them share some of what their friends had brought, then it was buying some special things to have just at those times when we would be with friends who were having them. Then suddenly it became picking it up to have as treats around the house. It took Serona gently chastising me for some of my purchases for me to wake up and realize what we had been doing.

I balked at first, saying I only got this as a treat. Then he gently showed me all the "only as a treat" things I had recently purchased. It was when he helped me realize that I was allowing Sirah to have things like juice and pudding at 18 months that I realized what had happened. I would so rarely have let Rhia or Ciaran have these things that seem to becoming part of Sirah's diet. I know I need to loosen up some from our strict standards but we have moved far beyond that point. It was a slow creep but we are at the point now where it will quickly devolve into more if it is not curtailed.

I don't want you to get the impression that our children will never be allowed to have treats, but rather that I need to get back into the habits I once was in. A positive step this week. When we were in the grocery store (a mistake to begin with) for a treat I allowed each child to pick one item from the produce aisle. They were so excited. Rhiannon came home with a cantelope stuffed with grapes and Ciaran with a whole pineapple. It was better than chocolate to them and they can't wait to share them with us as a family.

I also don't want you to get the impression that I am judging your family or your choices, I am not. I have many friends who make very different choices for their families and feel they are the right choices. I totally respect that and feel strongly that each family needs to make the decisions that are best for them and other families are not likely to understand them. Especially in areas where morality is not at stake, people are truly free to choose whatever is best for them. This criticism is placed squarely on my own shoulders as Serona and I have made choices for our family with good reasons behind them and I have let them slip away slowly until I no longer recognize myself in this area.

I have to remember there are alternatives and more common ground than jumping to the Teddy grahams, goldfish, and candy. We can still have healthy treats, and it is not that they take more time or effort, just that you need to remember to do them and then stand up to the pressures around you. I have found that the problem is not so much my kids as it is my own guilt as a mother.

Part of me wants to allow them to enjoy what other kids do. Yet the bigger part of me needs to remember the reasons we made the choices we did in the first place. Do I really want them to be like everyone else? No, I do not. There are good reasons we have decided to be vegetarians, eat organic food, avoid pop and juice, not watch TV and eat healthier food. I need to remember them, be strong and teach my children the reasons behind the decisions we have made so they can embrace them as well. There are many advantages to the choices we have made and I need to keep them in perspective when the downsides rear their heads.

It is interesting to me that I have found this so easy to do when it comes to television and being a vegetarian, and yet in this one area it seems to have been a struggle for me. I know some of it is the convenience factor, much of it is becoming lax, and just a small part of it is wanting to give my kids what everyone else seems to have. But nutrition is an important area for our family and I need to reclaim and retrain my family in this area, starting with myself of course.

Now do we throw out the Teddy Grahams and cherry pie or eat it first?



  1. Oh, Tenn. You are SO right about the comment you made:

    "I have found that the problem is not so much my kids as it is my own guilt as a mother."

    This is exactly my problem...the guilty mom syndrome. I fall victim to walking through the grocery aisles and thinking, "If I were a good mom, a cool mom, I would buy this and take it home to my adoring children." I once bought Mountain Dew as a "treat" for a holiday meal, and my thirteen-year-old son deemed me "finally cool." That ego's a tough one to overcome.

    Yes, some of it is a desire for convenience. But what is more convenient than picking up a nice, crisp apple?

    We, too, had let our standards slip. But we've recogized it and we're on our way back out of the pit.

    I'm glad that you are, too.

  2. Ugh. I'm right there with you. It's hard being a "freak" or a meanie by other's standards. I allow my kids to have some of the junk when we're with others. I have let it into our house too. It's really hard to live so differently than others, but it is worth it.

  3. Hi Tenn,
    Though not as strict as yours, I do have some nutritional convictions that I try to live by and was also shocked recently at what I was feeding the baby! It really shows how your standards have slipped when you compare what third baby eats to what first baby ate! Count your blessings that your dh is on the same page as you, I fight mine on issues of 16 mos olds getting bottles and whether sugar cereal has a place in our house.
    Good luck shaping up the nutrition at your house, but since we're not there yet, we'll take the teddy grahams and cherry pie! :)