Of all the benefits I receive from my kids returning to school, the one that ranks highest is the control I regain over what they eat since I can pack them whatever I want and they have to choose between eating it or going hungry. Every minute of every day, my kids and I are engaged in
a delicate dance an exhausting tug-of-war over nutrition. On my side are lean proteins, complex carbohydrates derived from whole grains, and green leafy vegetables. On their side are sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and FD&C Blue No. 2.
I feel strongly that one of my most important jobs is to introduce, develop and reinforce healthy habits early so that my kids aren’t playing catch up in adulthood and have to attend Weight Watchers meetings in the stressful weeks leading up to their weddings. With more than a decade’s worth of parenting to back me up, I have found this to be completely impossible.
All of the cards are stacked against me. Kids are born hard-wired for candy, ice cream, chocolate cookies, and flavor-blasted triple X cheddar goldfish crackers, and are driven to obtain them by any means necessary. As a Mom, I get to be the one to fight this powerful innate desire on a daily basis, strangling it and depriving it of oxygen until it surrenders and admits that steamed lemon garlic broccoli is pretty darn good. Most of the time, though, I am the one lying on the ground listless and gasping for breath.
Over the summer, I joined our local pool so that my children could swim. Swimming is cardiovascular exercise disguised as fun, so I thought it would be a win-win. On most days, they would swim for a few minutes, hop out, dry off and promptly ask me for $3 so they could buy a soft serve chocolate ice cream from the snack bar. Being no witch and needing them to just leave me alone already, I would give them the $3 but would watch in disbelief as my last and youngest child – not five minutes after finishing his ice cream – would skip out the front entrance of the pool to the predatory ice cream truck waiting outside for his daily allotment of crybaby gumballs the man inside the truck gives away FOR FREE. How on earth am I to compete with that?
Last night, my kids wouldn’t eat their dinner advertised on Pinterest as child-friendly but did guzzle a half gallon of Gatorade and then rationalize that they are entitled to an ice-pop for dessert since they didn’t have “lunch dessert.” Lunch dessert, in case you are wondering, is the sweet treat you eat after lunch and differs from regular dessert, which is the sweet treat you eat after dinner. “Dessert dessert” is something my kids tried to get from me a few weeks ago, but I am smarter than that.
To be honest, I usually do have ice-pops, cookies, and chocolate of some sort on hand, because as I said before, I am no witch. And I have a husband. Who works from home all the time. But because my children are hard-wired and cannot control themselves, they will eat a month’s worth at one time if I don’t intervene. So, I have been forced to place these treats on shelves eight feet off the ground. This doesn’t really stop them but it does slow them down as they figure out how to get the ladder from the garage into the house.
I think that’s the key – to slow them down. By slowing them down, I give their blood sugar levels a chance to normalize and their brains a chance to comprehend that I only want what’s best for them. Only then will the steamed lemon garlic broccoli have a chance.