Overprotection Series

On influencing healthy food habits

I Must Remember

I must remember…
Turkey on Thanksgiving,
Pudding on Christmas,
Eggs on Easter,
Chicken on Sunday,
Fish on Friday,
Leftovers, Monday.
But, ah, me –I’m such a dunce.
I went and ate them all at once.
– Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

As I start this post, I want to reiterate the lens I am seeing this issue through. We are a two-parent household with direct access to typical grocers, as well as local farm products. We also grow our own produce in season and have a small flock of laying hens. There are many families that are food-insecure or can only afford “middle aisle” processed (and much less expensive) foods, are home/land insecure or live in parts of our country that are void of fresh food options altogether (food deserts). In taking all of this into account, let’s have a discussion about how we feed our children.

IMG_4477Coming at it from an overprotection angle, I actually see this as a category where overprotection, demonstrated in the form of quietly monitoring food consumption and modeling healthy eating habits, can be a boon to a child’s wellbeing. I state this, however, with a caveat about pressured and/or restricted eating, which can lead to food fussiness and avoidance. In essence, having lots of healthful choices available in your home, within your means, and very few unhealthy choices, leads to healthy learned habits in our children. When they are able to open the refrigerator or pantry themselves and choose foods they find appetizing, and that are also good for them, they develop lifelong practices that will benefit them.

IMG_4335Much easier said than done, however. I, for one, have a sweet tooth like you wouldn’t believe that I am trying desperately to tame for my child’s benefit. I do my best to choose wisely in her presence and share with her how my body feels (for example, a stomachache) when I have made an unhealthy decision myself, not an admonishment to myself about weight or outward appearance. I think the education for healthy eating habits also lies in how we talk about our bodies and having body-positive attitudes. In our house, when we talk about why mom and dad are making a better effort to eat healthier foods, it is framed as helping us feel better, being able to do more, play more and ache less.

The processed foods and sweets are delicious and, let’s be honest, addictive. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t actively fighting this battle internally, but the good news is my 5-year-old has been kept out of this paradigm through very engaged food choices. She also has a sweet tooth and enjoys small treats regularly, but with much more moderation and typically on a full stomach as opposed to unsupervised gorging on an empty stomach. The shelves she can reach in the pantry and fridge are full of healthy choices, so those are what she sees and is able to select from. The treats are up high in cupboards that, for now, are unreachable and seem to remain out of sight, out of mind. So yes, I feel like I fall into the category of overprotection in this realm, but to the benefit of my child’s health.

IMG_7141What are some of the ways you encourage healthful eating in your children? Do you do battle in the grocery store when your child sees all of the cute designs on the processed foods and wants them? Do you stick to a list when shopping or do you stray with your eyes and stomach? Do you include your child in making the grocery list (this is something we do and it seems to work magic!)? Knowing that not all families have the same food availability or luxuries, what are tangible ways to provide the healthiest choices at the least cost and develop good eating practices? What are your go-to healthy snacks for hungry kids? Do you take another approach entirely from what my family does? I would love to hear from you!

Overprotection Series

Breaking the literary bubble

As I begin this series of posts on “overprotecting” our children, I want to clarify that this is more of an ongoing conversation and clearly seen through my lens as the mother of a 5-year-old living rurally in the State of Maine. I recognize that some of the topics I will discuss are not culturally comprehensive and, plainly put, I feel privileged to be able to have some of these choices to make at all. That said, let’s start this analysis in the world of readily available literature in the United States.

fullsizeoutput_89cThe sheer amount of accessible literature here in the U.S. is reason as a parent to rejoice, but also perhaps cringe a bit at the decision-making process of what to bring into the lives of our children. We are presented with older classics that perpetuate stereotypes of women and men, often vilify people of color and present heterosexuality as the only option, but often acutely address misfortune, fear, death, jealousy, anxiety, despair and sacrifice amongst others, versus newer materials that are much more inclusive and less xenophobic, but often relate a sugarcoated reality and don’t help our children work through their emotions, achieve true empathy or bolster coping skills. As I recently read in Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions by Starhawk, Diane Baker and Anne Hill, “Somewhere between the pitfalls of ignorance and appropriate lies the path of cultural education.”

I have an overabundance of children’s fiction and nonfiction from the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, as my own library has been supplemented with hundreds of books from Scholastic and Rigby, for which my mother was a sales representative and accumulated quite a selection. What I am finding as a homeschooling family is that these resources are wonderful, but also deficient and in need of current supplemental materials. They often omit historical facts, are extremely stereotypical in gender roles, mistreat people of color and use terminology that is now outdated. That said, I see them as extremely valuable and use them in what is often referred to as “teachable moments.” I explain why a word is no longer acceptable or how history has proven a theory or policy incorrect or misguided. Many people choose to completely disregard such literature, but I find that to be a disservice to our children. If we brush our historical and societal mistakes under the rug than where is the progress shown? I have found that, even at a young age, my daughter gains deeper appreciation and insight when she recognizes my fallibility as a mother and the same can be said about society as a whole. We are ever-evolving and our progress can only be shown through recognition of our errors and making the choice to do better.

This leads me to questions for anyone reading this. What are some of the past and current books you enjoy with your children? Do you avoid hard topics? Do you use older literature and use the “teachable moments?” Do you strictly stick to new literature? As I said in the beginning of this post, this is mainly a discussion and I would love your input. Please feel free to share in the comments here or at any of my social media outlets. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Overprotection Series

A work in progress

I have had a very hard time quieting my mind and gathering my thoughts as of late. I’ve sat down to write multiple times, only to go off on many tangents and erase all those tiny dancing characters on the screen. I’m planning on doing a series of posts soon on how we, as parents and American society as a whole, are seemingly overprotecting our children (and I am definitely guilty of this) to the detriment of their growth and success. I want to delve into our literature choices, recreational choices, food choices and beyond. For now, I am gathering steam on my (knitting) needles, as I often do when narrowing down my thoughts. Please bear with me and feel free to offer your thoughts here or on any of my social media outlets. Be well.

A picture from this past fall that brings me joy and calm.