The power of choice

I had started writing a post a couple weeks back about my experience camping with 20 other families and the food they served. I never ended up publishing it because it seemed, well a little too judgmental. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t find ways to express myself in a respectful manner towards the way some people feed their children. After countless times, I decided to just stop writing and reflect really what it was I wanted to say. And what it came down to is that, as a relatively new parent, I am still trying to find ways to raise my children as healthy as possible in a world where processed foods and sugar is a staple in most homes and at most social events.

While I can sit there and point fingers on how terrible it is to give your kids sugary boxed cereal for breakfast and processed meats with pre-sliced bread for lunch, the truth remains the same: pointing fingers won’t make the junk food go away nor will it make me a better parent. Although I have made it one of my goals as a mother to raise my children to have strong immune systems, to rarely get sick, to eat their vegetables and have a healthy upbringing, other people have different goals set for their kids. And I am no one to say their goals aren’t as valuable as mine. They are just different. I value health over anything else as I believe physical health to be the foundation for a happy, productive, energetic life. While I spend hours in my kitchen in order to accomplish that, other families will spend hours at museums or educational venues to teach their kids about other life values. (Not that you can’t do both).

Although I am aware I do things differently than  most parents, and I have accepted the fact that I am a minority when it comes to being this health conscious with my family, it has been a struggle for me to feel completely comfortable with the amount of junk food food that is served every time we are out. And we have a very social life, so we are out often. Typically I let my daughter have some juice and dessert, or cookies, when we are at events, constantly reminding myself that as long as I feed her well at home, she has a good foundation for her health. But still, I remained annoyed that she would have so much sugar just because we weren’t at home, and a part of me was not okay with that. In addition, my daughter is not one to turn down sweets or to ever feel like she had enough (I’ve tried letting her keep her bag of Halloween candy hoping she would get sick of it, but no). I’ve been feeling helpless at these parties because I do not want to be the parent telling her kid no all the time while she is watching other kids indulge. Until tonight. My daughter graduated pre-school tonight (she’s going to kindergarten!!!) and there was a potluck afterwards. As usual the amount of sugar at the dessert table was overwhelming, and the juice boxes were flowing. I was bracing myself for yet another night of over indulging. When it dawned on me, I need to give her choices. Kids do GREAT with choices. Typically with choices, it’s a win-win (at least for me, until she catches on that both choices are in my favor most of the time). I caught my daughter before she punctured the juice box with the straw and I told her, “You can either have the juice box now, or you can have dessert after dinner, which one do you want?” She put down the juice box. Luckily I have a kid who eats most of her vegetables, so after serving her a good helping and she ate it, she asked for dessert. I took her to the overflowing dessert table, and told her, “You get ONE. Pick whichever one you want and that’s it”. She picked the one that most appealing to the eye and went on her merry way with no complaints. The party ended and she didn’t come back once asking for more treats. I was impressed. And somewhat surprised. How had I not thought of this before? I use the “Do you want this or this?” method at home for many things with great success, and somehow, not until tonight had it occurred to me to use it for sugar when we are out.

I know this is the first night, and I am staying open to the fact that this might not work every time, but for now I feel successful, and my daughter came home talking happily about her monkey shaped cake pop.

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