Let Them Eat Cake. . . or Whatever: Food and the Family


20140625-103925-38365945.jpgTo maintain my clinical social work license, I have to attend a certain number of trainings every two years.

Some of them are inspiring and really help me grow as a clinician and a human, like the training I attended on LGBTQQ issues.

Other trainings suck up eight hours of my life and make me itch from the inside out.

The training I attended on Food Addiction was one of the latter.

I suspected it was going to suck balls, but I really needed six more continuing ed units so I could renew my license and stay employed.

For the record, I went with the attitude that maybe it would be super interesting once I got there.

It was not.  It sucked balls from the get go.

The first presenter was a nutritionist who spoke about gut health, and for a moment, I was excited to hear what she had to say about bacteria and micro biomes.  But once she started preaching about how we were all going to hell as a species if we let our kids eat cake at a birthday, or a jelly bean at Easter, I realized she was way too orthodox for my taste.  (Get it, “taste”?  See what I did there?  Thanks, I’ll be here all week.)

She lost me entirely when she stated that autism could be totally “cured” with “proper” gut health (don’t even get me started on that one),  and that it was “crazy” for a colicky infant to be on acid blockers.

Ummm. . .  I had a baby who was wicked colicky and was on medication for it.  Does that make me “crazy”?  Did I screw up my kid without knowing it before he was even a month old? Am I a horrible mom?

I couldn’t resist sticking up my hand to ask these questions, a bit ironically, because I already knew the answers.

No.  No.  And JUST NO!

I am not crazy, and I did not screw up my kid.  Well, I’m sure I’ve screwed up my kids, but let’s be honest, we all do that as parents because we are human and we make mistakes.  It doesn’t mean we are bad parents, or that our kids won’t get into Brown and become super productive and kind humans.

I go to these trainings, and my social worker ears hear stuff and my social worker brain thinks, “Umm hmm. . .  Okay, fair enough.”

But my mom ears hear stuff and my mom brain thinks, “HOLY CRAP!!!  I am doing everything wrong and now my kids are going to suffer horrible lives because they didn’t eat kiwi and avocado as their first foods!”

Then I get a grip and think about all the things I do well, and how loving and bright my kids are.

And I think it might be okay.

I’m not knocking anyone else’s nutritional choices, per se, although I may cringe when I see toddlers drinking bright blue “juice” in their sippy cups.

I am in complete agreement that we eat way too much processed food as a society, and it causes massive health problems.  I buy organic when it is available and my wallet can handle it.  I also limit Happy Meals and encourage fresh choices at home.

A super strict approach just isn’t for me, personally.  It also doesn’t work for my family.

Some folks, including the presenter at that training, believe everyone in every family should eat the same thing as everyone else in the family at every meal.  If this works for a family, that’s great.  Back when I was a perfect mom– i.e., before I had kids and when I was pregnant –I was of the same mind.

Then I had said children and shit got real.

My son is an incredibly picky eater.  He is well nourished, muscular, active, and growing like he is meant to.  But there are like four foods he really likes to eat, and he won’t eat vegetables, so we feed him tons of fruits to give him vitamins.

We’ve tried, believe me we’ve tried.  We did all the “right” things to encourage healthy eating, including offering foods multiple times, and being strict about eating what’s on the table.  And we continue to offer all the choices, limit sweets,  and encourage him to explore flavors and textures, but we are not strict about it anymore.

Some nights, my husband and I eat what I cook and my son eats peanut butter and jelly.  Or yogurt.  Or fruit, veggie burger, spaghetti o’s. . .  you get the picture.  (Oh wait, that’s actually more than four things.  Hey!  I win!)

My daughter is not as fussy, and she will usually eat what we have, but if she wants peanut butter and jelly, so be it.

Look.  I spend so much time away from my children as a working mom.

So when we are together, I pick my battles.

I pick my battles very carefully.

If it isn’t a major safety issue, or some really important life lesson, I try my best to let it go.  This does not come naturally for me, because I do tend to be anxious and rigid.  So when I feel the hard interpersonal work I’ve struggled with is being challenged, I feel anxious and oppositional, as I did at that conference.

In the long run, I’ve decided I don’t want to fight at the dinner table, when we are able to be there together, and I’ve made peace with this decision.

So, if we are eating four different meals, I don’t give a tiny rat’s pooper, so long as we are together and doing our best to enjoy each other’s company.

I refrained from sticking up my hand and getting defensive about this at the conference.  As I sat there, in agitated silence both as an incensed mom and a bored social worker, I comforted myself by being pretty sure my kids would not develop eating disorders or food addictions as a result of my slip shod dietary practices. I used to be really fussy too, and I’ve grown to have an incredibly diversified palate, so I have faith we are all gonna’ make it.

It gave me an opportunity to examine how sensitive I/we can be as moms when we hear something that a.) we do not like, or b.) makes us feel like we are parenting wrong because our kids are munching on cake at birthday parties, and frequently enough in between.

It also reminded me that food and the family is as loaded an issue as the most amazing baked potato can be.

As parents, we work so hard to nourish our babies bodies, minds, and spirits.  It is frightening to feel your child is hungry, or not getting what they need.  Ever have trouble breastfeeding, or talk to a mom who has?  I rest my case.

I jotted down some of these pointers on the evaluation forms they gave us at the end of the conference.  Then, I pretty much got on with my life and ordered a couple pizzas to bring home to the fam.

Does your family have food issues?  Have your feeding choices ever been challenged as a parent?  How did you handle it?  

6 responses »

  1. That is the WORST kind of presenter…the kind that uses a captive audience to espouse their own personal (and apparently rather ignorant) biases. I’m glad you took advantage of the opportunity to speak the truth through the eval.

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