Parents’ relationship with food as compared to their children’s – Part 3: Our kids are smarter than us

Our kids are so much wiser than us. They are always gracious about other people’s looks but they take good care of theirs. I really wonder how they do that. I need to learn so much from them.

They have always been very supportive of our looks. They probably genuinely like us (we are not that bad looking, after all) or they are really good at acting politely, I don’t know… Take our son, for instance. I have rarely seen people so well-versed when it comes to compliments on looks, as he is. He would complement me and he always sounds so honest like he really, really means it. I highly appreciate that. Or maybe he really means it and I am just too critical of myself. But I am also sure he has drawn his own conclusions deep inside and has obviously made up his mind to keep away from the way his parents are yo-yo-ing with their weight.

We are trying to raise him respecting all his assets – intellectual and otherwise. He has embraced his body image and he has chosen to take good care of the way he looks now and will look in future. I truly envy him for his discipline. He seems so much in control and so steady and rational in his attitude to himself.

He has never come to the thought of using food to punish himself - the way his mom sometimes does when she feels unhappy with herself or everything and everyone around. This one is among the tricky reasons with eating disorders – people punish themselves for things inside or outside themselves by eating food or getting rid of it. 

I am so proud of our son for always being able to do a simple thing I never could -  to stop eating the moment he feels full. He just stops. No matter how “delicious” the dish is, or how long he hadn’t tasted that kind of food, or how passionately the hosts insist on his trying some more of the food served; he never takes that “just one more” bite; he never cares that it is just a small piece left so lonely on his plate. He is full and that’s it. He will take no more.

When George and I were kids in a communist country, we used to often listen to the saying that “everything on the plate should be eaten out, as doing otherwise would be disrespectful to your parents or hosts who had worked hard to supply that food”… Also, another favorite legend:  when you left your last piece of food on your plate, you got warned that “this one was your lucky bite” and … well, you can imagine all evil consequences. So, this was how the model of bingeing all food served on the plate actually got born…

So, George and I were pretty sure we never wanted to make our kids create such stupid habits when it comes to food. The moment they felt like stopping – they should stop eating. Which might sometimes be really tricky, as our daughter would stop after the fifth bite and say she is done. Sometimes she is, sometimes she is not - I have carefully watched her and have discovered that this is her polite way to tell you she does not quite like what she is having. So I would accept that she is full at that point but I should do my best to offer her something tastier in the next hours. Then, the number of bites get significantly larger, and yet she would stop again the moment she feels full.

I have been sometimes accused that I probably “keep her skinny on purpose, in order not to let her follow in my steps". This is so wrong. I just try to let her and her brother create their very own (different from mine) relationship with food for the years to come…

Food should be food. Something of nutritional substance that you live on. Like water. You do not drink water to make you happy or punish yourself with when you are unhappy. Water is water and that is all; it quenches your thirst. This is what food should do with hunger.

Well, I should probably also include the hu-u-u-u-ge problem of people’s laziness when talking about kids’ relationship with food. Being busy is one thing, but being lazy and unwilling to prepare some good food for your kids is another one. I am afraid some people would rather not cook food to their kids as they think this is time and effort consuming process. So they order fast food items instead. Sometimes teenagers have not tasted more that 10-15 varieties of food in their lives, and they will keep that habit for the years to come...

Although busy, we try to do our best to give our kids the chance to taste varieties of homemade food as well as restaurant food, not sticking to "their favorites" only or to "kids' menu". We have tried to introduce various kinds, so they can make their own choices. If they have never tried some type of food – how will they know if they like it or not?

The result is a good one so far. They are open to food-tasting and sometimes surprise friends with their choices when dining out. Our eight-year-old daughter likes items that are not very popular with kids her age. Not everything is highly nutritional in the list of her preferences but it is diverse at least.

She loves all kinds of seafood – fish (salmon is her favorite), mussels (thank you, Olive Garden!), scallops, lobster, shrimps, everything. She loves Chinese food, she loves Japanese food; she is a passionate sushi eater. Our son is very much the same, sans the sushi – he is a bit reluctant with it. But if we drop both of them somewhere in Italy and leave them there for months, they will be happy with everything served around…

We cook at home, at least one meal every day and our kids have been used to home-cooked meals. Some days it happens that we get to cook all through the day: an omelet for breakfast, chicken dish for lunch and then we might cook something for dinner too...

Of course, they are just kids - so they would also go for the popular kids’ menu - they spaghetti, pizza and burgers... Burger King occasionally, yes; but not on everyday basis. I really hope we have helped them see food in a different and friendly way from what we were used to do in our childhood.

My point is: parents can rectify the mistakes they had had by not repeating them with their kids. This is what makes me feel good in my own eyes. I do not want my children to follow my stupid irrational actions.

I want them to have a better relationship with the world around them. Including food.

 our daughter seems more interested in being photographed next to the desert we made together, rather than actually eating from it...