A Change To Healthier Foods Today Is Not A Rejection Of My Culture
Don’t peg me for a super healthy mom whose kids eat their veggies every day and have oranges for snacks. That is not me, but it is who I aspire to be; and it’s odd to see how much resistance I get because I am on this path.
I am a Latina and I grew up equating food with love. Love was making sure the pantry was stocked with my favorite treats to be consumed whenever I wanted. Love was baking a cake, buying an ice cream on a hot day, or a “churro con dulce de leche” (fried batter with caramel) when we went to the supermarket. And reciprocating love was eating everything on my plate, and saying yes to all the treats since they were, after all, given with love.
I don’t blame my family or my heritage for whatever issues I had with food; and choosing a different way with my own children does not translate into a rejection of the way I was brought up. Just because smoking was acceptable in the past, teaching children not to smoke is not a slap in the face of previous generations. We know better now. All I am trying to do is raise boys who can make healthier choices for themselves. As a family, we’ve made progress, but I would hardly consider us a success.
So when my kids hear me say “no” to a piece of cake at a birthday party, I explain to them that I am in the midst of training for a triathlon and I need to eat things that make me strong. Cake does not make me strong.
I’ve been called a cake nazi, and told I deprive my children of treats. Let’s get this straight: I don’t restrict cake. They can have a piece, but they can’t have ten, and they can’t have ten everyday. In my mind, everything in moderation is good – even if it includes frosting.
At six and seven years old respectively, teaching my boys these lessons is tricky. They will sometimes surprise me, and the surprise can go in either direction.
Fortunately, they attend a public school that does not have vending machines with donuts or soda. But the other day I had this conversation with my second grader:
“Did you like your lunch today?” I ask him.
“Yeah! I had pizza, it was great.” He answers joyfully.
“What do you mean you had pizza? I sent you something else!” I replied somewhat surprised.
“Well, hmmm, I ate that too Mami and it was great! But I remembered my cafeteria code and I also ordered pizza and an ice cream.”
I don’t know if he threw his healthy lunch in the garbage, and gobbled up a pizza. And again, it’s not that pizza is bad it’s just that I like to have pizza once a week in those “oh-my-God-what’s-for-dinner-days” and to have him eat pizza at school restricts MY ability to call for a delivery.
I was relating this story to my mother who tells me:
“You know, this whole kids have to eat healthy thing just produces a lot of waste.”
“Yes, I saw on TV the other day the amount of waste that is created at schools because kids won’t eat the healthy lunches they are being served. They throw it away.”
As someone deeply concerned about our environment and poverty, I am the first to recoil at the creation of waste. But somehow the argument that we should serve junk in school so children will eat it and not create waste just doesn’t sound rational.
Now I put myself in the place of a fifth grader, or fourth or even my son in second. I go to the cafeteria and see the attempt at a healthier serving: some pasta, grilled chicken, a small salad, and fruit. And then I see a vending machine with a donut.
I don’t like salad, I don’t like fruit so I throw that away but I’m still hungry so guess what? DONUT!
If we are going to raise healthy kids, we need to do it together. Change starts at home, and many times change starts with mom. And as a mom who is just jumping on this bandwagon I need all the help I can get. I need help from you my local supermarket, to have a selection of healthy goods at an affordable price; from you the schools where my children spend most of their day to not serve them junk; from you, the families of my children’s peers to also be good role models; from you, my culture to understand that I’m not turning my back on you; and from countless others who affect the choices we make everyday.
I’m not standing here on a soapbox lecturing you how to be healthier or that you even need to be healthier. I just know that I feel better at forty than I did at thirty in part because I have made better choices. And in my path of trying to raise healthy boys I’ve had some success and significant failures (one son will not eat vegetables, period). But it would be great to have a little more help and a little less resistance in doing so.
This post is part of the National School Lunch Week with Healthy Food! A MomsRising Blog Carnival. Take a moment to read and comment on these thoughtful blogs, then tell us your story. Our stories are powerful and are what led administrators to set these rules in place.