I once read that motherhood (or parenthood really) is a long process of letting go. A gap that continues to widen as our babies grow and become more independent. And that always resonated with me – visually – I can just see it happening. First of all, I still can’t get over the fact that my body actually grew a baby but symbolically a child’s independence starts the day he is born. Then the act of cutting the cord, of weaning, of crawling, standing, walking…it’s a physical progression but also a symbolic one. One that makes me swell with pride and cry with the bigness of it all.
Food or Friends
I remember with my first baby I was in control and so in my zone. I breastfed him well past a year and I made all his food from scratch. And it wasn’t a question of – can he eat that – or I wonder whats for dinner….Oh god no, I had it all planned. The world was his organic, non-GMO oyster and I was serving it to him on a silver platter. But then something happened. He grew up. He started going to school and making friends and going to other peoples houses and all of a sudden things got a little tricky.
I remember one time, when my son was 3, he was offered a banana at a relatives house and his response was, “Is it organic?” I mean, I was so proud of him but so embarrassed at the same time. I also realized that I was learning a new dance. And it was called it’s inevitable, your kid is going to eat foods that are not organic, how are you going to handle it!?
For me, here’s the thing. I value eating organic and making healthy and informed choices about the food we eat – but at the cost of potentially insulting friends and family? This was new to me.
Over the past 4 or so years, we continue to talk about food with the kids but I also see mixed messages. We go out Trick-Or-Treating and then we take it all away. We tell the kids ice cream is bad for their bellies and their brains and then we nod to say okay at a friends birthday party. Or we teach them that white bread is like sugar. It makes our energy go wild and then makes us feel sad but then turn around and hand them a hotdog in a bun at a family cookout.
So what’s the deal?. Well a couple of things actually. First, I recognize that this is another stage of me letting go. Long gone are the days when I had an organic mashed sweet potato, an organic $5 avocado and a biodynamic banana in my bag for the kid’s dinner at a social gathering. And a big hello to birthday parties, social events, sleepovers, cookouts, outings, new friends and old AND a lot more encounters with…food.
And here’s what’s on the line. Ostracizing ourselves with questions like, Is that banana organic? Are those hotdogs 100% grassfed? Or excuse me, do those chicken nuggets have canola oil in them? I mean maybe some people feel comfortable asking those types of questions and I guess it depends on the situation but for a regular ol’ come over for dinner type of gathering, or birthday party, let’s be honest, it’s a little awkward.
It’s also a little awkward to BYO a full spread to every party, cookout, dinner or event. And when I say a little I mean a lot.
Do WHAT You Can WHEN You Can
So this is where we are. I am a firm believer that it’s not the thing you do once and a while that is going to kill you. It’s the thing you do everyday. We put wholesome, healthy, organic, real food out for our kids at breakfast, lunch and dinner and so when we have the occasional party or social event we are okay with making exceptions.
Why? Because to me, I value family, friendships and potential friendships more than I value if my kid ate a handful of non-organic grapes at his friends house or a slice of Dominos at a birthday party.
I also think it’s a great way to talk about choices we are making as a family. Although sometimes that backfires like when I told the kids there is poison paint in M&Ms or bad chemicals like BHT in Apple Jacks, a chemical added for freshness that may trigger ADHD. And then they tell their teachers and friends at school that M&Ms have paint in them and cereal has poison in it and that becomes a bigger discussion.
Live to LIVE, Not To Avoid Foods
I think what’s more valuable as a life lesson is to understand the difference between foods and not be afraid of living. I don’t want my kids to fear food or to prioritize food over life experience. Just as much as I believe to my core that clean food is best, I also just as strongly believe a conversation with an old friend or watching a movie with your Dad shouldn’t be contingent upon whether the cheese they put out is raw-pastured or not.
Real food, organic food, biodynamic practices, pastured meats and humane practices is what it’s all about. What is also just as real is connecting with people and having my kids connect with their peers. To learn to say thank you or no thank you when offered a banana. To enjoy ethnic foods and the beauty of diversity. To be brave and taste new things. I don’t want them to prioritize food over connection. And if that means having a hotdog with a bun here and there, I’m okay with that.
What do you do?
(Thanks to Monkey & Squirrel for these beautiful photos!)