02 June 2009

Birth of a "food" personality ?

We have children and even from birth, we see certain personalities emerge. Sometimes we can attribute these personalities directly to us the parents, or even to another relative. Sometimes one child can be made up of a combination of familial personalities, or the opposite, having no traits of anyone in the immediate family. I have heard that one before, "we don't know who she takes after." Puzzling?

As parents, good or bad, we often feel special if our child or children take after us. I remember when my son Miles was born, such a beautiful baby, and everyone would say he looked just like his father. I found that hard to digest given the fact that "I" carried him for nine months, and so I would hold him and dissect every inch of his body pointing out where there were resemblances of "ME" on him. He surely had some of my traits. He did.

When Nia was born she was a little over a pound smaller than Miles, dainty and beautiful, much what you would want a girl to look like. Her fingers were graceful and I thought to myself, "Ok... the beauty.... all me! But those fingers?" I don't have dainty fingers and neither does her father. We will just attribute the lovely fingers to a recessive gene perhaps. Most importantly, everyone agreed that she looked like me. Woohoo!

Where am I going with all of this? Well, here I am again, perhaps for the 3rd time in 6 months tending to my lovely 7 year old sick daughter. People say, "oh wow, she is sick again." Some people can't believe it because they know how I am very much into self-care, nutrition, building up the body, building a strong immune system. I certainly don't enjoy having to drop what I am doing to care for her, but I know it's very necessary. I make every effort to build her back up as quickly as possible.

I can honestly admit, that when it comes to keeping my daughter healthy, it's one of my true challenges, on the top 10 list! This is not me taking an opportunity to give excuses, but more of an opportunity to reflect on some thoughts I had. I remember getting sick a lot as a child. I remember loving the fact that my mother would take the best care of me. Back when I was Nia's age, my family was certainly not aware of health and nutrition like we are today. My mother was a nurse, but that did not mean she was a health advocate. She was a great caregiver, very nurturing and perhaps that was all you needed back then in order to get by!

Whose fault is it that she gets sick? Hers? Mine? I don't know that blame can be placed anywhere, but I know that taking measures to keep her healthy are better than not doing anything. I also know that this past school year, there were many, many more sick children than usual AND worse than that, the parents send them to school anyway. I have witnessed parents telling me that unless their child is dying, they are going to school. I resent this because it makes my job harder to keep my children well. I resent this because I would not be so inconsiderate. Much like yesterday and today, I have kept my daughter home because I do not want her to go to school and infect other children (and the teacher even). Currently we have "swine flu" haphazardly striking in different places, and the resounding advice is, "if you have symptoms that include fever, STAY HOME."

Anyway, that is getting off the topic a bit.....

I thought about how I was lucky enough to grow out of much of the same health issues as a child and the fact that I took a great interest in health and nutrition as I grew into adulthood. But I also thought about the fact that many others in my family still chose to keep the same mindset and same poor choices for their well-being, and those very people are still afflicted with the same concerns today. They are miserable. They are limited in what they can do physically which in turn affects their day to day emotions.

I thought about how food was always and still is the center of all family gatherings, big or small. I thought about how I shifted my mindset as the years went by from "just eating to eat," to "eating for a purpose." Most times the purpose is to fuel the body as best as possible, and on some occasions, it's simple to "enjoy the flavors" and to "enjoy the company." Food does taste good when prepared properly. I enjoy cooking, and I enjoy entertaining. Dining can be a most exquisite experience. But it does take a certain personality to navigate successfully through the adventures of eating without abusing the privilege?? If you were not born with that personality, you do indeed have to develop it on your own.

I sit and talk to my daughter daily about why I do what I do. I try to make her understand why it is important for her to eat certain things, drink lots of water and take extra supplements. She always answers, "yes Mommy... yes Mommy" with what I believe is the sincerest intentions. She struggles to focus on what I tell her though and that may be because of her age. She swears most times that she is not hungry. Gosh she is quite thin and so I worry. She has her good days and her not so good days with eating and drinking. She does enjoy the healthiest dishes that I prepare, but when I am not looking, she would rather dive into a box of chocolate or a bag of cookies. She surely suffers the consequences of her actions. When she is with her father, I know that he gives into many of her "not so healthy" requests. Parents tend to do this because they feel children are entitled to "life's goodies," but you have to have limits.

My son, listens and "gets it" about nutrition. He cares. He actually loves all sorts of vegetables, fish, fruits and he pays attention to what he eats during the day. His diet is not extremely rigid, but he understands the necessity of good nutrition for ideal body function. He gives me no grief with this. He does not have the same cravings as his sister despite the fact that he is only 10 years old. Is this a personality that he was born with? I did not have to try hard with him to get him this way.

So I started to think, personality may indeed have a lot to do with how we address our health from even childhood. It may be that we are born with these traits, or it may be that they become molded into our subconscious as we grow up. I say this because my twin sister was NOT a big eater as a young child. Not even an eater. She seemed to detest food. She did like a bowl of chocolate ice cream though! All I can remember is how my parents would force her to eat. The more they forced, the less she would want to eat. Today, however, she is quite the opposite.

Today we have a huge dilemma with child and adult obesity. We have issues with people's relationship with food. Food has purpose, for nutrition and for satisfaction, but it's role has become negative in some people's lives ..... this is very sad. We have learned that it is not a good idea to force children to eat, and this I agree with. It has been a learning experience for me. I accept that my daughter does not have a big appetite, and so all I try to do is get some small bit of nutrition into her body when I can. I try to prepare a dish that packs a lot of nutrition in one dose knowing that it may be the only good dish she eats in one day. Overtime, I hope she will understand the benefits of good nutrition and will easily embrace it when she becomes of age to make her own choices.

After a grueling night last night, with her fever and major discomfort, she woke this morning quite saddened. She said, "Mommy, I don't like being sick." I told her that being sick is no fun. She agreed especially since she is missing "Field Day" at school today, a day filled with fun outdoor activity. Once again, I took the opportunity to remind her that it is very important for her to eat healthy foods and drink her liquids when I give them to her. Again she responded, "Yes Mommy....." I just keep trying.

We may surely be born with a personality that destines us to certain behaviors from childhood up to adulthood, but we can stop and decide from when our children are young... how we want that personality to play out and try to make adjustments in the best interest of our children. Perhaps with such an effort we could save our children (for when they become adults) a lot of stress and struggles with various emotional challenges that often face us in life!


Elaine said...

I can relate my 2 daughters to your kids. Bella is the one who I have no trouble with her choice of healthy food, she just LOVES, spinach, broccoli and green beans, so I try to make those veggies for her on a weekly basis. Sophia on the other hand LOVES anything sweet, I cannot get her to eat those leafy greens but she does love beans and lentils, so I make those as well for her benefit. She does love her yogurt and fruits.
Bella is not so keen in eating fruits, but she loves smoothies so there I go blending all the fruits she doesn't eat into these.
Lately, thanks to you as an inspiration, I've been reading about how food really affects the way we preform on a daily basis. I am currently reading Omnivore's dilemma by Michael Pollan and it has prompted me to make wiser food selections when it comes to eating and cooking. Needless to say I have totally cut fast food such as McDonalds and others from our menu. The amount or additives, preservatives and basically no food these meals contain is totally appalling. I am also letting Bella know why we dont eat fast food anymore or as much as before as she understands, Sophia all I can tell her is that her tummy will ache if she eats these foods and at least I can get her to understand with that for now.
The way we eat now cannot compare to the way we ate 20,30,or 40 years ago. I did not know how much politics goes into the making of the food we currently eat now. It is unfortunante that the way they make food now is to make it cheaper thus attractive to the consumer. I am making basic changes for my kids as 'Organic' food is more expensive than the regular processed foods. However, as you said once, it may be expensive now but it will not be expensive later on or as it may be if we keep eating the way we eat now. Suffering later on with maladies such as diabetes, cholesterol, etc etc.
Thanks for your blogs, you are really an inspiration !!!

Sita said...

Once again, most of my better food choices are because of you. For years you have been pushing organic to me and I understand why. Jazmine, who is 13yrs old now has changed drastically with her eating habits. She went from never wanting to eat like Nia to, the last year, devouring everything in site. Good and bad! This scares me, as she is in her teenage devolping years. I speak like a broken record and I think some days she gets it and other days she sneaks choc cookies or chicken nuggets when I'm not around. Its quite a battle. I know once she starts her volleyball and basketball training things will change again and she'll realize how she feels when she's eating that nasty stuff! Thanks for all your info and daily inspiration!