The Gift of Permission

October 24, 2007 at 5:32 pm 5 comments

The Rotund commented on this LJ entry about a father, one night, letting this three young daughters choose to eat anything and everything they wanted for dessert. She said it made her cry, and I gotta admit, I got all misty-eyed as well.

As she says, the idea of being given utter permission like that is simultaneously exciting and scary.

The interesting thing was, I read it less with an eye to how the daughters felt at the time, and more with an eye to how it effected them. What did they learn from it? I saw it, I suppose, more as a fellow parent to that father, than from the author’s point of view.

And it couldn’t have come at a better time, honestly. I’ve been struggling with that very thing the past few days, in fact. There was a trick-or-treat event at the zoo this past weekend, and I took my kids, and we also did some MAJOR grocery shopping over the weekend, so our place is STOCKED. Seriously, there’s food everywhere – both “good” and “bad.”

I gotta admit, it’s a little heady sometimes even for me. We’ve been living a weird barebones sort of existence for a while, and so now to go, “Gosh, I’m hungry,” and open the refrigerator to find choices and options practically spilling out of the thing is, well… both exciting and scary. And I’m a grownup, y’know?

My kids, on the other hand, are 3 years old, so of course they want nothing but their Halloween candy and ice cream and maybe the occasional Goldfish cracker to round things out. Obviously, as a responsible parent, not to mention a renter who has not QUITE given up hope that we may yet receive some small portion of our security deposit back whenever we move out of this place, I can’t let them do that.

But at the same time, I don’t want to teach them to moralize about food the way I do. I certainly don’t want them to associate “bad” foods with love or affection. I certainly don’t want them to come to associate all foods they enjoy, regardless of nutritional content, as “bad” like I do.

So I wind up walking this weird little tightrope between trying to help them appreciate all kinds of foods and not stigmatize the “bad” foods. And it’s not easy. Some days I feel like I do a lot better than others. Some days I get a Magna-Doodle chucked at my head for not letting them breakfast on Dots and Tootsie Rolls (that would be yesterday – fun times…).

Sometimes I worry that I’m too much of a soft touch – do I let them eat too much crap? Should I be tougher about setting limits? Should I be more diligent about keeping snacks to a minimum, and preventing grazing but instead encourage them to eat only at proscribed meal and snack times?

But when I throw open the refrigerator and they crowd in front of it and one reaches for a plum and the other reaches for a stick of cheddar cheese, I’m reminded to have a little faith. That they ARE only 3 years old, and there’s a lot more to stigmatizing food than just having a mom who won’t let you eat gummi fruits until you vomit.

Truthfully, sometimes it is through them that I’m reminded to give myself permission to eat whatever I want as well, and reminded to give myself credit for choosing a variety of foods, and not just an endless well of crap, as my Inner Fat-Hater would have me believe.

So this afternoon, when I decided, “Y’know what? Normally I would say we had to wait until after dinner to have some ice cream, but if you want some now, that’s okay too,” well, I like to think I was being like that dad. That I was giving permission at a time when it’s good for permission to be given. And when I threw a scoop of spumoni in the dish for me, along with their scoop of strawberry? That’s okay too.

Because once we ate our ice cream? They asked for fruit, and yogurt, and foods which I am only too glad to give them.

The reality is, sometimes the harder part is not in helping them make good choices, but in silencing my own hateful inner voices, to trust in the choices they make for themselves.

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Critical Mass, or… Why Now?

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Joie  |  October 25, 2007 at 6:01 am

    Incredibly well-thought-out and well written post. I can’t imagine having to raise kids amidst all the prejudice in this world (not to mention fat hate, and trust me, looking at my family and my fiance’s our kids are definitely going to be on the pudgy side)

    Looks like your instincts are spot on though. All the best with raising your twins. Sounds like you’re on the right track. 🙂

    Incidentally, is this the Thorn with the guest posts about her mom’s funeral over at Shapely Prose?

    Reply
  • 2. Thorn  |  October 25, 2007 at 7:13 am

    Thanks, Joie. And ah, yeah, that was me.

    Reply
  • 3. Nicole  |  October 26, 2007 at 3:24 pm

    Gah. I have been having this discussion ad nauseum with DH because I cannot figure out how to “limit” the crap while not turning it into forbidden fruit.

    For ages, my son’s favorite foods were broccoli, asparagus, cheese, and plain yogurt. Once I loosened the reins on some of the sweet stuff, he developed a real taste for the cookies, ice cream and other dessert-y items. Now, at 4, he expects to be able to have dessert every night. He asks for it. He begs for it. I don’t want dessert to be automatic. It certainly wasn’t for me. But I also don’t want to put conditions on it–i.e. if you eat this healthy food, then you can have a cookie.

    Given the heritability of weight, there is almost no way my son is not going to be fat. He is not now, but I wasn’t at his age either. With all the horrendous things going on for fat kids right now, I’d do anything to save him that misery, but I know restriction isn’t the answer. My mom tried that with me, and it didn’t work then and it won’t work now.

    I’m having a really hard time with trusting him to make those right choices because I’ve almost never trusted myself with the very same thing.

    Reply
  • 4. Thorn  |  October 26, 2007 at 8:59 pm

    Nicole, I so hear you. The whole thing is so fraught, and I think it’s especially hard because, as fat moms, we know the whole freakin’ world is watching our every move, y’know?

    The thing I’ve been thinking about, since I read the story this post is about, is that perhaps it’s enough to let them go nuts once in a while. Like a woman I knew used to say: “Everything in moderation… including moderation.”

    I don’t know if it’ll work, but I figure it can’t hurt to try.

    Reply
  • 5. continue  |  July 6, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    A fascinating discussion is worth comment.
    I do think that you ought to write more about this subject, it
    might not be a taboo subject but generally people don’t talk about these topics. To the next! Many thanks!!

    Reply

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