Most days I wish that I was as clever as my four year thinks I am and only half as dumb as my older three children sometimes perceive me!
The other day I made the boys a drink made from a combination of vitamin powders and gave them some supplements. This is a fairly regular event in our household particularly if they are tired and doing lots of exercise. Nine out of ten times the boys gulp, swallow and move on. They have been following household habits since day one however on the odd occasion now as the big two boys discover their pre-teen “attitude” and seem to enjoy a bit of argy-barg and debate, they give me grief about some of our rituals. Today they gave me grief. Now I am not complaining as on a whole they are fine young men but the current delivery of their heightened testosterone is both surprising and amusing.
Now depending on the day I will either hear them out and discuss the pros and cons of having a mother who’s extremely passionate about their health, and then we revisit previous health discussions that I outlined for you in the last post about Healthy Pledges — but on other occasions, weary from debate, I simply give them both barrels…
This was a both barrels day.
Before I share my remarks, let me put them in perspective for you…
The beauty of having being very firm about “healthy eating” when the boys were little has been that without a doubt they are now delightful and willing ‘healthy food’ connoisseurs. They are also pretty in tune with how cheap ingredients or poor food choices make their bodies feel. The boys have a small portion of “sometimes foods” in their week and on average probably about 10-20% of their day contains false foods, it maybe in their lunchbox or for afternoon tea (if we are on the go after school). Some days it may be more or less than this.
They have desserts on the weekend, at times they have some very average ho-hum lollies or chocolates (most often I can swop these for high quality versions) and contrary to what the boys may at times think – they don’t miss out. I do also understand though that when they look at the quantity of false foods some children eat, they can on some days feel hard done by.
Typically we don’t have many false foods in the house – it is easier to avoid them this way but I believe if we cut these foods out of a child’s week entirely then our children will creatively sneak them in behind our backs or worse potentially become an adult who moves to the opposite polar extreme and becomes a sugarholic. So I believe there is room in a child’s week for some false foods IF they are balanced with an abundance of filtered water, vegetables, fruit, proteins, good fats and some high quality grains.
Secretly I know that the big boys are also moving through a vanity stage and they love how they their bodies are looking and feeling strong as a result of hours of gymnastics, trampoline and other sports. Many times they will share with me that they love being able to do chin ups and frequently I catch them flexing their pins in the mirror or see the delight in their eyes when girls remark on their six packs when they do hand stands. So when they give me grief I know it is half-hearted but they do grapple with how some kids can eat junk all day, everyday and it doesn’t seem to have any effect.
Of course there are both short and long term effects but it can be a little bit hard for youngsters to see these and to keep the long-term picture of their own health in mind.
On the weekend when a friend tried our toothpaste the boys took the opportunity to give me attitude about not being able to have “normal toothpaste” (not ones that taste like fennel or tea tree) or “real deodorant” that they can spray all over themselves and half the neighbourhood. We all kept our sense of humour until day three when complaints about limited junk food, weird self-care products and supplements and vitamins escalated to an all time high. At this point Simon grinned at me knowing it was time for me to give them two loaded barrels — a slap of reality.
Here’s what I shared…
“Did you boys know that right now only 9 out of 10 Australian adults eat the recommended amount of vegetables in their day and only half eat enough fruit? 1 That makes me realize that a lot of adults don’t know what to teach their children about health.
“Did you know that most unborn babies are born with over 287 chemicals in their blood? 2 Many of these chemicals come from what their mother breathes in, eats and puts on her skin and these chemicals have the potential to affect a baby’s brain. Many of these poisons weren’t around when Daddy and I were little. There are so many chemicals about today in kids toys, clothes, mattresses, and computers at levels that experts don’t know how they will impact your growing bodies.
“And those toothpastes you want have chemicals in them that are used in rat poisons and pesticides? 3 While chemicals in many deodorants and hair products disrupt your bodies hormones and have the potential to cause all types of cancer.
“Listen carefully, one of the reasons I am so passionate about you guys understanding why healthy habits like using safe deodorants, toothpastes and taking the time to consider what food you put in your gob – is because your friends, your generation, are the first generation of kids who are predicted to NOT outlive their parents!
“Do you understand me? One in four Australian children are already over-weight or obese.4 What that means is that unless society starts to really educate parents and children about what constitutes a ‘healthy food choice’ and enthusiastically gets children wanting to exercise, then by the time you and your friends are my age, many of them will be obese or extremely ill. If they maintain that poor level of health, their hearts will not cope any longer and they will die before their parents.5 AND That’s without even considering how all those chemicals might end up influencing their health.
“Can you see that your friends are going to need you to help them learn about health? Without a doubt I know they are going to need you.”
Without hesitation and with great enthusiasm Nelson piped up and said, “So Mum we’ll be like super-heroes — awesome!”
Wilem was simply quiet. Later when I kissed him good night he said, “Mum what you said before, I get it. And thanks, thanks for knowing so much.”
I’m no different from any other parent who is passionate about important health topics. I question, I search multiple avenues and I read. I’m like you because fewer things matter more to me than the health and happiness of my children.
Interestingly every night since then Nelson has voluntarily made his own vitamin drink mix, no prompting, no hinting.
This has to be a first! 🙂
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From the desk of…
Dr Jennifer Barham-Floreani
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1) Diet (AIHW) – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare https://www.aihw.gov.au/diabetes-indicators/diet/
2) Executive Summary Environmental Working Group, July 14, 2005. Body Burden — The Pollution in Newborns: A benchmark investigation of industrial chemicals, pollutants and pesticides in umbilical cord blood — https://www.ewg.org/reports/bodyburden2/execsumm.php
3) Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet — https://nj.gov/health/eoh/rtkweb/documents/fs/1699.pdf
4) National Secondary Student’s Diet and Activity survey www.healthykids.nsw.gov.au
5) Olshansky SJ, Passaro DJ, Hershow RC, Layden J, Carnes BA, Brody J, Hayflick L, Butler RN, Allison DB, Ludwig DS. A potential decline in life expectancy in the United States in the 21st century. N Engl J Med. 2005 Mar 17;352(11):1138-45.