So I just got home from an impromptu Sunday meal with my husband after an hour-long walk in glorious Pennypack Park with the sun shining. We went to a place that has a big menu and that caters to pretty much any style of eating so that he could get breakfast and I could get a salad. We were seated next to a table of 3 generations of men; a 60-something year old grandfather, a 40-something father, and a 6-ish year old son. We were seated very close to their table so hearing what they were saying was mandatory. The grandfather could barely walk, used a walker to get around and also had audible breathing problems and was overweight. The father did not look to be overweight, but as we heard the conversation unfold, we knew he had some real health problems. The 6 year old son politely requested of his father that he would like to eat salad as his meal. The father then said something that threw me for a loop and it took much willpower not to turn around and question his sanity although I know better than to interject into the lives of people when not first invited.
The father said “you don’t want a salad, salad is what daddy has to eat because he has to watch his calories, you want a burger and fries.” The kid protested that he really wanted the salad, but then the waitress came and the burger was ordered for the son. Then the food arrived, and as the son is saying that he doesn’t want the burger, the father says “see what you got there Jakey, that’s a burger, that’s daddy’s favorite food, you have to eat at least half!” Then it all became disturbingly clear…the father was living out his culinary desires through his very young son in an insanely unhealthy way both mentally and physically. And when the son sees his father eating the salads and wants to follow suit, as children always want to do what their parents are doing, the father is discouraging him from doing so because he is projecting his desire for burgers and fries onto his son who actually WANTS to eat healthy. There are so many things wrong with this that it hurts my brain a little to consider them all. What the father either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about is that he is literally setting his son up for the exact thing he is going through now, whatever it is that has him convinced that he has to eat salads, whether its hypertension, high cholesterol, or type 2 diabetes. He is trying to convince his child to “do as I say, not as I do” when in this case what he is doing is eating healthy and influencing his son to do the same, something that parents everywhere strive to do all the time. Ultimately this is all leading to the same path grandpa is on with a walker and breathing difficulties in his sixties.
So the next time your child says they want something healthy, think of this example. Are you living out your food fantasies through your children? Leading by example is one of a parents most important roles to play in their child’s life. Be it so they can see it, whatever “it” is that you want your child to be.
Has anyone else ever been in a situation where you couldn’t believe what you were hearing regarding teaching children life-habits? Tell me about it in the comments below!