Toddler Diet Versus Parental Baggage
Trying to steer my toddler son through life so he forms healthy eating habits while simply being able to enjoy food is a process. From his highly active sweet tooth to his daycare offering lunches from fast food chains once a week, I tend to develop mild concerns surrounding his eating. These concerns, admittedly, seem to be partly triggered from my own childhood in addition to wanting a healthy son. While awareness of the source of these concerns is helpful, they also need to be objectively merited out. It is important I am able to truly balance the potential harm of allowing occasional junk food to be eaten, versus just letting my kid be a kid, which he needs to be. Fatherhood is a joy, but just glancing at a life you created can stir up unprocessed emotions. If you cross those emotions with a tough toddler trait like picky eating you can easily get wound up to an unbalanced state. Parenting from a state of emotional messiness can cloud judgment and charge the air at mealtime with bad energy, a time that should not only be designated for nourishment but also love and togetherness.
Our Own Childhoods Stick With Us
When I was in 4th grade I quit taking karate classes and overnight my life as a kid became sedentary. When the karate was gone I quickly gained weight and developed some minor body type issues. I had two different adults call me fat to my face in addition to dealing with teasing from peers. The theme of fluctuating weight and the corresponding emotions that go with it stayed with me through my college years. Through the help of multiple bouts of therapy, I have been able to unpack and fully process these issues but make no mistake it is still baggage that is here with me to this day. So when my toddler son eats only cake for lunch at a birthday party because he did not like the meal being offered, all of the unease from my past can and does hover over my parenting. It is up to me, though, to be aware of this, and not allow it to actually cloud the judgment of my parenting.
Navigating The Tricky Eating Habits Of A Toddler
The challenges I face with my toddler son and his eating, while not plentiful, can be tough at times. From the amount he eats to the actual nutritional value he is receiving, each meal is a moment unto itself. Sugar is a real concern and sugary treats give me pause. I am not even counting the added sugar that is rampant in the packaged kid's snacks that are branded as organic and healthy. I have succumbed to those as being here to stay, but make a concerted effort to minimize the damage from overt sugar bombings like fruit juices and cakes. Try as I do, the birthday parties and their requisite cakes keep coming one after the other.
What Does Parenting Success Look Like?
My barometer for parenting success is not perfection, but simply trying to improve upon my own childhood experience. I thankfully had a loving and supported childhood, but my days as a youth were also filled consuming multiple cups of sugary juice, potato chips, and processed squirt cheese. That is not being critical of my parents, but just the reality of most kids in my neighborhood growing up in the 70's and 80's. We did have a steady flow of wholesome, cooked meals at home prepared by my Mom with love, but all the peripheral snacking with processed foods took a toll. It is imperative I allow my childhood experience be a factor in parenting, but must also recognize that drawing down too hard on my past can create diminishing returns for son's experiences in the present.
My wife and I are committed to food shopping for our home in a manner that establishes a positive foundation for our son's eating habits that he will hopefully carry for life. If our home is the place for consistency of healthy choices, then the occasional piece of cake at a party or a box of apple juice at Starbucks becomes the exception. My kid needs to be a kid and I do truly understand that, but there is always the real world concern of his health and well-being staring me in the face which is an incredible responsibility.
Unpack And Process Your Past
When I feel my past creeping into a current parenting situation, It is up to me to consciously seek stillness in hopes of creating space to allow a measured reaction or thoughtful decision to arise. I recently completed my third stint in therapy and spent a productive amount of time rehashing some childhood experiences and how they directly impact my being a father. That time in therapy working on these issues was invaluable. I also credit my daily meditation practice for creating awareness in my life and providing pockets of stillness within messy situations so sensible reactions can spring forward.
I am blessed with a brilliant wife, a true parenting partner, who I often lean on to help bring balance to matters of eating with our son. I am often amazed at just how much my toddler son loves to eat and how much food he can consume, but I guess I should not be too surprised for he is my son. While much of my life has been subjected to the recurring and negative pull of body type and weight issues, I have thankfully still developed a healthy passion for food and a desire for balanced eating. Cooking meals and dining out have become true joys for me and I want to instill those traits in my son through proper modeling at home. As long as we consistently create wins with healthy eating in our home than our kid can still be a kid, which he so rightfully deserves to be.