When I began my health journey anew a little over a month ago, I did so not wanting to be the "health police" in my house, but simply desiring to change things about myself in order to increase my overall sense of well-being and self-confidence. I knew that if I nagged my husband and kids about every calorie or forced them to work out with me, it would only serve to stir up rebellion and wouldn't necessarily give them the desire to do the things I was doing. If there is one thing I've learned with my struggles with food and overeating, it's that no one will force you to make changes toward health. It has to be a desire that comes from within and there has to be a moment when you realize that the only thing harder than changing is staying the same.
Still, the family is always watching. Especially kids! My house has long been a Dinner Warzone. Even when I wasn't cooking "healthy", my kids were ridiculously picky and, for pretty much always, I have been cooking nice dinners for myself and my husband and in-laws (they live in their own separate apartment in the basement of our home) and my kids would have no part of it. Most of the time, they won't even try the things I make. My solution to this has been either:
A) Make them a separate dinner (but only something easy like mac n cheese or Ramen noodles or something they will eat)
B) Tell them to fend for themselves and have cereal or something I don't have to cook.
You would be shocked at how many nights my kids have cereal for dinner. I don't feel guilty about that. There IS food available if they want a delicious meal. They won't eat it. This is their loss.
Something is subtly changing in our house, though. You see, for the entire school year, my kids have always asked to have their lunches packed. They just don't like school lunch. I don't understand why because it's so much easier (for me!) if they just get lunch at school, but as the school cafeteria has come under scrutiny the past couple years, I suppose I should be thankful that my kids naturally want me to make their lunches.
But, I've been busy. What can I say? I'm a full-time working mom. All year, my father-in-law has packed their lunches. And I was always so thankful for that. The only problem is...my father-in-law is a certified junk food junkie. I'm not even kidding. If my mother-in-law and I never cooked for the rest of the household, these people (including hubby) would all be morbidly obese within a year. The ONLY food they make is Pizza Rolls, frozen pizza, chicken nuggets, cookies, cakes, pies, JUNK!
So, as my health awareness has increased, I've noticed what he is putting in my kids lunches. Here is a sample lunch from two weeks ago:
Pringles (at least 2 servings worth)
Oreo Cookies (2)
Jello Pudding Cup
At first, I said nothing. Because I didn't want to hurt his feelings. He tries so hard to help me out in the mornings and puts up with so many tantrums from the kids every day. He gets them on the bus every morning and he's such a sweetheart and a great grandpa.
But, about two weeks ago, I thought, "Enough is enough. I can't allow this anymore. I am their mom and I HAVE to take care of them! They can't learn that this is OK!"
Well, it just so happened that my little ladies came home from school around this time absolutely appalled because there were rumors flying all over school about the fact that the cafeteria uses "pink slime" in their food. This reinforced their desire to pack their own lunches even more. And, I seized my opportunity. Yes, I did.
I woke up last Monday and rushed down to the kitchen BEFORE my father-in-law was even awake. I assembled two HEALTHY lunches, which included a fruit, vegetable, protein and a whole grain. NO dessert. Fruit should be considered a dessert, in my opinion! It wasn't gross stuff....it was GOOD food! Finally!
Father-in-law made his way upstairs and was pleasantly surprised that he didn't have to figure out what to pack in their lunches because I had already done it.
"Oh, well, thank you so much, Leah!"
"Oh, Dad....YOU'RE SO WELCOME!"
I have done this every single day for the past two weeks and father-in-law has realized that, without any discussion at all, I have now claimed responsibility over the lunchboxes in the morning. He no longer tries to pack them because one day, I caught him putting Pringles in a box and I said, "Hey. That's OK, but you better cut that serving size in half!" He was OK with it...because he's generally pretty agreeable to conceding to the fact that we are the parents and he is the grandparent and we make the ultimate decisions for what's best for our kids.
A couple days ago, my mother-in-law came to me and told me about a conversation she'd had with my 9 year old that day:
MIL: Anika came to me today and said, "Grandma, my lunches lately have been crappy." And I told her, "Don't tell Papa that...he tries so hard to pack things you'll like." Then, I asked Don what he was packing in their lunches and he said that he hadn't been packing them...you had. And then....I knew what was going on!!! GO LEAH! I support you!
Well, that was great to hear. My daughter is in a full out battle of wills now. She told me yesterday she only ate one thing in her lunchbox. I told her she needs to be less picky. If she is upset about the cafeteria serving pink slime, how in the world could I, in any good conscience, pack food in her lunch that will either make her sick or kill her in the long run? No response. And it really doesn't matter. Because they are kids. They are MY kids. And I refuse to let them down in this area.
I certainly can't force my husband to do anything (although, I'm happy to say he's coming around on the healthy food front), but I WILL impose my food views on my little ones. I'm not talking about outlawing anything sugary or tasty or yummy. I'm just making it a point to OFFER only healthy options most of the time. And let the treats be just that...treats...not MEALS.
My kids still won't eat my dinners. If I am lucky, they might try a bite. Frankly, they have become curious because they see me making changes. I have not made much progress on the War on Dinner, but by golly I will win the War on Lunch. I am winning.
And here's the best secret of all....so are they.