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My holiday horror

Saturday, January 05, 2013

This is really difficult for me to write about - but at the same time, I want to get it off my chest. What should I have done? What would you have done?

I spent part of the holidays with my cousin - who I am not very close to, but she was invited to stay with my parents too. Her husband became seriously ill with cancer at the beginning of last year, and passed away a few months ago. Not a great year for her.

When we saw her at the funeral we noticed she had lost weight - understandable considering the stressful year she must have had.

When she came to stay for the holidays, we were concerned that she was disappearing at meal times (I'm not hungry, I'm too tired etc) - leading us to believe she has developed some disordered eating habits. Kind of natural, given her circumstances, and hopefully something that will pass as she comes to terms with her new life.

What is awful is her children. They are only young, and are obese. This is not something that has developed this year - it was always the case. Her son is 4, and wears clothes for a 12 year old.

I was worried about holidaying with my cousin, since I knew that they could not have good eating habits, and I did not want that to influence my children. Those worries turned out to be largely unfounded (there were a few incidents I did not like - but not often enough to make me put my foot down) - as the others were staying in the granny flat, and so did a lot of their eating out of sight of my kids. The main emotion I felt was sorrow - for those kids. They face a lifetime of health issues if things don't change.

An example of a conversation
(My son had been in their flat playing with cousin's son at about 4pm in the afternoon)
Cousin "Your son probably wont be that hungry for dinner - they have just been snacking on museli bars, crackers, and yoghurt. I'd just give him a sandwich before he goes to bed if I was you'
Me "Actually, he would not normally snack at this time. Anyway, we have proper meal times, so he will sit down for dinner. If he doesn't eat much that's fine - but he will not be offered a sandwich later"
Cousin "Oh - its just that I forgot to give my son lunch today, so he was really hungry and could not wait until dinner "
{Alarm bells!!!!! Forgot lunch. Seems like that is convenient for you, since you are not eating properly . . . but what is the impact on your kids!!!!}.
So her son had no lunch, lots of snacks, no dinner and then a sandwich before bed. That's two meals missed in a day - replaced with much lower nutritional, higher calorie options.
Her comment "It won't hurt him to miss the odd meal . . . it's not like he is fading away".

Another conversation at 5pm another day.
Cousin "I'm just getting the kids ice creams - should I give yours one?"
Me "No! I am just making dinner for all the kids, it will be ready in about 20 mins. Maybe they can have the ice creams after dinner?"
Cousin "They have been promised the icecreams, so we will just have them where your kids don't see"
Me - silently to self "Well UNPROMISE them. Tell them you did not realise the time, that dinner is nearly ready, that meals are a priority over snacks, that if they have a good go at dinner they can always have an icecream later!!!!!"

Now, I know standards get relaxed when we are on holidays and staying with other people . . but these are not just holiday habits. I also can not imagine how difficult it would be to parent children who have just lost their father - the temptation to comfort them with food would be huge.

I did not directly make any comment to my cousin. I hoped that by trying to continue doing things my own way, she would see the possibilities. In someways I felt like I was witnessing child abuse - and doing nothing to intervene.

What could I do? What should I do?
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    if you have never been close, it is impossible to intervene (even if close depending on the person). But you are right, it seems like abuse. Those children are learning all sorts of bad habits/lessons - like that food is a comfort. If she has developed an eating disorder, she might be living her food fantasies through her kids - and giving them junk to avoid cooking for her and them and then tempting herself. My sister had an eating disorder which she talks about now and she says some of it is about control (finding one thing in your life you can control which I am sure can easily happen when living with someone dying). She avoided meal times then - used to arrive just after we had eaten saying she had eaten at the place she had come from while telling them of course she would be eating with us. Tough for those children to cope with all the inevitable bullying and challenges with sports etc as well as a father dying, but hopefully they saw another way from watching your children
    1930 days ago
    You did the right thing by not letting your children have the sweets. Sadly we cannot raise other's children and with that we cannot really tell them how to raise them. In the state that she is in right now she would have taken everything you said way out of content or just brushed off what you are saying.
    1930 days ago
    Is there a matriarch in the family that you could address your concern? Sometimes, the older generation can say more and it not be considered offensive. That and if Grandma or Great Auntie _________ are concerned your cousin may actually listen to them.

    You were in a tough position, but I think you handled it well. Sticking with your rules set a good example. Also, you may want to address your concern with your own children. Tell them about healthy eating and exercise. Don't criticize the cousins, but let them know how proud you are of them with their "healthy choices!" (Even if you "helped" them make those choices.)
    1930 days ago
    You did the only thing possible that I can see and that was to show by example. Even if you had of said something she probably would not have listened. People only pay attention when they are ready for the answer.


    1930 days ago
    What you should do is what you know you should do. Do not be an enabler and train your hidden properly. They will think of treats with auntie as something special, not o become an everyday event.
    1930 days ago
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