No matter how prepared you think you are for motherhood, you really have absolutely no clue what it will be like until you are there. You and that sweet baby . After the initial shock and adjustment of having a newborn, the realization of what life would be like slowly came into focus for me around the time our first daughter, Lily, was 4 weeks old.
Then she began growing, and things began changing. New things were being introduced and it was fun to watch her explore and experience a new toy or a new taste. Watching your child delight in something for the very first time is fascinating.
But soon I realized that there were things I wanted her to enjoy simply because they were things I enjoyed. It’s only natural to introduce our children to the things we experienced, or wished we could have experienced, as a child.
But I also began to notice how my heart would sink if she seemed uninterested or didn’t like something I wanted her to like. In those moments, God reminded me of how He created us with unique qualities and interest.
I committed not to raise my daughter just projecting on to her the things that I liked or wished for.
Also, given the fact that my husband is not from around here (he’s from Brazil), I’m forced to ask why more than ever. Is what I’m doing because of cultural conditioning, my own personal interest, or what?
I started asking two questions that helped me determine why I was doing what I was doing.
1. Is this good for her?
2. Is this necessary?
There are SO many things we introduce to our children. But think about it.
- A child will never know what chocolate is until they’ve been introduced to it.
- A child will never know what kindness is unless they’ve experienced it.
- A child won’t understand what a “happy meal” is unless they’ve been given one.
- A child only has manners if they’ve been taught them.
I started realizing how much I could influence what my kids saw as important simply by what I introduced to them- or didn’t introduce to them. And instead of caving to cultural pressures, I stood firm in specific areas.
Let’s take food for example:
I’ve yet to introduce my kids to foods (on a regular basis) that I didn’t think would have nutritional health benefits long-term. This included foods high in sugar, candy, sodas & juices, and food loaded with fat and/or artificial ingredients.
I want my kids tolerance to sugar to remain low so that just a little bit will be sweet enough. A few weeks ago I made a dessert for family night and I gave the girls a portion of the dessert. Before I had Filipe’s and mine on a plate, I looked up to see two half- eaten plates left on the counter. My first reaction was to call them back and tell them how yummy this dessert was and tell them to finish it, but I caught myself. Is it really necessary for them to eat more?, I thought. I had to laugh at myself for almost forcing them to eat more chocolate!!
The older my kids get, the more I see the results play out- and I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Part of me has been waiting for the infamous, “but so-and-so has ___________”. But it hasn’t happened (yet!).
Lily is in kindergarten now and I make her lunch every day. When making her lunch I think about the food that will help her stay focused and energized during the day- not what is cool to eat. I give her a water bottle filled with water, and she never complains. Every now and then I will give her a juice box (one w/ 10 g of sugar as opposed to most w/ 28g) , but it’s rare- so it’s special for her.
My kids have no idea what a happy meal is.
Drinking soda is a big deal.
Black beans and rice is their favorite meal (yes that’s cultural, but it also answers yes to the 2 quest.)
And they love their fruits and vegetables (most days!).
I felt like I was really making progress when Lily came in yesterday with a bag of candy after school, and asked if she could eat the Smarties. I told her, yes and her face lit up. She started walking away, then came back with the roll and asked, “do you mean just one of these or can I have the whole roll?”. “Of course you can have the whole roll!”, I exclaimed.
The fact that she asked made me happy.
Can I control what other people give my kids? No. And I’m totally fine with them having things I wouldn’t normally give them from someone else because I know it’s rare. But in our home, I remain vigilant in this area because I know it’s ultimately better for them and it’s necessary in developing good eating habits.
This is just one example of thinking about the “why?” before introducing something to our kids. Is it good for them? & Is it necessary?