My Child’s Choice in Food Hurts My Ego

Groceries. Ours and his.
My adulterated grocery cart.

We went grocery shopping a few days ago. Being mostly paleo now, all our food is on the periphery of the store, meaning it gets mostly filled by yummy, healthy food before we hit the inner aisles. And we hit those aisles primarily for Zeb.

Oh, Zeb. 13 years old now and three inches taller than me, the kid eats more than Justin and I combined most days. And my ego wants to tell him that’s because of what he eats, because it holds so little nutritional value that he’s always hungry.

Holy shit. My baby boy is officially shopping in the men's department.
Officially shopping in the men’s department.

My ego wants to tell him all sorts of things.

It wants to tell him what he “should” eat, and why, and insist that I’m right. Because I’ve done the research, I know the facts, and I’ve been there, done that, which obviously makes me the expert on his body, no?

No. My heart tells me no. It tells me to offer information, but to offer generosity more. It tells me to be patient while he makes his own choices and builds his own knowledge. It tells me that we always make the best choice we can based on our needs at that moment, and that I don’t need to know what that need is to know my son is choosing what’s best for him right now.

Even if that includes Chips Ahoy cookies, Cheez-Its, Pepsi, and ice cream drumsticks.

Yup, that’s about most of what he’s been eating the past couple months.

And it hurts my ego every time I shut my mouth and add his requests to the grocery list. Every time we place his junk food next to our organic veggies. Every time he reminds me I’m not the “organic sister”, I’m his mom.

It hurts my ego every time I choose trust over fear.

My ego keeps screaming its fear into my ear, fears like:

  1. If you don’t control this, he’ll get sick.
  2. If you don’t use coercion or shame, you’ll be a bad mom.
  3. If he doesn’t do what you think he should do, you’ll be judged as a parent.

Fear. Fear. Fear.

I guess you could say this is when Life tests my own words on children and food.

It’s hard, don’t get me wrong. The fearful parent in me wants to limit, put down rules, force him to eat more veggies. And sometimes she wins. And I always regret those wins.

What kind of “win” is a forceful one?

What kind of love is that?

Truth is, Zeb has gone in and out of these junk food spells and they rarely last long. And when we’re on our best parenting game, they don’t become more than treats. He experiments, then pulls back to healthier choices. (If we’re on our worst parenting game, they become his primary meals as he resists anything we say that doesn’t come from complete love.)

Yup, I’m the mom who will NOT sacrifice relationship for “food rules”. Because food phases in children come and go, but the foundation of our relationship – which should be solid – is eroded by control and force.

Last week Zeb went shopping with us and grabbed his usual Pepsi, cookies, and God help us all – Tostino’s Pizza Rolls (have you ever HAD those things? It’s like vomit wrapped in dough.), but then he also chose twice as many healthy foods – pears, plums, strawberries, carrots, and so on. He even enjoyed some of my paleo pumpkin bread.

This didn’t help my ego at all.

It felt like a “win” again, like I was getting my way, “finally he’s eating the way I think he should.” And that’s not what I want either.

My goal? My practice? The thing this parenting gig is teaching me again, and again?

To love and honor EACH of his personal choices, not uphold a “right vs. wrong”. To drop the judgment of “good vs. bad” and remember to look deeper in these moments too, to see the needs he’s meeting with each choice and not just how it’s making me look. To examine my own triggers and heal even more of the places I hold these old loveless stories.

To offer patience, and guidance…not to be confused with shame or fear.

I WANT my ego to hurt. I want it to be challenged again and again. I want it to shrink in size until all that’s left is love.

Love and patience and trust…those are all things I don’t want to compromise on. Even during a junk food phase.

{For more on exactly HOW we navigate these phases, check out my mini-toolkit: Children and Food: How to Inspire Healthy Habits, Body Image, and Choices (Without Forcing, Fighting or Fear)}

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