Thursday, 6 February 2014
Forget whether you pureed or went down the baby led weaning group, we're talking when they're school age now. I'm not hating, I fully respect if you have the means to feed your child purely organic vegetables and free range organic meat. Hell, if I could afford it I'd probably buy that too. I'm glad that you're loud and proud about how your children happily lunch upon quinoa, cous cous, falafels and pasta salads accompanied by crudites with home made humous and organic plain yogurt with honey fresh from Jesus' own little bee party. Bully for you. No really. However, does it make you a better parent? Does it place your children at an obvious and consistent advantage? Some people simply can't afford that type of food and some children, won't bloody eat it.
We all know the importance of good nutrition. Yet there is some middle ground, it's not all turkey twizzlers versus feta cheese mixed bean salads at dawn.
Some of us, whether we like it or not, have to shop at, sorry God, Iceland. Well shoot me down with the bad parenting tazer of doom. Yes my children eat Chicken Dippers and Fish Fingers. I know. Spank me now. Some of us have picky children and despite the best intentions would rather avoid a battlefield at tea time. It's about making educated decisions, such as choosing them made of chicken breast and fish fillet as opposed to mechanically reclaimed mulch and minced up generic sea inhabitants. It's about coupling them with a huge portion of vegetables and following it with fresh fruit and yogurt. It's about balance and some good old fashioned give and take. They also eat sausages, chicken breasts, pork steaks, roast chicken/pork/beef etc. When money is scarce what is best? get three fresh supermarket chicken breasts or six frozen ones for the same price? Sometimes it's a quickie tea of beans on toast or scrambled eggs. We have one child that won't touch pasta, two that won't eat anything in a tomato based sauce, one that hates gravy, all three will only eat rice if served with 'yellow curry', one that hates cheese etc etc etc
We're an anything in moderation kind of family, there is nothing glamorous about sweets or chocolate, they're a treat but not elevated to such a treat status that they're coveted. Yes, we eat cake and puddings..... mostly home made yet sometimes not.
Yet nine times out of ten, if the children want a snack it's fruit. They mostly drink water 99% of the time too.
There's much discussion lately over the contents of children's school packed lunches. I'll admit i'm adverse to the dictatorship angle many schools are approaching this from. Not every child who has a chocolate biscuit or pack of crisps in their butty bag goes home to eat microwave meals and turkey twizzlers. Again, use your noggin. It's not appropriate to have a fizzy drink, a mars bar or a pack of chewing gum in their packed lunch yet what is the harm of a packet of crisps or a Penguin along with a sandwich, drink, yogurt and fruit/vegetables? Granted some children unfortunately eat utter shite all day, the only semi nutritious meal they get is probably their hot school dinner. Yet sometimes, a parent just wants their child to have a dinner they know they'll actually eat. School is long. It can be exhausting and hard. Many kids will leave part of their lunch. As a parent you know what you have planned for their tea, hopefully a nutritious and healthy meal and you know you'll be there to see them eat it. In your absence, at school, you put a treat in their butty box to perk them up, to make them smile. Is that a crime? Do schools have the right to tell a parent what they can and can't feed their child? I'm all for guidance and education yet dictating? No thank you.
When my children started school, the usual bumph, you know an acre of rain forest, accompanies them bleating on about healthy eating and how they encourage it, yet at the same time when Thing One was in nursery, she came home with a whole packet of chewy sweets as a good behaviour/achievement prize. Not one sweet, a whole pack. At that point she'd never even had chewy sweets before. What happened to stickers or pencils? The hypocrisy is ludicrous. Yet on the other hand I applaud the fresh fruit snacks they provide the infants with during the day.
Next time you're patting yourself on your back, whilst upon your pedestal, before you judge those based on where they shop remind yourself, you may know ONE of the places they shop, yet you don't know the entire contents of their trolley. Places like farm-foods and Iceland don't always equate to substandard, processed, nutrition lacking convenience foods. It is entirely possible to shop there and cook from scratch. Sometimes people are just making the best of what they have.
I've seen parents spend £40 in Morrisons on no frills budget range processed food and walk out with three bags filled whilst others spend the same at Iceland on five bags of frozen meats and vegetables etc. Yet you see the Morrisons bags and accept their choices, yet the Iceland ones flag up 'bad / lazy parent!'
This area is both economically and socially deprived. I'm being genuinely serious when I say I count the woman doing the school runs in their pj's with a fag dangling from their mouth as they drag their kids swearing profusely. The same kids that at 8.30am are drinking energy drinks and eating crisps whilst toddlers sit in their buggies with their gorgeous wee fists clutching a can of Pepsi or a bottle with coffee in it. I'm not for a moment suggesting this is the majority, yet it also, unfortunately, isn't a rarity either.
On the other hand there are children here who breakfast, snack and dinner on wholesome nutrient rich foods with vegetables and fruits we couldn't even name yet the only thing they're guaranteed to actually eat at school is a jam buttie, banana and a Breakaway. Maybe they're nervous in the busy canteen setting or overwhelmed by school in general. Many young children are too anxious to get to the playground to play or simply get that inexplicable tummy ache at lunch time in school that makes them not want to eat. In these cases, a lentil surprise and green smoothie wouldn't help. Do they have bad parents? Or parents that accept and adapt to their child?
We're living in a country where a teenagers can buy an entire pack of Maryland cookies from Home Bargains for less money than it costs to buy an apple or two from the supermarket next door. A cheeseburger is cheaper than a tuna sandwich when walking around town. The government introduce healthy start vouchers to help poorer families afford more fresh fruit, vegetables and milk yet on the other hand also let them be spent on formula as that's so expensive and breastfeeding rates are so abysmally low. Schools spend more time teaching about the feudal system and Pythagoras than they do on basic cooking from scratch and other life skills. The government don't give a fuck. People are having to choose between heat or eat. The country and society is broken.
Live and let live. You probably don't know the full story. You can't judge a parent simply on where they shop or what you see their children eat.