Sunday, 10 April 2016

Do as I say; not as I do...

As breastfeeding was going so well, I thought I had won the debate on baby feeding. Nope. I had just passed Phase One. When Kate was almost three months old, I went for lunch with some other mothers in the New Parents Support Group. As their babies were a few months older, they had begun introducing solids through Baby Led Weaning. "What's Baby Led Weaning?" I asked in earnest. The two women exchanged looks. I'm sure it was acknowledging their surprise that I hadn't heard about Baby Lead Weaning, but also realising it was an opportunity to teach me. Almost talking over each other, they quickly ran through the philosophy and principles of this approach, and then tried to convince me that purees are passé and BLW is the BFD. "It's so great! Baby eats what you eat!" one woman kept repeating. That's where she lost me. see about that... I said to myself in my Bill Lumburgh voice. We eat like crap!

When we were getting ready to start Kate on solids, I realised it represented quite an opportunity. I could make sure the foods she eats in her first year, will be the healthiest choices of her entire life. I went to Whole Foods to purchase their pre-cut butternut squash. Husband tried to cook with a bag of organic peas, but I stopped him in time to point out that those were for Kate, we would be eating from the bag of basic Safe.way brand peas. I relished having total control over what she would be eating. I know I will eventually have to relinquish this control as she will become exposed to other foods outside of our home. She'll discover that candy is involved with almost every major holiday and she'll receive the obligatory cupcake with each classmate's birthday. Even just this past week, the instructor at her Baby Yoga class offered flavoured teething biscuits. "They're organic!" she assured her crunchy Bay Area audience. A mother next to me read the wrapper, "it contains organic sugar" she informed me. The purist in me wanted to refuse it, but I didn't want her to watch all the other babies snacking on their waffers, not that I know whether or not she'd get upset about it. "There are worse things..." I commented to the other mother as I decided to let Kate have the treat.

The thing is that I do want her to enjoy foods. I want her to discover that chocolate and peanut butter make an awesome combination. I want her to know that everything is better with bacon. I just want her to be at an age where she can make good choices. The trouble is that I'm nearly 40 years old and I still haven't learned those lessons. Although we have improved over time. When we moved into our house 6 years ago, we were spending our evenings working on remodeling and we ate take-out meals almost every night. I gained nearly 10 pounds during that time, it was a struggle to lose that weight. As I've mentioned previously, Husband is not very [at all] helpful with meal planning. Sometimes, I would ask him just to defrost a protein in the morning, figuring that we could create some kind of a meal when I came home from work, only to discover that he failed this task. It always amazed me they way he could be so oblivious about dinner. I suppose between his mother and myself, the magical dinner fairy has produced a plate in front of him. I pointed out that it was fine for him to ignore dinner with me, after all, I'm an adult who can fend for herself; but if we were to have a child, he would be legally responsible for feeding him or her!

Throughout the course of our (almost) 10 year marriage, we've gone through the 'what's for dinner' debate. I finally had to accept that I will never get assistance with meal planning, and if I leave him to do the shopping, he'll come home with many unhealthy options. I am fortunate in that he is a good and willing cook, so I'll continue to handle the other two tasks. Previously, we would do well for a few weeks, then encounter a week with many FUFFYs, (when one of use will not be home for dinner, it's Fuck yoU, Fend For Yourself) or we'll just get busy and planning will go out the window and we'll be left scrambling for dinner ideas each night. Now that Kate is here, I can't drop the ball on this. As she will eventually be eating what we are eating, it's my responsibility to make sure we have a plan for dinner each night, and I'm also taking ownership to make sure it's a healthy and nutritious meal, and not processed crap.

I often quote Eleanor Roosevelt, "you cannot ask that of others, that which you are not willing to do yourself". If I want Kate to eat healthful foods and to develop good habits, then I have to model good behaviour. During the month of June, I'm going to do a Whole 30 Challenge. No sugar. No grains. No dairy. No legumes. No alcohol. It's my version of Cry It Out. I know I won't always be able to maintain clean eating and I know I won't always be able to control Kate's food, but I'm going to do the best that I can, for as long as I can.

The other behaviour that we have to modify in order to set a good example for Kate is with watching TV. Our pediatrician is very adamant about not exposing her to any screen time before the age of 2 years. As we were reading about the purpose of white noise to help infants' sleep, I recognised we seem to use TV for the same purpose. We'll turn on the television to syndicated episodes of The Big Bang Theory or Modern Family really just to have something background sound. So we've moved to using Pandora in the kitchen while we're making dinner or feeding Kate. Husband was also motivated to reduce our monthly bills, so he dropped our cable provider and switched us to a Roku. There are fewer channel options, but still gives us access to some basic cable channels and we spend a little extra for HBO. We only watch TV in our bedroom after putting Kate down for the night, but we'll rarely stay awake long enough for an hour long programme.

I question how long we'll maintain this strategy. My mother described that when I was a toddler, her one hour of sanity per day occurred while I was watching Sesame Street. I actually feel that The Street really helped shaped my upbringing. I learned to count, was introduced to Spanish words and other aspect of cultural diversity, as well as other valuable life lessons, such as Mr Hooper's death and Gordon and Susan adopting a baby named Miles. Furthermore, I cannot deny that television media is an important aspect of our social experience. The Nurse who led our New Parents Group described that she didn't let her children watch TV and her son felt left out while playing with his friends as he didn't know what The Power Rangers were. I made some friends in my college dorm while gathering in the common room to watch Friends each week. During most of the 90s, you could break the ice or evade an awkward pause in a conversation with a Seinfeld reference. I do want her to experience the positive benefits of TV.

Yet how to strike a balance? While I was growing up my TV time was limited and I could not watch television if it was a nice sunny day outside. My mother would literally shut off the TV and throw me out the door to go play in the back yard. If it were raining outside, I always knew that it meant I could watch cartoons, but my mother would give me something else to do while the TV was on in the background. I had to play with Legos, color or if she happened to be sewing, I would make clothes for my stuffed animals and dolls using her material scraps. My parents had a friend who used an interesting strategy with his boys. They had to earn an hour of watching TV or playing video games by reading for an hour. His hope was that they would become so engaged in the books that they would prefer reading to TV, or at least if would reduce the number of hours of TV time. It worked for the younger son, as he became a voracious reader. It was a struggle for the older son, as he had learning disabilities (probably dyslexia). I think I'll adopt a similar strategy, but may include other non-TV activities such as playing with Legos or art projects to start at an early age.

The final behaviour we need to modify is our use of iphones and the ipad (although as I am tying, Kate is sitting beside me eating Cheerios in her high chair). A few months ago, Husband was googling early signs of autism (you know, as you do...) and found a video from the Kenndey Kreiger Institute. In one particular clip a boy on the ASD spectrum was playing with an old mobile flip phone. The voice over described "the child shows an intense interest in his phone and does not share his enjoyment of the phone with others." Um, I don't know if that is unique to autism, as it seems to describe just about any adult with a smart phone, (including myself). I realise that the phone was just the toy used for the demonstration as this boy did exhibit other ASD features, yet it did give me pause to think about the impact of smart phone use.

I saw (on Facebook) a great Meme that captures the dilemma of this aspect of modern technology. "Cell phones keep you close to people far away, but it takes you away from the ones right next to you". This was also brilliantly captured by photographer Eric Pickersgill, in is Removed series. It thinks there is something poignant that many cafes are actually promoting 'No wi-fi service here. You'll have to talk to each other.' Especially when Husband and I are together, I'm trying to avoid using the phone in front of her, so she'll see that people do actually take to each other. Sometimes about things other than what they see on their phones. Yet perhaps the biggest execption with the iphone is when we enage in Facetime with her grandparents. BTW, does that count as screen time? I know how much it means to my parents and my in-laws to be able to see a live shot, so we'll continue our weekly calls and just hope it's not causing any lasting damage.

I need a better editor. 


  1. You'll figure out what works for you. We do FaceTime with grandparents and I can't imagine how that's bad. We don't watch any kid shows or movies but we do watch hockey or curling with AJ in the room. I agree about setting a good example for children but not sure if reinventing ones whole life is realistic.

  2. Both my husband and I like to cook (he's better at it than I; I have more time), but we often get FUFFY weeks (I love that term). We got into the habit of making enormous quantities of soup whenever we made soup -- to the point where one Saturday's worth of soup making will get us six containers of roughly three servings a piece into the freezer. If you do this often enough, you have enough variety in the freezer that you can simply pull something out at random. Luckily for us, soup is one of Gwen's favorite things to eat, so it works for all of us!

    Also, all bets go out the window if one parent is gone. I was at a conference last week, during which time Joel and Gwen had take-out pizza twice. As much as I hope to instill in her good eating habits, I'm also happy to teach her that there are appropriate times to say "screw it, we're ordering pizza" when there are too many other things to take care of.

    [[Edited: Hmmm, your LJ sign-in isn't working properly. this is]]

  3. Ugh--we have the same thoughts and behaviors. Right now, it's so easy, mostly purees and bites of our food for A that are appropriate. We've been trying to eat out less, but it mostly means grazing, no serious sit down meals.

    The thought of trying to make a balanced meal that we all like--protein, carb, vegetable--seems so overwhelming at the end of the day, particularly since we're out of the habit. I have discovered something that seems to work--Indian food (or course). Simmered curries with vegetables or proteins that can be mashed and the heat can be amped up or down depending on the eater. And it's a self-contained meal! At some point we're going to have to get disciplined and sit down for family meals, but I feel like we still have time. Maybe I'll look to our daycare menus for inspiration.

    I think one thing that you do so well is incorporating healthy lifestyle habits into your life. We are determined to get out of the house more--spend more time as a family taking walks in the morning, play in the backyard, lead a more active lifestyle. And hopefully food won't be the focus. There was an interesting article in the Washington Post about how healthy kids eat until 12 months of age and then the junk food habit starts. It's crazy that french fries are a toddlers major source of vegetables:

    The TV is something else we struggle with. We have our TV on all the time. Usually it's turned to CNN and honestly, Ayan stopped paying attention to it. However, the few times cartoons have been on, he's mesmerized. So no cartoons for Ayan; we have some close family friends whose kids watch endless amounts of TV and they use TV as a reward/punishment. Maybe we're being naive, but I hope we never get to that point.

    Similar to you, I grew up on Sesame Street, 3-2-1 Contact, Nature shows, the News Hour--basically PBS and I love it now it retrospect. I am interested in politics, I'm interested in nature, and I like learning. And like you, I don't want my kid to be the one who has no idea about pop culture, it's an important connector.

    One thing I am trying to stay away from is branded toys/clothes/etc. So no disney toys, no teenage turtle pjs, none of that. We'll see how long that lasts.

    The iphone and remote controls are the biggest draws in our house--I swear that will be the motivation Ayan uses to finally move forward and not backward. But he's also very interested in cars, and balls, and rattles, and tags, and crinkly books--pretty much anything we put in front of him.

    I feel like it's hard to do everything right--no screen time, healthy balanced family meals, exercise, educational toys only, 8 uninterrupted hours of sleep; I feel like if we're above average we're doing OK.

    1. Sorry for the crazy long comment--it's just that, as usual, your post basically reflects what I'm already thinking about. :)

  4. Oh man, meal planning is so hard! I keep meaning to research more slow cooker recipes, as I feel like throwing a bunch of healthy ingredients in the pot and turning it on won't take too much time and effort and if it results in a tasty meal, that would be great!

    We try to limit our phone use as much as possible, but obviously stay within reason. TV too, I let her watch a bit of sesame street here and there but she loses interest quite quickly. Balance is the ultimate goal I guess...

  5. I just went back to work this week and this struggle is real for me now too. When I was still on leave it was relatively easy to start meal prep when Q was napping, or I could at least just let him play in the kitchen drawers while I cooked. Now we have to commute home, one of us (me) does meal prep while the other walks the dog, and I've discovered this week that Q comes home from daycare HANGRY and does not want to wait for dinner. Finger foods and snacks did not cut it, either. Somehow he knows that's not his real dinner. I'm going to have to go through my slow cooker cookbooks and start doing meal prep the night before, or do a ton of it on the weekend which sucks as it'll cut into family time. But I feel like it might be the only way we can manage for now! Don't even ask me where I'm going to fit working out into all of this.

  6. Oh, such a timely post! All of these things are also going on with me right now.

    To the food items...

    I believe I did mention to you that we did a combo of purees and BLW. I was so proud of myself. I skipped the rice cereal ("It's nothing but refined sugar!"). I fed her nothing but organic vegetables. It was all so good, so pure. And then she went to daycare (aka, my sister's house) where suddenly she was scarfing chocolate chip waffles and fistfuls of M&Ms. And all my efforts were wasted. Because let's face it - any normal person confronted with chocolate and organic pureed beets is gonna go for the chocolate. Forget purity.

    Here's the thing... back in the day I prided myself on her palate. She ate everything and anything. Pad thai? Yes please! Brussels sprouts? But of course! But now... now. Toddlerhood somehow makes them interested in nothing but chicken nuggets and mac 'n cheese. These aren't even things I serve (like, ever) but somehow she figured out they exist. I lovingly serve her my paleo meals and she refuses them. All of them. Basically this is a long-winded way of saying that you're screwed no matter what you do, so don't be too hard on yourself. Even if you get her to adhere to a healthy, well-rounded diet now, once she gets to 2 it's all out the window.

    Or maybe she'll stick to it, in which case I'll need your advice so maybe I can use it on Liam.

    To the TV thing -

    I just wrote a post about screen time today, weird! About TV specifically though, I did not have television growing up. I did miss out on a lot of pop culture references but eh, I was ok. I did get to see it while I was over friends houses and I sort of knew what people were talking about. With the rise of Hulu and Roku and all that I think cable is an antiquated concept anyway. We don't have it, and every day I hear about another person cancelling.

    I hear you on the iPhones, I'm pretty bad with it. And no, I don't think FaceTiming counts. Your pediatrician sounds hardcore.

  7. I don't think face timing counts and I personally think tv is okay as long as it's on the educational side. I've found that kids that aren't allowed to watch tv will just sit and soak it up when it is on and kids that are tend to play as they glance up to watch once in awhile.

  8. If Facetiming was an issue then frankly Izzy wouldn't have known what her father looked like because of all of his work travel for 9 months! It's a great way to stay in touch with grandparents and the traveling spouse.

    As a working mom, I think that it is easier to keep the tv off until she goes to bed. She did start watching some Sesame Street before the age of two but it was basically two 30-min episodes a week. My ped wasn't worried about that amount of tv. Now she watches maybe two hours of tv/movies a week? Nothing during the work week...generally it is right after she gets up or right before she goes to bed on the weekends.

    My husband and I do our best to not be on our phones around her- unless we are looking up directions, responding to a quick text message, etc. We generally save our Facebooking until her nap or after she goes to bed.

    Meal prep is hard. I don't really like to cook so my husband does most of the cooking. We will generally go out to eat as a family once during the work week and once on the weekend (usually breakfast or lunch). My husband will make a big meal on Sunday night and we will eat it for dinner the next few nights. We generally give it to Izzy unless it is something too spicy. From around a year or so to when she turned 2 we did give her a separate dinner for the most part. I found that frozen veggies heated up in the microwave and always including a cut up fruit was key. Then we would make a little pasta, or rice and beans, scrambled eggs, etc. for the main dish. We did (and still do) buy meatballs in a bag which would be processed food, but they are very simple to stick in the microwave and I try to get the ones that don't have too many ingredients in them (or buy them fresh at the grocery store). I am really happy with Izzy's eating habits as she will scarf down peas, corn, broccoli, edamame, sugar snap peas, cucumbers, radishes, yellow and green beans, cherry tomatoes, etc. like it is her job. Having a garden I think helped last year and I can't wait for the garden this summer (although she may eat most of the veggies leaving little for me and CP).

    Don't freak out about too much about all of these things. Everything in moderation.

  9. Ughhhh. So there with you. We did BLW with tons of success. He's a fantastic eater right now, AND my husband and I are eating a little better, so it's been a win/win. But at his daycare, when they turn one, they move from the food brought from home to a menu prepared at the school for breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack. Goodbye organic fruits and fresh veggies and hello prepared and processed EVERYTHING. It so breaks my heart.

    As for the TV thing, I was REALLY trying to hold out until two, but oh my gosh, the crying. When he had to do breathing treatments, kid shows on my phone were the ONLY thing that would help him calm down and sit still enough without me having to pin him down or restrain him. And brushing teeth. OH. MY. GOSH. I would bribe him with ANYTHING to get him to hold still long enough for me to brush all of his teeth. It's not like he's watching hours of TV, it might amount to 10-15 minutes a week, but I still feel guilty. Especially since he is absolutely obsessed with my phone (and has been for months). It shows me that he constantly sees Sam and I on our phones. So guilty.

  10. We did BLW, but coupled it with purees. I liked the approach of letting B have things to gnaw on (BLW), but also exposing her to more flavors and foods via purees.

    We don't really watch much TV and I worry a lot more about phone usage. I try to not use my phone between when I come home from work and when I put B down. I'm not perfect about it, but I try... I just don't want to her think that it is normal to have a phone attached to you at all times. I'm SURE I'm fighting a losing battle...

    Whatever you do on both fronts, Kate will be great!

    Also, we did the Whole30 a few months ago and I loved it and felt SO good. It was a doosie for my milk supply, though.