Summer vacation is essentially over for me; my children went back to school a few weeks ago and I was ready for them to go. In October, when the full impact of school, homework, and activities hits, I will wonder what I was thinking. Right now, however, I am enjoying having more structure to their days. There are no young kids on our street, so sending my kids outside meant that they would start a fight with one another out of sheer boredom within minutes and I would have to break it up and then continue to play referee all afternoon. I wanted them to go back to school where someone else plays referee and I can actually get something done. The boredom factor also applied when considering my children’s diet. With relatives coming into town, birthdays, pool time, playing with friends, and barbecues, I noticed how much more we snacked during the summer months. And being at home all day seemed to be license for regular trips to the fridge and pantry to see what there was to eat.
Nursing school has brought many things into sharp focus for me. It’s one thing to have a vague understanding that certain foods aren’t healthy, but it’s another thing entirely to comprehend at a cellular level what those foods are doing to our bodies. It definitely tends to make potato chips less appealing—at least to me, as a nursing student. What’s complicating it is that while healthy eating is simple, it’s not easy. It brings to mind the advice I would blithely give to families who were worried about their children’s diet during my time at Head Start: cut back on sugar, fast food, no soda, watch juice intake, fruit snacks aren’t real fruit, and offer the same meal to everyone and if they don’t eat it, they won’t starve. During the summer, I’m not exactly proud to admit that I didn’t follow my own advice, except in terms of fruit snacks (which are an abomination). It’s hard to say no, sometimes repeatedly, to the cavalcade of chips, cupcakes, and ice cream that seem to be standard fare at kid gatherings no matter what the occasion. I don’t want to be the mom I met at a recent birthday party who shrieked, “You are not allowed to eat Doritos,” but whose kids fell upon them like starving animals every time her back was turned. But really, is junk food necessary for the kids to have a good time? Doritos, potato chips, pretzels and candy are long considered the epitome of party food, but I know my kids would eat grapes and watermelon just as readily if that was what was available. Don’t get me wrong, they’d probably ask where the Cheetos were but they’d get over it.
So now that I’m back to thinking like a nurse, I’m going to ask my friends to make all of our get-togethers less about junk food and sugary drinks and more about activities that keep our kids moving and having fun together no matter what the season. Less chips, more fruit and veggies. And if you do choose to serve Doritos, keep them away from me. I barely fit into my scrubs as it is.