I saw a tweet a while ago that summarised something that’s been on my mind for quite some time.
One of the most important aspects of being a parent is being a good role model. God, I’m sure there will be a million times when I’ll want to tell the girls “Do as I say, not as I do”, but the bottom line is that the way we behave has a massive and direct influence on the way our children behave. They will copy our words, our actions and our opinions – at least until they are old enough to question these themselves, but it will take a big outside influence for them to do that.
So with that in mind, is the way I live my life the way I would like the girls to live theirs?
A bad habit is stupidly easy to pick up.
You’ve had a stressful day at work and you say to your wife that evening, “I know it’s only Wednesday, but shall we get a bottle of wine?”
It’s a slippery slope and before you know it, the two of you are polishing off a couple of glasses most nights of the week.
(This is pure conjecture, of course, it’s not like I’m writing from my own experience.)
Alcohol is probably our major vice. When either of us put on weight, it’s usually because we’re drinking more than usual. Other than that, we eat pretty healthily. Neither of us go out of our way to exercise these days, but we have in the past. I enjoy swimming, but it ends up being so costly. Running is free, but of course it’s either bloody cold or running the same route all the time gets boring. At the moment, I get out with the girls for a couple of hours most days and the act of pushing the buggy around has meant that I’m at the lowest weight I’ve been at in, well, years (if you discount the brief period at the beginning of my pregnancy when I pretty much threw up/couldn’t eat for about 6 weeks).
So it’s not like we lead particuarly unhealthy lives. But having said that, there are habits I (we) are trying to break so that we can be good role models for the girls.
As part of the concept of baby-led weaning, the girls are supposed to eat exactly what we eat. Firstly, this has affected what and how we cook to a greater degree than I thought it would considering I do think we are pretty healthy overall.
Babies aren’t supposed to have too much salt as their bodies aren’t equipped to process it. For that reason we have stopped putting salt in our cooking. Although we do usually cook most things from scratch, it does also mean we need to be careful with anything processed because of the often high salt content. When using stock pots (you know, those little jelly ones) I now use about half a pot in about twice as much water to minimise the salt content. (You can also get special baby stock cubes, which are pretty much flavourless, or low-salt stock pots, which we just haven’t tried yet.)
Like I said, we generally cook from scratch and eat pretty healthily, but whereas before we might have not bothered to cook any veg on the side of a shepherd’s pie, we now do every time. This was particularly important in the early days of BLW because the girls’ hands weren’t so great at getting the mince to their mouths, but a carrot baton or a floret of broccoli was something they could manage pretty easily.
So that’s mealtimes. We all eat better because of the girls.
But sweet things… Well, that’s certainly where I’m likely to come unstuck. I have a hugely sweet tooth and find it hard to end a meal without something sweet to finish it off. So far, the girls have (with one exception) only had natural sugar within fruit and veg.
(The exception was hot cross buns, which I thought would be a nice, one-off treat before Easter. And then L’s parents started bringing them round every time they came because it was a treat they were “allowed”. I was amazed how long Marks & Spencer’s continued to sell hot cross buns after Easter!)
I don’t want to ban any foods, because I think that attitude can end up having the opposite affect, but while the girls are so young they still have yet to try things like cake, chocolate and ice cream. We give them only water or milk to drink and don’t offer fruit as “dessert” after every meal in the hope that they won’t form the habit (like me) of needing something sweet.
Of course, that hasn’t stopped us from having sweet treats – chocolate, biscuits, cakes… I really am not good at going without my sugary goodness. But as the girls do get older, we’re going to have to knock that pretty much on the head. The girls are already curious when they see us eating something and sooner or later we will no longer be able to distract them with a different type of food. If we want them to only have sugary foods every now and again then we are going to have to do the same ourselves.