Obesity in children. No one can figure out how it happened or how to solve it. Everywhere I turn, I run into some new "healthy snack" idea. Little packaged apples, little packaged carrots, little packaged cheese cubes. (Gee whiz, I wonder what we did before those little packaged snacks? Oh I know! We handed them an apple!) And sure, a lot of kids will eat those things. And when they're done, they are still hungry for a more substantial and tasty snack!
I don't think the problem is really rooted in the snack choices we offer our children. I think it's that the Me Generation is raising a MeMe Generation.
I'm gonna blame public schools. (The blame goes way back before that, but we'll start here, because public schools is an easy target.) I'm afraid that parents learned early on that the schools would raise their children. That's why parents are so choosy about the schools in an area where they live. Because that's to be their child's newly adopted parent! It's all planned out. From the minute they are born, we are looking forward to getting them out of the house. I wish it were uncommon to hear a parent say (right in front of the child) "Oh! He goes to kindergarten next year! I can't wait to have the break!" And then we are so excited when they are in first grade, because they'll be in school ALL DAY! Even the most involved and loving parents are caught in this trap of looking forward to the break, because most likely they have been paying a babysitter or a nanny and now they get a financial break. And if that weren't enough, we started putting them in pre-school (for their own good, of course) at age two!
So then, they are in school, and we whine about their vacations when they will be home all day long. And how we can't wait for them to go back to school. We can't wait until they graduate and turn 18 so they can move out and we can get on with our lives that we've put on hold for them.
We've learned to put our children away from us. We figured out that if we put them in front of a tv or a computer, they will shut up and we can have some quiet and think. We've had people talking to us all day. We've had traffic and phones and deadlines all day. And now we come home and we have to help with homework! Good God! If a parent is lucky, they will have maybe an hour to themselves. Maybe. And all of this is done in a fragmented way. We can't stop to eat with the family. Everyone is grabbing something and running out the door. Soccer, football, ballet, music, yoga, whatever! Whatever we can do to essentially fill up every minute of every day with productive shit!
And we feed them. We feed them to shut them up. We feed them first at events or family gatherings. At home, we let them eat an entire bag of chips, because we can't be bothered with spending time training them to put some in a bowl and stop at that. Every once in awhile, we awaken from our coma and say, "Oh my! You can't eat just chips! Here! Have some carrots! They're good for you!" So they learn that, not only do they take precedence, but they need to be fed! And they need to leave us alone to do grown up things!
So what we've done is we've raised a generation of people who are entirely gluttonous. We neglect them, so we appease them. Then neglect and appease. They wind up with too many clothes, too many toys, too many gadgets and too much food! I thank God for parents who don't have the means to appease them in such a way! Single parents have become the best parents because they just can't fucking afford it!
So it's not really obesity that is the problem. It's that we, of the self-absorbed lot, have taught them to be like us. Even anorexic children are consumed with self. It's all rooted in this and there is no solution.
But we can start by having dinner with our children every night. At least they can learn some table manners.
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