Well… I was wondering when someone would risk alienating one or both sets of their kids’ grandparents by addressing the ages-old question: What do you say and/or do when the Grands are giving your kids foods you’ve banned?
Guardian columnist Georgina Lawton has been talking to parents about how they manage their kids’ eating habits. The opinions and practices range widely. But all seem to agree that the grandparents are a persistent problem. She asked, “Should my parents stop feeding my kids food that I’ve banned?”
Orlaith, a progressive, deeply involved young mom, complains: “I often ask Mum to go easy on the desserts, but she says kids deserve treats. […] Sometimes when I collect the kids, they are bouncing off the walls because of all the sugar they’ve consumed.”
Orlaith stresses she and her husband have been careful to give their kids healthy foods: “I give them meals that are a bit lighter but perhaps more complicated to prepare, like crudités, hummus and prawns. If they’re with their grandparents for the day, I might provide a packed lunch for them so they can keep to their routine.” But the message hasn’t registered with her parents.
Alas, her Mum cooks from the ‘classic’ point of view: “My mum is a great cook but she’s not into clean eating, unlike James and me. She loves to make quick, easy things for their lunches, like cheesy pizza breads. […] But if they also stay for dinner, Mum will cook heavy meals, like steak and ale pie with buttery mash and crumble for dessert.”
“Also, my dad always feeds them biscuits. He says, “One won’t hurt”, then gives them free rein of the biscuit tin.” Orlaith and James are afraid too much sugar will destroy their kids’ teeth. Not to mention, make them fat.
Orlaith’s parents respond
“They’re kids, for God’s sake. They like sweet things and need a bit of balance,” her Mum, Maureen, insists. “Orlaith will say, ‘You’ve made the kids hyperactive’, but they’re five and three, so they’ll be hyperactive anyway. She’s also very worried about their teeth. But Orlaith ate chocolate growing up and her teeth are fine.”
“Food-wise we just ate normal family meals, and still do. There’s nothing wrong with a shortcrust pie or a roast dinner [See photo, left]. It’s classic cooking,” Dad Conall explains.
“The only thing is that Orlaith has moved away from the food she grew up on. Now it’s all green juice and tofu. There’s a sugar ban for the kids, and red meat is rarely eaten. Orlaith is a bit obsessed with health. She’s definitely conscious of her figure, and we think she’ll pass that on to the kids if she’s not careful.”
It appears there’s little if any room for negotiation, or modifying the parents’ views to more closely mesh with Orlaith’s parents’. Or vice-versa.
How did Guardian readers feel?
Here’s a sampling, as divided as Orlaith and Jim are from Maureen and Conall…
Healthy eating is great, but food is also about pleasure and love. Orlaith should enjoy her parents treating the kids, and hold her own line at home.
The grandparents are undermining the parents’ authority. However, Orlaith shouldn’t expect them to cater for her kids without providing an alternative.
They might not agree with what Orlaith does, but they are not the parents, so they should go along with it regardless.
Orlaith’s parents should respect her wishes when it comes to feeding her kids, especially when it comes to the biscuit tin.
Promoting healthy eating is important, but it sounds like Orlaith is an “almond mum”, promoting with an overly restrictive diet. The occasional pie and mash never hurt anyone!
Are you a parent? A grandparent? If so, are there kids in the equation? And if so, where would you say you fit on the ‘feeding the kids’ spectrum?
Muse on that…
~ Maggie J.