This month’s foster parent training session was on nutrition — how to feed kids who didn’t grow up from day one under your roof.
Everyone has phrases they can’t stand to hear. One of mine is, “If you think about it …” Because it implies that until the speaker graced you with his presence, you never engaged your brain on the subject at hand. You were simply wandering through life using the most basic of reptilian responses to all stimuli … but then our esteemed colleague showed us the error of our ways.
And yet, the best was I can sum up the training session is to say, take everything you know, and just think about it a little harder. Because I didn’t actually learn anything new there, but I realized that a lot about what I know was only surface deep.
I had dogs long before I had kids, but sometimes I forget Lesson #1 with dogs: Dogs will learn that which you show them, not that which you tell them. And kids aren’t much different.
You can scream, clean your plate before you’re excused, and you might think you just taught them a socio-economic lesson about the value of food and why it’s important not to waste it … but all they saw was that you don’t trust them to make their own choices, and that the dinner table is a place to get yelled at.
They see you run out the door to work without eating breakfast, grabbing a travel cup of coffee as you go, and what they saw was that nutrition doesn’t apply to adults and that supplements are the way to go. In their mind, coffee is no different than a Monster “energy” drink — something to get you going, something that allows you to stay up too late the night before.
And it’s amazing what kids will eat if you let them pick the ingredients, help prepare it, and become part of the process. Actually, it’s the opposite of amazing, since it’s exactly what you would expect.
It’s hard enough to get this right with kids whom you’ve known from Day One. Now try to make it work with someone who grew up on Slim Jims and Big Gulps. Or who ate dinner on the couch in front of the teevee every single day. Or whose every dinner came in a paper sack. Or who didn’t realize that some people actually have a meal not from a vending machine before noon.
And once you hear about the cocaine-addicted child who has sensory issues and cannot stand to have food touching them, you’ll never complain about your kid pushing around his lima beans ever again. Can you imagine a child whose sensitivity issues prevents him from eating anything other than room temperature, or anything crunchy, or anything squishy? How do you ensure he gets proper nutrition, when 90% of the food out there drives him into a fit? Kind of puts my little problems in perspective.
My goal for this week: to be a better example, through my actions and not my words.