Food for Thought – “A baby is God’s opinion that Life should go on.” – Carl Sandburg
The focus of this article is about raising a conscious child. My first thought is to first check in and see what kind of a conscious parent I might be.
By conscious, I simply mean aware; of who I am, what I’m doing, and who I’m with.
I have been in the kitchen for most of my working life (dishwasher to cook to chef to owner of my own company, Soup Kitchen, Inc.). I know food. I am comfortable in the social microcosm of the kitchen. For those of you who read “Kitchen Confidential”, in many ways, those are my peeps. I am also a songwriter, a ministerial student, a husband and a father (almost certainly not necessarily in that order). None of us are ever just one thing. Even when we think we are.
Admittedly, my journey through food has been one of mostly celebration. I Love to eat!
I know nutrition, and am more conscious of it as the years and miles add up. When our child Gareth was born, I fed him well through how well I fed my wife (and then she just passed on the best of that). As he progressed into food on his own, I had all the wonderful hopes of sharing all that I could create on the plate with him. I think that the cobbler’s kids may not have had the best shoes not because the cobbler was too busy, they may just have wanted to go barefoot. Such was my early food relationship with my son (or rather his with me). He loved the typical “browns, whites and oranges (i.e. hot dogs, mashed potatoes and mac-n-cheese) I am not one to force what I “know better” on him for the sake of discipline or because he’ll “thank me later”. I do explain nutrition and am a good living example of it, and he does listen. I watch his health and remember my own journey to food variety (let’s just say it took a while to get there). Life’s too short and this moment is too precious. I remember sitting at the table as a child, in front of some bluefish (didn’t like it then, don’t like it now) that my Dad had caught and my Mom had prepared. In my youthful honesty I explained how I simply could not, would not (my mental lawyer must have been Dr. Seuss) eat that fish. My parents in their firm, but loving manner, let me know that I would not leave that table until I did. I was sad to realize that at eight years old, I was going to die at that dining room table. Years later they may have told me they “applauded” my conviction, but I know in that moment, they felt defeated. I have learned that if I find myself in an argument with my son, I’ve already lost. I do recall the time (though don’t recall the circumstances) that I actually said “because I said so” to my son. I literally heard it in my mind and thought, “I can’t believe I’m going to say this” just before it popped out of my mouth. Well it did and I “controlled” the moment. For most of his life, I have outweighed my son by more than 100 lbs. (though he’s getting closer every day). Winning a fight is never the question. I also practice Aikido (add that to the above list), and am well aware that the best way to win a battle is to not engage in battle.
Knowing that, I know that conscious parenting has to do with conscious listening.
This takes place in two acts. The first act I paid attention to was my own childhood experience. I know (as do we all really) what I did and didn’t like about my own childhood, and with whatever wisdom I’ve gained over the years, I also recognize the difference between the Love my parents gave and the frustrations they may have had in their own lives (and let’s face it, sometimes stuff just flows downhill). I recognize what I would have liked to experience, and am conscious to give that to my son.
What he does with that is up to him. I’m remembering (actually my wife is reminding me…. and I do try to listen) when Gareth was around four, he made the connection that chocolate made him “hyper” (not clinically so, just normal sugar so). He’d heard about it from us, then “listened” to his own experience with it, and learned from it. We can offer up the banquet of our beliefs and experience, but should let them choose what to eat from the buffet.
That brings me to the second act of conscious listening, and that is listening to him, from the moment he was born (as often as I can). We are not here to rule our children’s lives; we are here to shepherd the evolution of their lives, our families, communities, our planet if we’re willing to care enough.
Don’t you wish you had that perspective raising you? We probably did more than we realized. The older I get the more I realize that my parents did the best they could with who they were. The best thing we can do for our future is to forgive our past.
As I watch my child, not as an extension of me, but as an opportunity for the best I can ever be, I am constantly amazed by the wonder-filled Life he chooses to lead (including all the tongue biting I do as he ages in front of the X-box and internet comedy sites….. ok some of that stuff IS funnyJ). Still the best I can do is encourage him to make the choices that make him truly happy and support him as best I can.
“A baby is God’s opinion that Life should go on”
If the Infinite Source of Unconditional Love thinks that highly of my child, who am I to think any less?
Jamie Klein is the Chef/Owner of Soup Kitchen, Inc. a company whose purpose is ending hunger. For every portion of soup sold, an equal portion of soup is donated to someone in need. For more info, http://soupkitcheninc.com