I was once laughed at (in a gym, of all places) when I mentioned that kids deserve to eat healthy food. My friend thought it was ridiculous and finished the conversation with, “Let kids be kids.” This was in reference to her support of the stereotypical hot pocket and hot dog diet. She then said that there’s plenty of time for vegetables when they’re older. Well, that just stinks. I pout when I see public attitudes that are as embarrassingly outdated as M.C. Hammer pants.
It wasn’t until this conversation that I realized how much I love the phrase, “Let kids be kids.” Childhood should contain magic and joy. It should have minimal nagging and lots of snuggling. They deserve a period of life without the burden of making constant choices that will impact their future.
I want my kids to enjoy these fleeting moments of freedom before it’s their turn to pay the mortgage. I want them to scrounge through the fridge and make a picnic in the living room. I want them to have safe, open spaces where they can battle cowboy zombies. I want them to enjoy a healthy lifestyle without the social stress of being weird or different.
Big P’s principal mentioned that some of the kindergartners in his school are too overweight to sit criss-cross applesauce. Yep. The national stats are reflected in my school, too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that one in three kiddos in our country is overweight or obese. Kids who struggle with weight are more likely to have high blood pressure, prediabetes, bone and joint problems, and sleep apnea. But poor diets aren’t just affecting what we can see on the outside. New studies show a link between a poor diet and depression, anxiety, and even ADHD. A poor diet can also make it harder to function in a classroom and eventually raise their risk for preventable chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Where’s the freedom when you need to constantly monitor your blood sugar?
Many of these conditions are brought upon by a combination of genetics and environment. We can’t do anything about genetics, but we can create a good environment. Kids deserve an environment that makes healthy choices easy and fun. I started by making my home environment healthier. I’m not heroic. I just got tired of saying “no.” My fridge and pantry are stuffed with fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Now I don’t have to nag my kids when they rummage through the fridge for their picnic. That is unless they take one bite out of an apple and then move onto the next one. That drives me nuts.
For my kids, paying the mortgage can wait, but not health.
How do you let your kids be kids? Let us know in a comment below how you are making your home or school environment healthier.