I heard once some time ago that my influence over my kids’ final outcome ended when they turned five. That by age five they had soaked up all the manners, values and habits they ever would from me. I have thought about this snippet of trivia often. Is my role as family educator done? Did I squeeze enough knowledge into them before they left for kindergarten? Now, on the occasion of my first child’s sixteenth birthday I find myself again wondering if perhaps I have become dispensable.
His manners are for the most part lovely. Check. He is usually kind and generous. Check. He is clean and well dressed. Hmmm…clean, check. But do the pants around the buttocks count as well dressed? (before having kids there were several silly things I said in the category of “I’ll never”. “I’ll never let my boys wear their pants sagging” was one). He works hard in school. Check, and room to grow. He has commonsense. Um, not always as demonstrated this week when he donated blood in the middle of lacrosse season and then wondered why he was so winded while running. Sigh. He understands the importance of physical fitness. Check! He understands the importance of good nutrition. Uh oh. Wait, yes, I am sure he understands. But this point is where I see the wisdom of the five year old rule.
As a mother there are household chores that I do happily, there are others that drive me slowly insane day after day. Making lunches leads the list of things making my hair go gray. One recent afternoon on the way to his lacrosse practice, my son asked if we could stop by his school locker to pick up something too big to carry on his bike. Indeed, the sack of old lunches filling his locker was big. And smelly. Turns out he wasn’t eating much of what I had packed. The carefully cut veggies, the fresh fruit, the wholegrain bread all…moldy. That was IT. Later that night I had one of those look out-mom’s-head-is-spinning moments that all children should see occasionally. Now I no longer make lunch, they do. I made some rules: each lunch must have a fruit, a veggie and some protein. It has worked well for the most part. Those were rules they knew age five, right?
Yesterday my friend told me a story. She was at the grocery store during the high school lunch hour and happened to see our sons there. She quietly watched them go through the checkout aisle. My son had a 2 liter bottle of Mountain Dew. Hers a family-sized bag of Cheetos and their friend had a bag of Oreos. Well, I guess that explains the lunches in the locker. Why eat vegetables when you can eat your Cheetos with Mountain Dew? So, by age five he knew the food pyramid well enough to scold me when I crept up too high on it, but by age sixteen he is apparently very comfortable at it’s apex.
Now, I am left both looking back and hoping I taught him enough and gazing forward and hoping that the knowledge will resurface in time. His recent choice of a birthday dinner reflects this split in a way. He requested steak (“to replace the iron lost from donating blood this week so I can run better”), potatoes and … a vegetable. Great! Which one? Asparagus?
Are you kidding Mom?
How about roasted broccoli?
No mom, just carrots.
The endless stream of baby carrots was part of what made me hate making lunches so much. Maybe if I show him this recent article about how eating beets before running can make you run significantly faster he’ll change his mind? ©