What we owe our children

Most bloggers get negative comments from time to time, but up til now I have been fortunate to have tremendously kind and respectful commenters. In the flurry of extra visitors to my blog in the last few days, I have gotten many kind and encouraging notes, both on the blog and to me privately. Thanks to each of you. I hope that you will feel welcome here.

There have been a few that have left me feeling a bit ruffled– insinuating that in keeping our food costs low, I might be somehow depriving my children or feeding them subpar food. I only have to look at a plate of food at an average dinner to know that our diet is varied, healthy, and delicious. And yet in trying to understand where the negative commenters might be coming from, I got to thinking about what we really owe our family when it comes to feeding them.

Certainly we owe them enough nutritious food to grow and thrive. A casual glance through the grocery store tells me that there aren’t many folks in America suffering from too few calories, my kids included. They’re all normal weight, healthy kids, who are loaded with energy. At the moment they’re outside eating popsicles, juice dripping down their arms.

(Some people would diss me for feeding my kids popsicles– the sugar! The food coloring! I maintain that popsicles are a lovely addition to childhood summer memories, food coloring be hanged.)

But just what do we OWE our kids? Slabs of steak? Chicken nuggets? Organic everything? Meals at expensive restaurants every week? Pizza every night? There are almost as many answers as there are families, but in general I am pretty comfy letting folks make the choices for their own kids.

As a mom, I work to expose my kids to a wide variety of healthy food. Not only do I want them to be healthy– I also want them to be comfortable no matter what is offered to them in the future. I don’t want them to be crippled by a myriad of ‘I hate it’ foods. I want them to have good table manners so that they will be able to eat a meal any place and not embarrass themselves or others.

My kids gobble Korean-style sushi and Ethiopian-style flatbread with great pleasure, as well as vegetables like cabbage and brussel sprouts and broccoli that many people don’t learn to enjoy til adulthood. But I don’t see a thing wrong with serving casseroles and pasta and rice and other simple hearty foods as well. I would never want my children to go somewhere and turn their nose up at a simple dish of lentils.

In fact, my husband and I talk with our children about the many people in the world who aren’t privileged to have the high standard of living that we do in America. People who’ve never seen the huge array of selection in a Western-style grocery store. People who’ve never owned a freezer, let alone seen one filled with pounds and pounds of beef and chicken like mine happens to be at the moment.

There’s another side to not going overboard at the grocery store as well. It is freedom of choice. In reality John and I could probably afford to buy steak a little more often. (OK, I’ll be honest–if the beef industry was dependent on my steak purchases, it would have collapsed long ago. Hamburger is a different story!) But by not buying steak and lots of meals out and boatloads of prepackaged food, we free up our grocery money for other things.

Things like time to play on the beach with our kids. Big Christmases (every year we swear we’re not going overboard, but every year we do anyway!) Compassion kids. And most recently, a swimming pool. Just ask my kids if they’d rather have steak or a swimming pool. I dare you.

Even IF we could afford to ‘have it all’, I’m not convinced that $50 is better spent on steak when there are children all over the world desperate to go to school. What do we owe our children anyway? And just who are ‘our’ children?

My family is fortunate that our frugality is not born from true desperation. And I am convinced that by spending money wisely, our impact on the world will be greater in the end.

One of my favorite quotes is from Ghandi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I truly believe that frugality is one way that we can extend our impact on the world.

If we dare.

{ 61 Comments }

  1. the way you do it sounds great!
    in my opinion a little bit of (almost) everything is a good way.

  2. I agree 100%.

    My kids eat hummus, fish tacos, all kinds of veggies and popsicles ta boot!

    Variety is the spice of life.

  3. Oh, Mary.. I just want to tell you that you are in a word, lovely. I wonder if anyone who made comments about your dining habits has a garden to rival your family’s?

    I enjoy your blog so much and hope you continue to publish meal photos, recipes and stories and photos of your beautiful happy kids.

    Abundant blessings to you and yours!!

    With much admiration,
    Dayna

  4. AMEN, Mary!
    I think you are so on-target with issues regarding your household and parenting, it is clear that you’re being divinely inspired.

    As for those who may disagree, bear in mind, that people are generally critical (or even hateful) to people who seem to be really adept at something that is difficult for THEM. In other words, if you came under fire or criticism because of your sound/frugal/healthy meal choices, perhaps the “criticizer” was someone who knows that yours is the “right” way to do food and nutrition for her family, but since she (or he) personally is unable to do the same, they unfairly criticize you, maybe consciously, maybe unconsciously, out of some weird desire to even the score, so to speak.

    Just a thought.

    But I think you have many many more readers who absolutely applaud you, and learn and grow from your wonderful blog, and are DAILY inspired and encouraged by you.

    (Isn’t that such a trick of the devil, that a few critical words are such a negative force…while the many encouraging words we hear often just drift on by …..)

  5. Great post Mary. You said it beautifully!

  6. Kudos to you! I also found you via CNN and applaud you and your family. The choices you are making now will have a profound positive impact on your children. While not as amazing as you (I saw the pictures of your pantry – sheesh!), I am also trying to teach my children that just because you have money does not mean you have to spend it, and that less is often better than more. (One of my favorite cookbooks is the “More with Less Cookbook” and I have tried to spread that philosophy to other areas of my life) I have also tried to help them just how blessed we are.

    Just like we tell our children not to bow to peer pressure and not to take what other kids say too seriously, we need to follow that advice also. Don’t listen to what those “mean kids” say! You know that you are making the right decisions for your family. As my daughters would say “You go, girl!”

    Jill

  7. Hi Mary! I haven’t commented in a while, but I was just reading that article over at CNN and all the comments and WOW people sure love to shoot their mouths off when they don’t know the situation, don’t they? I thought you handled it with grace and aplomb. Good job! And what great publicity 🙂 To think I can say I read your blog when you were excited to get 100 comments… 😉

  8. “As for those who may disagree, bear in mind, that people are generally critical (or even hateful) to people who seem to be really adept at something that is difficult for THEM. In other words, if you came under fire or criticism because of your sound/frugal/healthy meal choices, perhaps the “criticizer” was someone who knows that yours is the “right” way to do food and nutrition for her family, but since she (or he) personally is unable to do the same, they unfairly criticize you, maybe consciously, maybe unconsciously, out of some weird desire to even the score, so to speak.”

    I completely agree with the above quote from Heart a few comments up from mine. Mary, you do a lovely job raising educated, healthy and compassionate children. Those who criticize are probably struggling just a *tad* with the green monster jealousy.

    I’ve been inspired, educated, reassured, comforted, and just plain enriched by your blog for several years now. Thank you!

    Amblin

  9. Hi Mary.

    A big, sloppy raspberry to whomever made a negative comment about your food choices.

    Clearly they haven’t read your blog long enough to be aware of your plentyful and healthful garden. I remember your basketful of apples last fall.

    When they start buying your groceries for you, then maybe their opinion will matter.

  10. I think it is very smart to be frugal, whether you need to be or not. In fact, I am starting to watch our food budget and be more frugal myself. We make most of our meals from scratch and my kids eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and rice and beans. I’ve found that some of our cheapest meals are some of our favorites. From reading your blog and seeing your recipes, it seems to me that your kids have a great diet and you are saving money. There’s nothing wrong with that.

  11. Wow. I can only hope that whoever made nasty comments didn’t read your blog much. I suppose being ignorant is a little less bad than being outright mean and horrible. :p
    It’s obvious to me your kids are well and nutritiously fed. I am just a tad envious of your lovely garden.

    And you are right on about entitlement. I think Americans and most Western folks have a hugely inflated view of what’s “necessary” for living. Which may be why our waistlines are so inflated. 😀