Many of you here have younger children whose food, schedules and lives you can and should pretty much control. We used to be young, too. 🙂 Things start to look different when you have an older child, a teen or beyond. Erin is 17. Her adult life is right around the corner and I am working hard every day to help prepare her for whatever that ends up looking like.
Lately there has been a great deal of discussion about the benefits of diets that would require a cut in carbs to a degree that we hadn’t before considered. In thinking through making a shift from the way of eating that she has always followed to one even more restrictive, I had to think about what kind of eating and cooking plan would be sustainable as she gets older. What restrictions are reasonable to ask of her as she tries to maintain a social life with peers, as she starts looking at more independence after high school through school and/or work, and what kind of environment would have to be in place in order for her to be successful if I weren’t there to prepare/cook/portion it for her.
Ideally, she’d have a support team that would educate themselves and comply. I can see Erin successfully living in a house or an apartment, maybe with a roommate and whatever appropriate support she needs. I can see her successfully married if she chooses that path and finds the right partner. What I see as harder to maintain is a well-trained support staff, committed and devoted to her physical, mental, and emotional health, individuals who realize that her diet is the foundation of all of that. Could I count on everybody involved in her life to tow the line, learn her way of living and relating and, yes, eating, especially if we were to make things this much harder? I’d like to think that would happen, but those are lots and lots of variables to control and now we’d be ramping up the difficulty by moving to a more complicated and limiting diet.
So how do I go about upping the chances that Erin will have the kind of meal plan that I would like to see if I’m not there to insure it? For a time, I wondered if it was just too much to ask, too much to hope for. It would have been easy to conclude that it would. But then it occurred to me that I was discounting my strongest resource of all, the one that will be constant no matter who else is involved in her life. That would, of course, be Erin herself. She is the constant, and she is her own best hope.
Equipping Erin to guide her own meal preparation is the best way I can see to set her up for success as an adult in as independent of an environment as she can manage. If she believes in her diet and has an arsenal of recipes and skills, then she can guide her family, her friends, her support staff, or whoever, to help her have the type of food she needs to be healthy and happy. I know there are lots of people in the world of PWS who don’t let their children cook, and I respect that. For Erin, she really enjoys the preparation and production as well as the consumption. 🙂 She has always cooked with her dad (who really likes to cook) and with me (who only cooks if there is absolutely nothing left to warm up), and we have also used cooking as a tool in homeschool, so cooking is nothing new. What was new was explaining to her why we needed to change her diet even more to something that seemed to be even more limiting.
Humility aside, I actually think I’m getting a little smarter as I get older. After all these years, I know that change happens more easily when the ideas are hers, not mine. I had been chatting up this new diet for awhile, talking about what it could do and what others were seeing, and I kept seeing her eye me suspiciously, waiting for me to spring this change on her. Instead, I just asked her if she wanted to cook some new recipes with me. After the shock wore off that I was actually going to cook, she was more than good with that! After sampling a few of the new recipes, she came sidling up to me while munching on one of the dishes and said, “Mom, I think we could handle this new diet!” Now if I’d said that we were going to make this big change and she had to do it for her own good and it would be great and on and on, I would have met with a good deal of resistance and the grief surrounding that would have worn out both of us. But this way, since it was HER idea, she’s good to go. Gotta love her!
If this turns out to be a good diet for her, and she can master the recipes with whatever assistance she needs, she will be able to be in charge of guiding her own meal planning. She can train her friends and/or her staff herself and, if you know Erin, you know that she will have them doing it right! And if this isn’t the plan she needs, we’ll use the same kind of thinking for whatever she does need.
Thinking this through was a stress-reliever for me. Identifying the strengths in her tool kit and building on them has been our way of operating throughout her life and that same type of thinking can carry her into her adult life, even with food. My hope is that the efforts we are putting into teaching her to cook will lead to a lifetime of good cooking, good eating, and good health!