Wednesday, April 16, 2008

TV and Junk Food

I am not a great mother - I try to be good, but I know that I make many many mistakes.

Summy wasn't much interested in either TV or junk food before we moved to California. Once we came here, her school was very laidback in every way, including food.

For every holiday she brings home goodie bags filled with candy, and one of her teachers actually rewards good behavior with candy. Still, we threw out most of it because she didn't eat it. I kept a jar of candy out in the open at home and it rarely got touched. No restrictions, she could have it anytime she wanted - even before mealtimes. Because, she just wasn't interested.

But slowly, as I started giving her quick convenient "snacks" and she got the same at school, she developed a taste for Starburst, chocolate, Oreos, and Cheetos (all unheard of six months ago).

Also, back home in Massachusetts, the only TV we watched was PBS - for half an hour in the morning on some days, no ads. After an hour or so, she would usually get bored and switch off the TV herself. So again, there were no restrictions on TV. She could watch it anytime she wanted. Because, she just wasn't into it that much.

We move to California, and new cable, and here there's a kid channel that keeps going 24/7. Besides that, there's several on-demand kids shows. Whenever I had to study or cook dinner, I would just turn the TV on. Slowly, especially in the last few weeks, she turned into a zombie, lying down on the couch and just staring at the TV for an hour or two every day (and wanting more).

So I put away the candy jar inside the closet, out of reach, and tried not to turn the TV on so much. Didn't work very well. She still asked for candy at the store, and TV at home.

I panicked - here I had a good thing; a great thing - a kid who loved her vegetables and fruit and didn't even like candy and chips, and liked to get around and play instead of sit down and watch TV - and I went and ruined it. I took it so much for granted and thought she would always be that way.

Luckily, the damage seems to be reversible. I've started to show her strawberries or oranges instead when she asks for junk food. She still has a choice, but she mostly chooses the fruit. Ofcourse she chose the junk before, because I wasn't giving her another good option - I would ask her if she would like fruit instead, but that isn't as good as a visual of a bowl of juicy red strawberries.

And the past few evenings, when she asks for TV, I've been saying "Let's play.". I've never seen her choose TV over companionship once. And it still hasn't changed. Her bored expression goes away and her face lights up at the sugggestion of doing something together. It makes me sad to think of all the times she sat on the couch and said "Can I have some TV now?" because she knew the answer if she asked me to play with her - "I'm too busy right now, Summy.".

I remember one day, she drew a sad face instead of the happy faces she usually draws. I asked her why the little boy was sad, and she said, "The little boy was sad because when they were going to school his mommy said they could go to the park in the evening but in the evening they had to go to Ralphs for groceries and they couldn't go the park because his mommy said they runned out of time." in one breath. A not-at-all subtle dig at me. Broken promises have happened to us several times in the past few months.

In all the bad things I've done as a mom, I think getting my priorities wrong and letting her down this way, was one of the worst. I am lucky that Summy is small enough to not even realize that I've done wrong, and even when she realizes it she forgives so easily. At the end of the day, she always hugs me and says "You are the bestest mom in the whole world.". And I feel like a fraud.

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