The single most contentious thing in my relationship with my mother is that she has always predicted gloom and doom about just about everything. There is not a doomsday scenario, accident and downside that my mother has not already envisioned in some form and expressed her opinion about quite vocally and repeatedly. And I have always resented her for what I perceived to be nonstop negativity.
And so imagine my shock when I observed last week that I have turned into a walking, talking warning label on all things random—from Red 40 food dye to fluoridated water to pesticide-laden fruit to partially hydrogenated oils.
For some reason it came to a head for us last weekend. A well-meaning friend offered my 4-year-old a treat and my boy looked him in the eye and asked: “Does it have high fructose corn syrup in it? If it does, I can’t eat it because I will die.” (For the record I never said he would die.)
And later that night, my 6-year-old asked her father during bath time if the water he was bathing her in had fluoride in it and whether that fluoride was going to get absorbed into her body through her skin. “Because you know, dad,” she told him earnestly, “our skin is our body’s biggest organ.”
It is all my fault, of course, every last bit of it. I have been obsessed with healthy living and a good diet since my health crisis several years ago. But after watching my small children parroting my worries about degenerated foods, environmental toxins and contaminated water supplies, I am appalled at myself. How unfair to fill their lives with bogeymen to be feared, lurking at every meal, in every lunch box, cupboard and grocery store.
It is one thing to educate the kids and help them make better choices. It’s yet another to raise them full of angst and paranoia about unseen, unknown evils.
I’m afraid I have not used wisdom or good judgment, though in my defense I had good intentions. (And lest we forget: the road to hell is paved with good intentions.)
Clearly some kind of change is in order. There is a balance to be struck here. Somewhere, somehow, someone is doing it well. But for me, it’s all somewhat hazy.