Sam Davies comes face to face with the stuff with which he stuffs his face but not his children’s faces.
Photo by: jessicafm
In my last Raising Richmond, I wrote about the many, many ways I’m a hypocrite. After talking with the Internet, I realized one of my hypocritical ways stood out above the others and resonated with other parents: secret eating.
The other night, my wife, Kat, was out for the evening and I had just finished putting my eight-year-old to bed. Somehow, I’d gotten ahead of the game, the dishes were all done, the floor was swept, and I had some time to myself. I reached into the back of the freezer and then sat down at the table to enjoy an ice cream cookie sandwich. My daughter, who never comes downstairs after being put to bed, then came downstairs, saw me eating my confectionary and indignantly said, “What is that?!”
I answered, hunched over it like a feral cat guarding its recent prey from competitors: “This is my treat.”
We care a lot about the food our kids eat. Real food of nutritional value is provided to our daughters at regular intervals. They sometimes don’t eat it, but it’s not because they filled up on Doritos before dinner. The stuff around the house (that’s accessible to the children) is generally healthy stuff. This isn’t to say that the kids don’t have desserts, or even maintstream junk food on occasion, but it’s not stuff we keep around.
Did you notice the “that’s accessible to the children” line above? Children are short. They can’t see into the freezer. They don’t know what’s on top of the refrigerator. They certainly can’t fathom the contents of the high cupboards. That’s where we keep the cookies, chips, ice cream, and other junky treats that I consume after they go to sleep.
I also have a spouse and a car. This means that one of us can stay home while the other goes out and gets us milkshakes or a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Secret eatings are purchased, devoured, and cleaned up while the children dream of ponies. Any trash hidden one layer deep in the can, to not expose the evidence in the morning.
I don’t eat these snacks for nutrition. Sometimes I eat my feelings, whether it’s sadness or even just boredom. Sometimes I eat out of pure habit. Sometimes, I eat the junk food because I can, because prior to the kids going to sleep it was forbidden, and now it is not. I have a window of about an hour to consume junk food, and if I don’t take it, it’s lost.
Why do I treat my children better than I treat myself? I highly regulate junk food consumption for my kids, because it’s good for them, but isn’t regulating that consumption also good for me? I know that my kids don’t have great self-control, but being a grown-up doesn’t mean that I’m magically in control of my own impulses.
Part of it is that being responsible for other human beings has always been easier for me than taking care of myself. If I don’t live up to my responsibilities to other people, they might not like me. If I don’t live up to my responsibilities to myself, the only one affected is me. With my kids, I’m responsible for whole persons whom I love more than anything. Of course I’m going to try my damnest to take care of them.
But, the same principles I tell my kids should also apply to me. Having delicious, delicious potato chips every once in awhile is fine. Having them every night isn’t great. Binge-eating a bunch of candy gives me a headache and makes me grumpy. I don’t like headaches or being grumpy, but I keep putting sugary goodness into my face.
Change isn’t easy, but I’m going to try to be more mindful of my indulgences. If I couldn’t win an argument with a five-year-old about whether or not I should eat a box of cookies, I won’t eat the box of cookies. Habits are hard for me to establish, and harder for me to break, but I’ll try to give this one a shot.