I stopped by Cracker Barrel in Berea for lunch on Saturday. I didn't bring a book in with me, and I had already lost at the little triangle stupidity game they have on the tables - so what else am I going to do while waiting for my food?
In front of me sat this family. A Mom (mid-late 30s, no wedding ring, phone in hand), a baby girl (still in the booster seat, eating whole foods, under 2), 2 teenage boys (looked like 13 and 15). Here are my thoughts just by witnessing their interaction for about 35 minutes.
Mom - every time the girl started to scream, she would put food in her mouth. The girl dropped her color page on the floor, Mom went to get it, girl threw it down again - it stayed there (for that I was proud). Mom was texting on the phone almost the entire time. Very little interaction with the boys.
Boy 1 (13 year old) - Badly needed a hair cut. Rather overweight. Chewed with his mouth open. On his plate: country fried steak, gravy, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, and steak fries. All starch. Wanted to talk to the older boy (brother) but that didn't produce much conversation.
Boy 2 (15 year 0ld) - Badly in need of a hair cut. Rather overweight. Chewed with his mouth open (see a pattern). On his plate: a house salad (only things gone were cheese and croutons and bacon (all veggies were still on the plate), steak, fully loaded baked potato. Phone in handing texting the entire meal. Didn't seem to want much to do with the brother.
So, after watching this family interact - I made these thoughts and some assumptions:
1. Lack of Father. I don't know if there wasn't a Father present at all - or just not at this meal. But there seemed to be no authority in this family (the mom was so small compared to these two boys that they weren't threatened by her at all - they could take her).
2. Lack of discipline. The mother just had to feed the girl to get her to stop screaming - so the daughter is in control of that relationship. The Mom didn't interact much with the boys and vice versa.
3. Parents have a role in their children's health and weight issues. Take it from one who was overweight all of her life (starting about 4th grade). Parents have the say-so. They can provide healthy foods for their children/teenagers and set good examples by their own eating habits. The Mom picked at her food (roast beef and gravy, corn, mac and cheese, cornbread).
4. So, what can be done for families like this in the world - this was only 2 hours away from me - and I know it happens in every neighborhood - so its not just an "out-there" problem?
4a. Parents - teach your children healthy eating habits. Make sure they get fruits, veggies, whole grains, calcium, lean protein - not just processed foods and high fructose corn syrup and Little Debbie snacks.
4b. Interact with your kids over meals. This is a perfect place to find out how their day was, tell them about your day, read a verse together, talk about how to incorporate God into their days, talk sports, teach them to be thankful for God's provisions, just talk!
4c. Teach your kids manners. I was talking about this with some ladies in the office today. But, kids need to know they don't wear hats at the table (guys), chew with their mouth closed, don't talk with their mouth full, don't berate the food, be thankful for what you have, don't burp or make other bodily noises, and any others if I'm forgetting any.
4d. Lead by example. Dads - these kids (especially sons) are going to watch how you eat at the table, what you eat at the table, if you are thankful for your wife's cooking (or any other) or if you complain about it all the time. Moms - if you do the majority of the cooking, learn to cook healthy - think about your kids 5 or 10 of 25 years down the road - think how your cooking will impact them and even their families.
I know I'm not a parent yet (maybe one day) - so who am I to talk? But, I can talk through experience. We didn't eat poorly by any means, we just snacked a ton on unhealthy stuff and didn't get enough exercise. I continued those poor eating habits even when I left home. Now we all try to eat healthy and cook differently. When I see men who have eating habits - it tells me a lot about their discipline or lack there of. Burping has never been and will never be cool, especially at the dinner table, in American culture - or just for me. I know in some different cultures it is a sign of respect - not in my culture.
Jesus - please do not let me raise unhealthy kids. Let me teach my kids good and healthy eating habits that will last them and make them healthy kids, teenagers, and adults. Lord - also don't let me be judgmental toward others who do not hold this conviction. Help me to show them grace and lead by example. If I ever have the chance to be a wife and a mother - let me love my family through my kitchen. Amen.