Four and a half years ago an unexpected surprise came into our lives. He was named Hunter and is our first grandchild. This is something of an anomaly for us as my husband has never had children and now he was a grandfather at the age of 35. That has taken some getting used to for sure. At any rate, by our own choosing, we have taken a large role in helping out with this boy and are learning much about life, love, & laughter again through the eyes of a child. What fun we are having!
For the past year he's been in our care three days a week and we take this opportunity seriously. Great effort is put into helping him develop in all areas of his life. We work not only on educational and intellectual pursuits but we encourage his sense of humor and have fun with crafts, cooking, and chores.
There is one particular area, however, where we are purposefully putting in an extra special and thoughtful influence that we hope will have a lasting impact in his later years. His eating habits. Unfortunately, his diet away from us consists of McDonald's and fast food, daycare lunches of white bread, Ritz crackers, putrefied & hormone filled milk and way too many sweets. Once, while talking on the phone to my son I asked him what they were having for dinner and he said chicken nuggets and french fries. When I asked about a vegetable, he said the fries were potatoes and that was the vegetable. Ay, yi, yi...
Since birth he has spent time with grandpa in the garden. Dirty clothes, hands, and feet were cleaned in an old stock tank filled with water. Naps were taken under the shade of a tree using his plastic swimming pool for a portable bed. Worms were collected and played with and let go again. Countless times he stumbled and fell into grandpa's newly established crops - that being both irritating and comical at the same time.
All the while, he's been learning what food is and where it comes from and how delicious it can be. He can identify a carrot, beet, onion, garlic, zucchini, broccoli, kohlrabi, cabbage, kale, mustard and anything else we quiz him on. We take garden tours and walk and talk and snack. Which tastes better the bean or the pea, the strawberry or the raspberry, mustard or arugula?
A favorite garden activity of ours is the salad game. It requires a big romaine leaf into which a green onion, a piece of kale, sorrel, and anything else that will fit into it is rolled up into a salad sandwich. Hunter is then asked to 'hold' the sandwich but not to eat it. He squeals with laughter as he runs through grandpa's rows (this is where we sometimes get in trouble) and I chase him down trying to get the sandwich back - all the while he is stuffing his face with it. After a couple of these 'sandwiches' he's had a good supply of his daily greens and we've had a lot of fun in the process. He loves showing off his biceps, or 'broccoli muscles' as we call them and going out to feed the chickens in the evening without the flashlight as he believes all the carrots he's consumed have given him super eye site.
We've fed him almost exclusively organic foods and rarely have any sweets or treats for him. He's never even noticed that while here he eats no meat. At age four he cooks his own eggs from start to finish, under supervision of course. Daily snacks include broccoli & peppers or carrots and apples dipped in peanut butter, or a favorite of his, fried zucchini. If he eats everything at dinner he ends the day with a square of dark chocolate. This has become the norm at our house and he does not nag us to buy him cookies or candy while shopping because he knows - it's not going to happen. The other day, he looked in the fridge and saw a couple of cans of Coke in the back that I bought for my son & daughter-in-law who were visiting from Vegas during the holidays and he said in amazement "grandma, you've got pop in there" and that was it - he didn't ask for or expect to be given any - it was just a statement of fact.
Our hopes are that when he is old enough to make his own food choices, he will have developed a taste for 'real' food, and will make wise choices that lead him down the road of good health. My regrets are that I did not do this with my own sons when they were young. I thought I was doing them a service by feeding them breads & cereals that were 'fortified' with this vitamin or that mineral and meats and milk that had who knows what done or added to it before it arrived on our plates. Sadly not, and now they pay the price for not knowing or liking the taste of a tomato or carrot fresh out of the garden. I am grateful for a second chance to try to get it right.