i talked with my lovely friend tracy yesterday. she called to find out if we might be able to make it down to charleston for her winter solstice party. sadly, we can't. BUT, we ended up having a really good conversation about one of the big things i've been struggling with for years. and that is letting go of my food control issues. she encouraged me to write about it. so here goes.
as a radical unschooler, i trust that my children will learn what they need, when they need. i also trust them to decide how much tv they watch, how much video games they play, who they choose to play with, and many other things that i would trust myself to do. i have worked towards learning to give them the freedoms i enjoy as "the adult." but there has always been one thing i struggle to trust them with, one thing i can't seem to let go of. and that is freedom to choose what food they want to eat. sure, i ask them what they want to eat, but their choices have always been limited to what i choose to buy. but there are lots of times when i buy junk food as well. i thought i had gotten to a good place where i was exercising moderation. i wasn't being too strict about food. at least that's what i thought.
before we moved, sadie had been playing at her friend's house. they came over and both had the obvious "kool-aid 'stache." i asked if they'd been having kool-aid, and they both very quickly denied it and said it was lipstick. i knew it wasn't but i didn't worry about it. after we moved, sadie told me that they really had been drinking some sort of red drink. she cried and cried because she had lied to me. she said she didn't know why she lied and she was so very upset. i told her she never needed to lie to me, i wasn't mad about it. and that was that.
since moving here i've had to come face to face with all my food control issues. i'm living with my parents and even though my mom is a raw vegan now, there are still a lot of foods in the house that i wouldn't normally buy. and since i have always given my kids a choice of what's available they have been able to choose these things. i did not always say yes though. i found that more and more i was becoming frustrated about food. the weekends that my niece stays over are the worst because my mom buys food she knows she will eat. which is wonderful and considerate. but i have noticed that those weekends are when i go over the edge emotionally and fall apart.
in the last few weeks i have been trying to let go completely, but i hadn't done a very good job. i was still falling into the habit of saying "no, that's not a healthy breakfast" or "no, you need to eat something good for you." i was completely frustrated. so were my kids. so i started reading more about how other unschoolers have handled this. sandra dodd's website helped immensely. especially the section on food issues. it opened my eyes wide. the idea of letting go has been gut-wrenching. i am not being dramatic, i am not exaggerating. the feeling inside was so strong, i almost felt like i couldn't breathe. if i let go, they might become unhealthy, or overweight. i felt like i was going to puke. but as i read, i found things that rang so true i could not ignore them. i found there are other women with the same emotional food issues that i have. and i realized that i could say YES and my kids were going to be okay. they would not end up with all the issues i have about food. but was it too late for them?? were they already caught up in my issues. they refer to foods as "good" and "bad." would i be able to undo that?
after reading several things about food control that i printed from sandra's website, i talked with sadie again about what had happened before. again, she cried. she was still hurting about this. sadie has lived with a lot more of my extreme control times than the boys and she is the one who resists me the most and is the most frustrated about food. interestingly, as a side note, samuel lived about half his life with no television in the house and he is the one who needs to gorge on tv the most. so we talked about her feelings about my food control. she says she mostly wishes we could have more yummy drinks, something besides water. because she knows that we have other sweet treats occasionally but drinks are even more rare, she wants that the most and doesn't seem frustrated about other treats. drinks are her holy grail. she was still very upset about having lied to me. i knew that what we discussed before was not helpful at all for her. my saying it was okay and that i wasn't mad did nothing to start the healing process for her. this time, i talked about the situation that i alone had created that caused her to feel the way she did and to feel like she couldn't trust ME, not the other way around. she had felt like her lying would cause me to not trust HER. that was why she was so upset. plus the fact that she was still feeling deprived and didn't know what to do with those feelings. didn't know how to NOT want those drink treats. she just wanted them. after talking this time, she seemed happy, completely relieved, peaceful.
yesterday was my first big day of saying yes. i cannot describe the way i felt all day. i felt lighter. i felt free. i realized in this one particular moment that by saying yes to them, i could also say yes to myself. i no longer had to deny myself. i could begin to heal too. i did not feel the need to eat all day like i usually do. it was very weird. i tend to eat out of boredom an awful lot. yesterday i just kept feeling okay. just calm and okay. i wanted to go to the store just so i could say yes when the inevitable asking for candy in the check out aisle came. and when i thought about that i was even lighter. i realized that i CAN say yes ALL THE TIME. there is no reason whatsoever to say no all the time. it's not like they are asking for a $40 video game, or a $20 doll. it's a 50 cent piece of candy. or sometimes it's a $2 box of mac n cheese. or a $3 bag of doritoes. why can't i say yes to that?? my reasoning before was that if i said yes once that they would always ask, would always expect a yes. that i would set a precedent. why didn't i see that even when i said no all the time, they were still asking?
my kids were all breastfed on demand. i trusted my tiny little babies to know what they needed, when they needed it. and i gave it to them willingly, joyfully, freely! of course, that was easy because what is healthier than breastmilk, it's easy to say yes to "good" food. but thinking about this has helped me make more sense of this letting go process. i'm reminded of reading about how people mistakenly weaned their kids by saying no more and setting limits on when nursing could take place. the saying no only made the kids ask more. they were increasing their odds of getting a yes. little kids doing probability and statistics, imagine that. they are so smart.
and now i'm going to share something i have never talked about to anyone. not even scotty. it is something i have always felt frustration about towards myself. i have always had a feeling of scarcity about food. especially when it comes to things i crave. like potato chips. when we have them, i want them all. i hate seeing them disappear. i feel like there will not be enough of them to satisfy my wanting them. it is the reason i ALWAYS use a bowl. if i don't, if i sit down with the whole bag, i will eat them all!!! i have always thought that this was because i was greedy and selfish. i feel so embarrassed about it. it causes a lot of anxiety for me because i am so intent on "eating healthy" yet i want all these "bad" foods. when i read the other moms' stories about this very same thing on sandra's site, a well of emotion opened up inside of me and i wanted to just cry and cry. i was not alone. i don't remember a lot of details about my childhood. what i do remember though is that my mom was always struggling with her weight, she was always on some diet or other. nothing seemed to really work for her and it made her unhappy. i think i worry about food because of this. i have a lot of fears about gaining weight although i've never been overweight. i think i transfer those fears to my kids. i want to protect them from all the difficulty that comes from being overweight and unhealthy. scotty started gaining weight when he was about 9 and has never been thin. i see how he struggles with his body image and it just reinforces my need to protect my kids from that. i remember talking to ren about this craving i always have for chips. we weren't even talking about food restrictions, it was just a regular conversation and something or other about what foods people crave came up. and she said to me "i wonder how many bags of chips you'll have to just eat and eat before you feel like you've had enough and feel satisfied and no longer deprived." at the time, i understood what she meant because we had also been talking about how kids need to gorge on tv or video games when they've been controlled/limited. i never really thought she was seriously suggesting i do that. i thought she was making a joke and referencing the other discussion about limitations. i think now that she was serious. i hadn't considered that letting go of food control would help with my own need to gorge. or my kids' for that matter. i hadn't gone there yet.
another thing i'm doing is letting go of my judgements about what my kids choose. letting go of my labels of "good" and "bad" or "healthy" and "not healthy." so i'm on the path to letting go. to healing us all. scotty has been talking about after the holidays getting on a strict diet. i think what i'd like for him to do instead is stop feeling guilty about his food issues and to just let himself have what he wants until he no longer feels deprived. and just see what happens. i don't know if all days will be as easy as yesterday was. i think i will probably have moments of still wanting to control. but i know i'm on the right path.Share