Thursday, February 9, 2012

Maternal Vigilance

According to ...

vig•i•lance [ˈvi-jə-lən(t)s] is the quality or state of being alertly watchful especially to avoid danger

I agree and will take it even further. According to the dictionary of mom, vigilance is the state of being alertly watchful in order to avoid those unforeseen circumstances when one's tween has caught you with your guard down. These seemingly meaningless events can spell danger, indeed. They can uproot long-established order. They can bend rules irreparably. They can set precedents, that no amount of parental regrouping will ever un-set.

Case in point: breakfast at my house.

Ten years ago, if the American Academy of Pediatrics had wanted to award a Best-Breakfast-for-a-Toddler Prize, I would have been a strong contender. My daughter used to sit down to a yummy variety of healthful wholesome foods. A typical morning started with fresh fruit. Then, she would have some protein: a hard-boiled egg maybe, or a slice of cheese, or a nice yogurt. Next, some grains: maybe half a bagel, or a muffin, or some cereal. To wash it all down? A tall glass of 2-percent milk. Mmm mmm good!

She never argued or complained, just ate whatever was put in front of her. Every morning, she pretty much cleaned her Hello Kitty or Disney Princess or Pooh Bear plate.

Mornings changed as she grew older. She stopped liking hard-boiled eggs. She stopped liking yogurt. We evolved to pizza bagels, breakfast burritos and the occasional chicken noodle soup breakfast. She still ate fruit. And ...

She still drank milk.

She didn't like it, but she drank it. It was — supposedly — non-negotiable.


Several months ago, she hit me with her usual, "But, Mo-o-om. I hate milk!" and "This milk tastes bad!" and "Why don't you and Daddy have to drink milk if it's so good for you?" I don't know what happened. I was tired? I was distracted? I was stressed out? Maybe. What I wasn't was ... vigilant.

"All right, all right," I said. "Here. Drink this instead!" I replaced the dreaded dairy with a cup of calcium-enriched orange juice. And that, dear readers, was the beginning of the end. Wait. Actually, it was just plain the end.

The reason that vigilance is so incredibly important is because tweens, in the words of Winston Churchill: "Never, Never, Never give up." It is the tween's nature to climb every mountain, forge every stream, find every chink in their parent's proverbial armor and then ... GOTCHA! ... use it to their advantage.

My short-term fix ("Here. Drink this instead.") resulted in a long-term paradigm shift. That one moment of weakness made the milk-with-breakfast rule null and void. Not for one day, but forever.

There have been other moments of truth in which yours truly has lost both the battle and the war. Most involve time limits, electronics, family traditions, electronics, chores, electronics, consequences and ... electronics. If only a little warning bell would go off right before those "All right, just this once" words leave my lips. But, no. Like so much else in my life as the mother of a tween, I fall into these situations blindly. By the time I understand the ramifications, it is too late.

My hope is that back when she use to listen and comply, she picked up the underlying reasons and beliefs and moral foundations I was trying to impart. I didn't want her to drink milk because I own stock in the dairy industry. I wanted her to get a nutritionally sound start to her day. I wanted her bones and teeth to be strong and healthy. Maybe somewhere inside, she absorbed a little of that balanced diet idea. Maybe someday when she's on her own, she'll make smart choices. But, until then, I'll just try to look on the bright side ...

Think of all the money I'm saving on milk!

1 comment:

  1. Feel way ok about this - new nutritional information suggests that dairy isn't really all that good for us anyway. Baby cows were meant to drink cow's milk - apparently people were not! :)

    And btw, I get that the point is not whether or not she drinks milk, it's the damned independence and slippery slope of negotiations.