motherhood, parenting

The ‘do as I say not as I do’ parental integrity dilemma

The other day K and I had a passionate discussion over dinner. I don’t want Waleed to have to deal with weight issues, said K. I nodded in agreement, healthy food, organic when possible. You have to stick to what you believe, I said as I picked up my Five Guys burger and looked up to catch my son licking his lips as he watched me take a bite.

I want my son to be happy and to live a life of meaning and integrity. I thought I lived my life with integrity- my actions in line with my beliefs- but now that I have a son watching my every move, I realize this isn’t always the case, the contradictions beginning to surface like fine fractures along a sidewalk- not a problem at the moment but give it a few years and you just might trip and fall on the cracks of shifting stone.

It’s not just food. [This isn’t a knock on kids who watch TV but] I want him to avoid screen time for as long as possible. Granted, now that BRAVO TV got cut off Waleed entered our life TV viewing has dropped as its relegated to his sleeping hours but we still watch it. And enjoy it. Mad Men. The Wire. Breaking Bad. K and I frequently discuss pulling the plug since the aforementioned shows are viewed via Netflix and the actual harm I find in TV is in the mindless channel surfing that can render you a couch potato and a passive participant in life. Yet each time we call to do the deed DirectTV offers more discounts, offers, and then K hesitates, well I do enjoy my sports and the decision is postponed for another few months.

Right now none of this is really an issueΒ  I can easily eat a brownie while handing him diced apples, eat a greasy burger while feeding him organic pizza and home-made french fries. But its all temporary- soon he’s going to catch on- and chuck that home-made fry in my face.

Parenting with integrity requires constant self-examination, self-restraint and self-discipline. And none of this is easy. I love sweets. I would eat sweets for breakfast-lunch-dinner if it were socially acceptable- and this struggle to eat better is not a new one it just feels more urgent because I’m his role model. If he sees me ingesting a mountain of ice cream rivaling K-2- chances are he’ll want to do the same once he can.

Little by little we’re making changes. K and I have given up soda [which if you know K, is huge]. We watch 80% less TV. And- I am getting serious about curbing my sweet-tooth. I know I won’t always succeed in parenting with full integrity- but I want to be able to look back and say I gave it everything I had to do so. [And if you see me eating a brownie? feel free to smack me!]

Can you relate? What challenges of ‘do as I say not as I do’ do you struggle with when it comes to parenting? [And- just throwing it out there- anyone successfully curb their not-great eating habits? This sugar addict aficionado would love tips!]

18 thoughts on “The ‘do as I say not as I do’ parental integrity dilemma”

  1. I just read that children develop their lifelong eating habits by the age of 4 and that the #1 influence is, you guessed it, what Mom eats (not what Mom feeds). It really hit home, but was reassuring too. I feel like (for the most part) I've grabbed some control over my eating issues; but on top of that, I feed the kids (for the most part) what I'm eating. And that makes me rethink my own choices.

    You're doing great just by having the thoughts and the conversations. Most folks dont go that far. But because you are willing to put your words into actions, you'll do even better!!!


  2. Wow, age Four?! Wow.

    Thanks for sharing Michele- you have been the catalyst for my motivation to kick my sugar urges for good. I hope I am half as successful as you!


  3. Anon- you're right- I won't be opposed to him watching television forever- its a temporary thing- but I do feel bad when I see him glancing over from his high chair if I flip on the TV while feeding him and then turn it off- I feel like a hypocrite, though when I was his age- I wasn't allowed television for the same reasons- my mother explained when I was older, I could- just not when I was younger.


  4. Aisha – Just live your life without putting any cross examination on yourself. Only thing you need to avoid is bad habits like smoking, alcohol, cursing (hard), lying (most deceptive and most easy for kids to pick). As far as food, entertainment etc – let him enjoy as heart desires. Believe me they learn a lot through TV plus they develop social interaction. I know a mom – who never let her kids watch TV and carefully selected all shows – and let me tell you – kids are now teen and are book smart but have no IQ and street smartness (an essential quality they need).

    Nothing is better than full hearted love..Let him watch blue's clues, george, sesame street, barney and let him develop taste for biryani, paya, nihari as well as fries, burger….Its ok

    Dil to bachha hai ji

    (sorry for taking too much space)


  5. I can totally relate…(as I do to all your parenting blogs it seems!) I do feel guilty watching tv around him, but have cut down a lot because of him. As for eating, I try not to over-think it and give him what I eat. He's turned into a picky eater though (toddlers!) so often times I'm just glad if he'll just eat something, anything (as long as its not sugary!). I think mystic-soul's advice is sound. I try not to be too hard on myself – the world does that enough when you're a mom!


  6. I've done the best I can and you can't ask for more than that. So far my 12 y/o and 9 y/o are a healthy weight for their age – so they've made it further than I did.

    Most parents are hypocrites – it's unavoidable. “Why does Daddy get Coke Zero with dinner?” – because he's a grown adult and can make his own decisions – you're a growing child and you need the vitamins in milk. Not fair? … well, welcome to life.

    Obviously we try to model good behavior as much as possible. We don't drink in excess. We don't smoke, we try not to curse (in front of them anyway) – because these are things we don't want them to do. We help our neighbors and perform random acts of kindness – and they are really kind, polite, thoughtful children as a result. I read because I want them to read, (and I've even gotten my husband to turn the TV off though he's not fond of books.) …

    If I tell them to go outside and play/get some exercise and they say, “But you're on the computer” – Ha – well, they caught me. More often than not, the computer goes off and I go play soccer with them.

    Food is a much harder addiction but I think I've done well to teach them about portion sizes and eating a well balanced diet. They both eat a lot of things most kids won't touch and are adventurous eaters.

    I've had a talk with them many times about how my parents didn't raise me with good eating habits and I'm STILL fighting that. They get it… and in the end, if modeling good eating habits is the one thing I failed at, I don't think I did too badly.

    PS – Though I respect it if you decide not to let him watch TV, I agree with Mystic Soul. Though you should definitely limit TV – a few carefully selected programs can teach children a lot. There are so many amazing educational shows and I think they're good teaching tools. Just my opinion!


  7. Yep – I agree, totally. It's been so hard realizing that I fool myself, but I can't fool the baby. When I eat three Cadbury eggs, his stomach gets upset. WHICH IT SHOULD. Shoot, MY stomach should be upset from that kind of overindulgence. I am finding – as I strive to cut chocolate out of my life – that it's easier when I frame it like “Would I feed this to H?” It brings my own bad habits into sharp – painfully sharp – relief. Good luck with this – I'm right there with you…


  8. I would just practice portion control and always include a fruit or veggie with each meal and limit desserts to one a day and no soda. He will be fine πŸ˜‰


  9. Mystic, yes you have to live your life, the issue became when I let him have a five guys french fry and a bit of burger and he vomited promptly after- I think the grease from it was too much- and it really got me thinking. As far as TV, its a personal choice like I said and as Tracy pointed out in the comments below, there are benefits to it too to be sure, I will at some point let W watch TV because its unavoidable and as you said there are some benefits as long as its supervised, scheduled and controlled, but under the age of 2, studies have shown that its harmful for children and the AAP has advised against it as it can be linked to ADD if viewed before then, and later can be related to obesity:
    So those are my reasons now- but I do plan to let him watch some after he is two years old- until then, he doesn't know what he's missing- and well, I didn't watch television until I was three- and I turned out fine πŸ™‚

    Maleeha, Glad you can relate! I heard they get picky as they get older 😦 Not looking forward to that! Like I told mystic above, I gave him some of what I was eating, a burger and fries at Five Guys, and he threw up on me! LOL So that was when I really began examining this- I usuallyalways feed him what I'm eating he eats whatever we eat for dinner in small amounts- and so it made me do a hard look at what I eat.

    Tracy, you've done a great job with your kids- and they are a testament to your parenting skills. I already talked about the TV thing with the comment I left for Mystic since he touched on the same things and yes I do plan to let him watch TV at some point, just not before two since there are studies about its link to ADD and since he doesn't know what he's missing right now its not too hard to do! Thanks for your advice on the other aspects regarding food, portions, playing outside, etc- you can only do the best you can do- and hope they understand. I want to kick the sugar addiction as you know, not just for him, but for me as its a lifelong struggle that I just want to shed once and for all, but knowing that W's odds of having similar sturggles go up if I have them- motivates me to work harder.

    Susan, thanks for empathisisng. Hopefully we'll figure this out πŸ™‚

    E, thanks for your advice πŸ™‚ portion control is key.


  10. As a “once upon a time” child, I guess I learnt the most through examples. As an adult, I want to be inspired.
    I agree with you. Parenting requires constant self-examination, self-restraint and self-discipline. Perhaps, you could try to schedule some “you” time where you can indulge to your hearts desire πŸ™‚
    I often wonder, does being a mother involve ceasing to be yourself? I do not know yet. My take is, as beautiful as motherhood is, how could it entail that… it should add to a person πŸ™‚
    The best part is Waleed licking his lips while watching you eat your burger :)))
    All the very best.


  11. A, “does being a mother involve ceasing to be yourself” wow, that's a powerful question- I can't speak for all mothers, but for me, the things that I want to teach Waleed, I believe in. I want him to eat healthy, I want him to watch minimal television, I want him to not lie, cheat, steal, etc etc and these are all because I BELIEVE in these things. I want to eat healthy, I want to reduce TV watching- those are my own personal values but until he came along I didn't really follow them well- I'd say its not so much ceasing to be myself, but more so wanting to be all that I think I can be. Pushing myself harder than before. So it adds to me, to be a better person [though it takes away my sleep, that it does :)] Does that make sense?


  12. Wow, this is a tough one! We don't have kids yet but we always talk about what we'll do when (particularly because I enjoy fast food and trashy tv like nobody's business). I think you guys are already doing great- at least you're aware that sooner or later, he's going to want that cheeseburger you're eating πŸ™‚


  13. πŸ™‚
    It makes perfect sense. Ideally, our relationships enrich us… that is exactly what your son is doing for you (MashaAllah) and I am so very happy for you πŸ™‚


  14. Azmina, lol- yes awareness is key- and cheeseburgers aren't bad in and of themselves- its just everything in moderation~ so keep on with them trash tv shows. I miss them so.

    A, thank you, that was very well said- I was trying to figure out what I meant to say, but you said it- he is helping me grow to be a better person- but- I know not all mothers feel this way- some feel stifled and that they have forgotten who they are within the hustle an bustle.


  15. We're not the most active people – though we used to be – and I don't have a love of outdoor activities that don't involve a patio and a drink. I'm hoping my husband will help out in this regard, though he's become less active as well. We gotta change that.


  16. Society tells us how we need to lose more and be more active, but then they make it so expensive to do that! We're couponing it these days, but when Davie starts to eat food we'll start going organic on the fruits and veggies for her.


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