We’ve all experienced a time in our life when people made the decisions for us about what foods we ate. Whether or not our parents reminded us that we needed to finish the food on our plate so we could grow “big and strong,” or that we needed to eat all of our carrots for the sake of our eyesight (which by the way is a total myth; you’d need to eat a heck of a lot of carrots to enhance your vision ability to superhero level), it was, and is, one of the awesome powers of a parent. So, the fact that as an adult, I have the final say on whether I order that dessert after dinner and choose not to because of health reasons after I swore growing up that I’d eat whatever I wanted, isn’t lost on me. Those principals tend to stick with us, no matter how hard we fight them as kids.
But what we don’t consider, is that our children to come won’t be the only ones on the receiving end of our inherited power of a parent. Because I get to (well, attempt to), stick those principals to my parents now.
My mom isn’t the problem of course. However, my dad tends to steer toward more of the insubordinate route. Perhaps my mom’s food conscious principals lie on the sheer fact that she’s a woman, and we women tend to be a little cautious when it comes to our physique. My dad on the other hand; well he eats all his food for enjoyment, and his intent is to enjoy it in excess sometimes. Let’s just say, this man has quite the sweet tooth, which isn’t good because he teeters on the brink of Diabetes and subsequently has been placed on a special diet by his doctor because of it. Yet, he doesn’t always adhere to that professional advice.
In fact, last Christmas my dad adamantly declared that, it being the holidays, he wasn’t going to adhere to his diet. What we didn’t realize was that he was going to follow through on that declaration so… excessively. For the actual dinner, he served himself quite the portion of Turkey and trimmings, but dessert is when he really went hog wild.
It was as if he held onto this holiday meal like his life depended on it, trying every dessert several times. By the end, the dessert table was left looking as though a five-year-old had free-reign of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Everything was fair game if it was within his reach, and absolutely nothing was left untouched.
So, throughout that night, and much of the next day, he was absolutely sick. Of course, he blamed it on his medications, saying that they were the reason his body didn’t agree to his indulgence the day before… but we knew better. And, because my dad is very hard-headed, there really wasn’t anything we could do to stop him from trying to reach his sugar high at the time, so we were left with the aftermath. And if you thought that my dad was a curmudgeon already, add feeling ill on top of it, and he’s an absolute ray of sunshine, let me tell you…
When we had a celebration for my oldest son’s graduation though, I understandably lost my cool. Anyone planning a party can understand how chaotic an event like that can sometimes be. And well, that day my watchful eyes were on the younger attendees and not my senior father. So, when I walked into the living room to see him scarfing down a huge piece of cake like it was his last meal, and washing it down with a soda like he’d spent some time in the desert, I couldn’t just ignore it. Not after the holiday happenings.
“Dad, now I know you are a grown man, and it is your divine right to make decisions for yourself as an adult, but throw me a bone here. Do you really need the cake AND the soda? I have half a mind to put a stop to both, but I’m feeling generous today… one or the other, you choose!”
Dad took one more swig of the soda and handed it to me as he annoyingly replied, “Fine, I choose cake.”
I grabbed the soda can from him and immediately scoffed when I noticed the can was already empty.
At that point, I had to just walk away, because past experience has taught me that no amount of arguing with that man will ever get me anywhere. So, I stood by and let him suffer the consequences. And yes, he indeed felt ill that night.
Since I know that there is no way around keeping him from doing things he shouldn’t be doing by demanding that he doesn’t do them, I’ve limited any situation in which I could possibly be enabling him to make these poor decisions. For instance, being the one in control of serving the things that tempt him the most. I don’t have a problem with him trying a little, but there’s no need for him to have a portion that would qualify as four servings.
Cutting down on the sweets that are available around him has been a large help too. If he can’t access it, he can’t eat it, and he certainly can’t do the grocery shopping himself, so he’s stuck with eating only the groceries that we provide for him.
I really try not to control every aspect of my parents’ life, because they are adults and they are at an age that they should be able to enjoy every aspect of life… but within reason. My goal to help watch over them and help them comes from a good place. I want to keep my parents around for as long as I can, and although these instances may seem like nagging to some, to me it is a form of parental insurance.