Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Good Mom

When my twelve-year-old son was home sick, I made him some homemade chocolate pudding from scratch.  I am not sure I have ever done that before, having grown up with the made-from-box kind.  I really had to study the recipe, just to figure out how it’s done, and yet it felt very nurturing to make it from scratch. It felt like something I would have loved for my Mom to do when I was his age and feeling crummy. 

I wondered, however, even as I made it, whether Cameron would like it. He likes very few foods, and he’s often suspicious of the “healthy food” I try to feed him.  Thinking back, I can’t recall ever seeing him eat pudding. But it’s painful for him to chew right now, and he doesn't like Jello or tomato soup. I did ask him if he likes chocolate pudding, and he said he does.  I decided to make the most healthy version I could, since it might be the only thing he ate for awhile. I used organic eggs milk and yogurt, dark chocolate chips dark chocolate (full of antioxidants!), and a high-quality oil. I stirred it nonstop for a solid 30 minutes. I let it chill before covering it, as directed. I thought it tasted amazing!

Cameron took a small bite and immediately made a face.  “Is this really chocolate?" he asked. I assured him that it was.  "It has a funny after-taste," he says. That’s probably the yogurt, I mused. I thought it was an unusual ingredient for pudding, but, since I hadn’t made pudding from scratch before, I didn’t question it.  I put yogurt in the smoothies Cameron likes so it never occurred to me that it would be a problem. 

Cameron pushed the bowl of pudding away with a sigh.  “I’m sorry, Mom.”  He then went to the freezer and got out his favorite standby, a frozen cheese pizza, to put into the oven.  As painful as his swollen glands were, chewing his favorite food was a lot less painful than the torture of eating something different.

I posted about this experience on Facebook, and a kind friend said, "you're a good mom." That gave me pause.  Am I?  Yes, I made a nutritious treat for my son because he was not feeling well.  I have fond memories of my mom making Jello and pudding for me when I was sick, and I wanted Cameron to have fond memories of me going out of my way to care for him, too.  And yet I knew full well that the odds of Cameron liking organic, homemade pudding were slim.  Truly a processed food junkie, he is suspicious of all homemade offerings. 

Who am I really nurturing here? Now I have a fridge full of little pudding cups of homemade guilt staring Cameron in the face whenever he opens the door. How is that serving him?  I know he feels badly about not liking it.  I certainly don’t need the calories of eating it all myself, and throwing it all in the trash isn’t going to make either of us feel better.  And yet I enjoyed the entire process of making the pudding.  Assembling the healthy ingredients, devoting the thirty minutes to careful and dedicated stirring….throughout all of it I felt terribly virtuous and wonderfully nurturing. 

I realize now that it was all more about me than it was about Cameron.  I was doing something that made me feel like a good mother, an image that I hold high.  Furthermore, I was giving myself the rare opportunity to enjoy the process.  So often, I’m preparing food in a rush, scurrying to get it done within the time constraints of homework, lessons and meetings.  I rarely find myself enjoying the process of creating what, if we truly *are* what we eat, is a gift of sustenance and love.  Not only am I providing nutrition that will feed the bodies of my beloveds, but the nutrients they contain will become the very cells, tissues and organs that allow their bodies to function and allow them to do all that they came here to do. 

So I went back to Cameron to let him know that it’s okay that he didn’t enjoy the pudding, and that he never has to pretend he likes something that I make for him.  What I want him to know is that I’m doing everything I can to help him grow up to be healthy, both because it’s good for him and also because it serves me, too.  I like feeling like a good mother. If what I’m offering does not feel good to him, then he can rest easy knowing that it was as much about what I needed as about what he wants or needs.  “Does this mean I still have to eat broccoli?” he asked.  "Of course, it does!" I assured him.   I’m just saying you don’t have to pretend to like it.

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