Role reversal —
Now it's the son teaching mom how to eat healthy
© by Barbara Anderson
The Salem News
Thursday, December 9, 2010
I don't need the President's Council on
Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, or the president's wife, to teach
me about fitness, sports and nutrition. I just ask my son.
Yes, there comes a time in every mother's life when she has to
say to her kids: You are right.
After a last stand last spring in Nevada sharing chocolate and
ice cream with the grandchildren, I am now ready to tell them:
Dad and mom know best.
Nothing against Michelle Obama. I didn't need Laura Bush, whom I
admire, to teach me to read to my son either. In fact, this is
where the story of Lance and nutrition begins, as at age 2 he
stands on a chair in front of the stove stirring hot dogs,
potato slices and beans.
We'd read a book about a boy who stowed away on a ship; the crew
had made him work for his keep by cooking hot dogs, potatoes and
beans for them. Lance and I regularly re-enacted that story.
Also, having read Dr. Seuss, we did not eat green eggs and ham.
I myself am not a great cook. I've always been happy to eat most
anything anyone puts in front of me; and find something easy to
cook if I have to make it myself. Since Lance's father was often
being fed overseas by the Navy, our son's early years featured
Kellogg's Pop-Tarts, peanut-butter sandwiches and Shake-A Pudd'n.
(There's a funny photo in which the lid came off the pudding
container while he was shaking it, so he ended up wearing his
More complicated tastes developed over the years. After I'd gone
to work in Boston I was rarely home by dinnertime, so Lance and
our live-in friend, John, would fix meals together. John's
specialty was macaroni and cheese, but already Lance was baking
popovers as good as those at Anthony's Hawthorne.
Lance didn't like cafeteria food or cold packed lunches. He'd
come home from middle school to make soup and salad; said the
trick was to walk boldly out the front door as if on an approved
As a teenager he worked as a busboy/waiter at the King's Rook
and Michael's in Marblehead, and probably picked up a few
culinary tips there.
When he was in college, he and his UMass housemates invited John
and me to Thanksgiving dinner in Amherst. Assisted by their
girlfriends, they served food made "from scratch" that ranged
from the pre-dinner veggie dips and homemade bread sticks
through the stuffed turkey, side dishes, fresh cranberry sauce
and pies. It was the best meal I'd ever had until years later,
when Lance and his wife Mary took John and me to a cooking
school in California for a several-course gourmet meal.
Was all this meant to make me feel inadequate, you ask? Hard to
tell. But I'm sure Mary appreciates her husband's self-taught
skills, since he shares in the preparation of the evening meal.
When I visit I enjoy watching the two of them circling their
kitchen's center island after their shared workday, chopping,
mixing, stirring their nutritious and delicious vegetarian
OK, I didn't immediately get the vegetarian thing. But they
aren't religious about it; Mary simply determined that meat and
poultry aren't helpful for maintaining healthy bodies. They eat
wild salmon and sushi; mix grains, beans and cheese to get their
proteins; and bake whole-grain bread in a bread machine that
runs overnight. There's always yogurt in the refrigerator, fresh
fruit on the counter.
My sylphlike granddaughter is a delicate eater, preferring pasta
to either meat or vegetables. My sturdy grandson, however,
decided that he likes meat, especially hot dogs; and to their
credit his parents let him choose, realizing perhaps that with
his very active lifestyle, he may need more protein than his
more artistic sister.
It was hard for a grandmother, though, who wanted to treat them
to cookies and ice cream. I resisted the anti-sugar crusade and
the "ice cream is poison" mantra, insisting that eating ice
cream is a perfectly good way to get dairy products while living
the American dream.
But as I grow older, and pay more attention to what makes me
feel good and what doesn't, I am admitting that sugar and ice
cream really don't. I'm eating less meat and more vegetables,
and putting blueberries on my oatmeal. Lance introduced me to
the books of Andrew Weil, M.D, whom I try to follow.
I doubt I'll be leaving my computer and hammock to follow the
President's Council on Fitness recommendations. I take my daily
walk and am just glad that my grandchildren have always been
discouraged from substituting television for running around the
backyard playground, jumping on the trampoline, dancing and
gymnastics (Maya) and skiing, boarding and biking (Aidan).
There seems to be a healthy outdoor mentality in northern
Nevada. I didn't see much sign of an "obesity epidemic" at a
grade-school spring walk-a-thon, where the kids competed to see
who could circle the playground the most times in an hour for a
I hope the President's Commission recommends the healthy
lifestyle my son found, beyond Pop-Tarts, and without government
assistance, for his own children and his mother.
The comments made
and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her
column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in
the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.
More of Barbara's
Citizens for Limited Taxation
▪ PO Box 1147
▪ Marblehead, MA 01945