When Eliza was born, I had such high ambitions for being the perfect mom. I read an article (probably some non-scientific article on Pinterest) about how if you introduce pureed vegetables to your baby before fruit that they will LOVE vegetables for their whole life. Eliza’s first vegetable try was a disaster and she spit it out over and over…I finally tried some applesauce and of course, she loved it. It turned out I couldn’t force her to love vegetables.
Two years later Seth and I took a parenting class and the topic of eating came up. Someone made the comment, “your kids should eat what you put on the table, and if they don’t, they don’t get anything else…a toddler will never actually starve themselves.” It turns out that was a completely wrong statement. Just over a year later I had a toddler that needed a feeding tube because he literally would have starved to death without one. Oliver went to several sessions of feeding therapy to re-learn how to chew and swallow. By God’s grace he no longer needs a feeding tube BUT he still is a pretty “picky” eater. His weight is monitored very closely. We do the best we can to give him a few different options of things to eat at each meal but there is absolutely no way we can force anything.
These situations just served to humble me and make me realize that no one can really be a perfect parent and hopefully helped me to become less judgmental towards other parents and their food choices.
BUT then our kids were diagnosed and I started hearing more people’s opinions – I started getting messages from either strangers or barely-acquaintances like this:
“If you feed Oliver only celery, his cancer will go away without any chemo.” (I’m so serious someone ACTUALLY said that to me haha)
“Sugar feeds cancer so if you don’t feed your kids sugar, their cancer will go away” (Translation in my head: you gave your kids cancer from feeding them sugar)
“If you rub essential oils on Oliver, his blood cell counts will be normal…I can sell you some” (This one * probably * made me the most angry)
“There must be something in the environment in your house that is causing your kids to get cancer.” (Translation in my head: you gave your kids cancer by not picking “healthy” enough products in your house)
These types of messages and comments were in the minority BUT they were still there. The worst one was probably someone telling me I was committing child abuse by allowing my kids to get chemotherapy. I see messages of fear all over social media, especially regarding using “clean” products. I have spent so much time thinking about these things and have a couple thoughts about them.
- First of all, as far as pediatric cancer, there have been NO STUDIES that show that food, environmental factors, etc. play a role in the development of pediatric cancer. The doctors have told us many times, “This is not fair, and this is not your fault.” Oliver’s NF1 gene did predispose him to getting leukemia, BUT even then it was not directly caused by his NF1 gene, it was an additional mutation that just happened. I can guarantee you that my 9-month-old breastfed baby boy did NOT get cancer from eating too much sugar.
- There is SO MUCH fear-mongering in advertising, which I have especially seen in certain multilevel marketing companies. I see posts with quasi-science quoted and passive-aggressive phrases like “I used to think I was doing the best thing for my family, but I wasn’t and you aren’t doing the best thing for your family, but if you buy xyz you will be.” Should we make healthy food choices, product choices, and lifestyle choices? Of course, of course! BUT should we let it define who we are and allow us to feel guilt? Nope, 100% not – there is a lot that is just plain out of your control. Feeding your child a completely organic diet is just plain not going to guarantee they will not get sick.
- I just finished a chapter in Risen Motherhood by Emily Jensen & Laura Wifler about food choices and they had a great quote: “We can’t heal our broken bodies by feeding our children more vegetables than fruit snacks (though we are tempted to try). Only Christ’s broken body on the cross can give us true redemption and freedom from our sin…Because of Christ’s work, we don’t find our identity in special food rules or diets. We still want to be wise stewards of our bodies, but we know we are not set apart or made more godly by avoiding certain foods, nor should we feel ashamed or embarrassed by what’s in our refrigerators.” They go on to say “Bodily training, and the food that fuels it, is of some value, but let’s not act like our salvation hangs in the balance over it.”
- Romans 14:1-4 says “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgement on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgement on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”
I’m not anti-natural products. I make all my own bread to avoid the preservatives in bread. We limit high fructose corn syrup in our house. We were actually gifted some really great natural products to help take care of Eliza and Oliver. (One was skinsoother which works really well on Oliver’s skin!) I AM pro-healthcare though. I’m going to do what the leading oncologists, feeding therapists, and other healthcare providers in the country are telling me to do to take care of my kids.
What I am trying to say is that food is not a salvation issue. We want to take care of the bodies that God has given us and teach our kids to be healthy and respectful of the food that is made for them, but it shouldn’t be giving us guilt and we shouldn’t be judging the choices that others are making because we might not know the whole story there either.
The other thing I’m trying to say is don’t try to profit off of parents of cancer kids by selling them stuff through Facebook messenger…that is just common human decency. 😉