In college, my best friend, Amy, wanted to buy a hamster. I’m generally creeped out by animals (sorry, can’t help it–just being honest!), and hamsters are way too mouse-like for me. However, I went to the pet store with Amy, and when we got there I proceeded to talk her into buying a dwarf rabbit instead of a hamster. The rabbit was tiny and cute, and it just wasn’t as creepy!
We got the rabbit and supplies and took it home. There is a really long story involved with this rabbit, and the second rabbit we bought as a friend that we had to take back because it was psychotic and NOT a female like they told us it was. I’ll spare you from that story, but I do want to talk a little about Meiko. Meiko was short for Meiko Meiko Buzz Buzz Buzz (we liked the name Meiko, and he was the color of the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz). Later, I ended up calling him a bunch of nicknames, most commonly, Meatball.
Somehow, I ended up being part owner of Meiko, and he ended up coming home with me for the summer.
My parents were not pet-people. Looking back, I’m surprised they allowed Meiko to reside there. At first, he lived on the sun porch, and since he was litter trained, he could just run around. Unfortunately, he chewed the bottom of all my mom’s wicker porch furniture and it was basically destroyed by unraveling (sorry, Mom).
He also had this enormous outdoor cage under the deck that a friend helped me craft using the house wall, and two fences that were already in place. Meatball used to sit by the wire fence side and stare at the real bunnies out in the yard.
Meiko was mean when he had all this freedom. I had to chase and trap him every night to take him from the outside cage to the porch. He had sharp claws and was too mean to let me clip them. He didn’t cuddle, and he was really aggressive. I was scared of him (yes, I’m admitting that).
At our apartment in Ithaca, he initially had the run of the upstairs, but after chewing through computer cords and gnawing at the baseboard molding too much, we caged him. The first time we did it, he grabbed onto the metal bars of the cage and shook them for hours. I felt horrible, and Amy and I sat in my room agonizing about whether or not we were doing the right thing. This shaking of the cage went on for several days on and off, until he finally stopped doing it altogether.
This dumb bunny shortly forgot about his previous freedom, and became the nicest cuddliest little guy. We would take him out of the cage to get a little exercise—he’d run in circles and jump a couple feet in the air and thump….and then he’d go back in his cage on his own. We also made him into a lap-bunny for when we watched tv or movies, and he’d stretch out and be petted for hours, often licking whomever’s arm he was resting on.
Are you wondering what this has to do with wellness?
It really reminds me of the struggles parents face when they learn about healthy foods and want their kids to eat better, but know their kids “won’t eat any of that stuff.” And no, I’m not calling your kids dumb, I’m just calling them moldable.
In many cases, parents are right—kids eat what they’re used to, and often won’t try anything new. It’s hard and frustrating to deal with. At the same time, I’m a little sad at the number of people I talk to who have healthy food in the house for themselves and junk for their kids. Their own struggle? Staying away from the potato chips—because they’re bad—that they have to have in the house for the kids.
I talked to someone this week who has a 1 year-old who loves green smoothies and kale. He eats “green soup” every morning made out of things like kale and pineapple, and now gets excited every time he sees something green to eat. Is she just lucky? Maybe partly, but she has only ever given him healthy non-junk food, with lots of fresh fruits and veggies. It’s what he’s been trained to like.
It’s a constant struggle for her to prevent other people from feeding her son junk, including her husband. I don’t know a solution to this—she can’t be with her son every minute. However, she doesn’t let that throw all hope out the window for her. She does the best she can, is educating her husband about “real food” and the importance for their son to eat healthy things.
When I created a monster in Meiko—it really sucked. I didn’t like how he acted, and it would have been easy to just keep it out of control because it felt like abuse to lock him in a small cage. In the end, it was better for him—he forgot about his prior freedom, and he ended up being much happier and nicer. Maybe feeding your kids better will not make them nicer (but it might!), it will make them healthier though, and in the long run this will make them happier.
Kids who grow up with healthy eating habits are more likely to return to these healthy habits as adults (maybe departing during adolescence and college).
What’s your solution if your kids are old enough to have established unhealthy eating habits?
Make some changes. Choose how you’re going to do it and then follow through. Explain to your kids why, and make it a group effort if you can (if they’re old enough for that). It may not be easy, but it is simple—your kids’ health greatly depends on what you feed them. Fresh fruits, veggies, greens, and whole grains should be the staples of everyone’s diet. Even kids.
Do your children a favor and feed them well now, and this will help them avoid many health and weight issues later in life!
A couple good resources: