Like many children of the 70s, I ate quite a bit of canned vegetables growing up. I recall without fondness the epitome of canned food: Veg-all, a mélange of canned vegetables. I’m not convinced that my mother ever cooked fresh vegetables. In fact, I remember being surprised to discover in college that all that is required to cook a vegetable is to steam it, roast it or boil it in water. I was shocked at how easy it was to cook broccoli or carrots. Why didn’t my mother ever cook fresh vegetables?
Clearly, eating healthy was not a personal goal for my mother, or perhaps the ideas of what constituted “healthy food” have changed since then. Cooking was not a way that she tried to improve upon the parenting that she received from her mother. In her case, she focused on telling me that she loved me. She said that she told me so often in part to compensate for never feeling loved by her own mother.
So, I was often told that I was loved as I ate mushy, canned vegetables.
I tell my children that I love them every day. I frequently tell them how happy I am to be their mama. Sunboy has heard this so many times that he shrugs it off, simply saying “Yup”. I’m fine with his response at this age. A mother’s love should feel like a given, to the point of boredom.
How do I try to improve upon the parenting that I received? Of course, there are many ways. One thing I’ve kept is the “I love you” part of mothering and one thing I’ve added is healthy eating. I may not be a fabulous cook but I cook very healthy food with a focus on basic, minimally-processed foods. I bake our bread from scratch, I cook our beans in the slowcooker from dried and I cook fresh vegetables. There are very few cans of food in my house. We’ve taken healthy eating an extra step by growing vegetables in a family garden and teaching the kids how to grow their own food. Growing food seems to be a vanishing skill, and we do what we can to try to keep the skill alive in our family. We are learning together. And yes, we grow broccoli, at least when the local herbivores don’t find it first.
Love and broccoli are a part of my parenting style, as is a respectful discourse with my children. Taking the best of the old and adding the new.
Someday, my children may decide to have their own children. Perhaps they will retain the love and broccoli elements, and decide to improve upon the ways in which I undoubtedly fall short as a mother. Maybe they will be less tired than I am. Maybe they will add more ice cream. There is always room for improvement.
And so it goes on. Each generation attempts to improve upon the last.