Whenever I hear the name, George Herbert Walker Bush, Sr. I immediately think of broccoli. Allow me to explain…
When he was president I was a full-time stay at home mom with a four-year-old girl living in Oregon. I was very, very serious about mothering and raising a happy, healthy, smart, creative, and well-adjusted girl. I fed her healthy, wholesome food hoping that would become a habit for her. I read thousands of books to her hoping she would develop a love for books. (We went to the library at least twice a week.) I took her to the park and on nature walks every day hoping to nurture in her a love for nature and physical fitness. I colored with her and played Legos with her and made flower arrangements with her hoping to spark her creativity. I took her to zoos and farms hoping to induce a love for animals. And I seriously limited her exposure to TV.
When I first married my wife I had been living without TV for many years. For the first couple of months of our marriage she seemed okay living without TV but finally she broke down and said that she was going crazy without TV. Well, I would do anything for her so I bought a small TV.
But when it came to our daughter I tried to limit her to no more than one hour of TV a day; one half-hour of Sesame Street and one half-hour of Pee Wee’s Playhouse. I always watched Pee Wee with her. I loved that show!
Well, when the wife came home from a grueling day at work she liked to unwind with a little TV. And our daughter wanted time with her mother so she often joined her.
One day the wife and daughter were watching TV while I was cooking dinner. I explicitly remember the meal I was preparing. I made sauteed chicken breasts in a dijon sauce with chives and thyme served on a bed of wild rice with steamed broccoli on the side.
I could hear the TV in the other room. It was an evening news show and a reporter was having a casual conversation with President Bush, Sr. I am paraphrasing but the President said something like this, “Listen, I’ll be honest with you. I hate broccoli! I’m a grown man and I’m the President so I don’t have to eat broccoli if I don’t wanna!”
Dinner was soon ready and the TV was turned off. I insisted that we eat dinner at a table without TV. Dinner is for conversation and the enjoyment of good, healthy food. Halfway through the meal I noticed that our daughter was not eating her broccoli. She always ate broccoli before.
“Aren’t you going to eat your broccoli?” I asked.
She waved her fork in the air, “The President doesn’t have to eat broccoli if he doesn’t wanna and neither do I!”
I silently cursed George Herbert Walker Bush, Sr. as well as the damn TV.
The President was undermining my mothering! I was really pissed at him.
All presidents lie. It’s part of the job. (Don’t get me started about the current one.) But the one time a president was honest it created a difficult parenting challenge to me. Presidents are role models. When it came to the subject of broccoli (a very healthy food) it would have been the perfect time for Bush to lie. He could have lied and said that he absolutely loved broccoli and that all children should eat broccoli to help them grow and be healthy. That would have been helpful to me. But no! He chose to be honest instead. Damn him!
So, thanks to Bush, our daughter entered a phase where she refused to eat broccoli. I was forced to get extra creative. I learned different ways to serve broccoli and I found ways to combine it with other foods so that it was hard to separate.
Luckily, the attention span of four-year-olds is not all that long. It took awhile but I finally got her to start eating broccoli again. She soon forgot all about President Bush.
When our daughter became a mother herself she called me up one day, “Dad, as you know, I’ve always loved broccoli and I’m trying to get my girls to like broccoli, too. Could you give me the recipes for some of the ways you made broccoli? I just loved all the great ways you made it.”
A huge smile lit up my face. Then I corrected her, “No, you did not always like broccoli. There was actually a time when you refused to eat it.”
She obviously did not remember her anti-broccoli period. After all, she was only four. I then told her I’d write down some recipes and bring them over to her. The good news is that both of my granddaughters now are broccoli freaks. They love it!
So what did I learn from all this?
- All presidents are liars so don’t be alarmed by that. Be concerned, though, when they tell the truth.
- Don’t look to the outside world or to TV for role models. Instead, BE a role model.
- While broccoli is a very healthy food, George Herbert Walker Bush doesn’t eat it and he’s damn-near a hundred years old.
- Be careful what you watch on TV just before dinner.
- Food is important.
- Be careful what you say because it could be the first thing someone thinks about when they think about you.
- It’s impossible to be a perfect parent.
When it comes to food, I was a successful parent in that I instilled at least some healthy eating habits in my child. I was also successful in nurturing a love of animals in her. She also turned out to be quite creative.
But I utterly failed to keep her from becoming a TV addict. At her house the TV is on non-stop ALL day, every day. The very first thing she does upon getting up in the morning — even before peeing — is turn on the TV. And it stays on all day until her family goes to bed. To me, that’s sad. (Of course I never say anything. It’s not my place to.)
But no child is going to turn out the way you want — and they shouldn’t. They are all their own people. Nurture and love but don’t dictate. And let them make you a better person. My daughter is the best teacher I’ve ever had in my life. Parenting provides some of the very best life lessons. And now she’s given me two new teachers.
The ultimate parenting lesson is unconditional love. While presidents come and go and are quickly forgotten, a child stays in your heart forever.
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