Last year, I gave several lectures on healthy nutrition to local schoolchildren. I thought that, as something to be done once in a month or two, this is reasonably compatible with my primary and time-consuming job as a wife and mother. A couple of weeks ago, I received an offer of doing the same job on a much more intense schedule, in kindergartens. Of course, such work would not fit in with our goal and vision of family life, as we are living it out now.
Basically I was offered a choice: should I put my children in the care of others and go and teach someone else's children about nutrition? Or do I continue doing what I've been doing for the past few years - go into the kitchen, put on my apron, and start chopping, measuring and cooking, with my children by my side? We chat; explanations follow. The girls help out with what little age-appropriate tasks they can reasonably accomplish - mixing, stirring, peeling garlic, shelling hard-boiled eggs or whatever. They get to shape dough or roll it out - a much loved occupation.
We make an apple-pie together. I am about to add sugar, when Shira stops me: "you shouldn't add sugar, Mommy, it's unhealthy!" - my hand stops in mid-air. The nutritionist gets a lesson from her 3-year-old! "Alright. Let's see if we can go without."
In my personal opinion, formal lessons from a nutritionist are wasted on 5-year-olds. To learn about food and wise choices regarding it, such little ones should be taken into a real kitchen and given some job to do, then praised for doing it, until their eyes shine with gratification and their eager little helping hands are ready to do more! Then some things can be explained by-and-by, and later, a meal is served and eaten together. This is learning for little children: real life in real homes.
If some formal explanation is done, I believe it should be family-oriented, not child-oriented, but of course this isn't possible when everyone runs about in different directions all day long.
Government health experts fund expensive programs, perhaps with the best intentions, but nothing can replace the vibrant home life and the care given personally by mothers. It is a pity that when women prolong their maternity leave or choose part-time jobs to be there for their children more hours in the day, sociologists and economists refer to this as a "negative trend". Feminists begin talking of government funding for daycare, afternoon care, etc. But no institution, ever, can take the place of real nurturing in a home.
What I did love doing was a gathering for a small group of women I hosted in my home one night last week. We talked about wise consumerism, self-sustainability and healthy cooking; about our power, as wives and mothers, to influence the health of our families. Our job has lots of demands and no promotions or glamour, but we are making a real difference, in this area and others, in the lives of generations for years to come.