The Drevitches, Week 11: Special Occasions, Special Rules?
Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge
Pizza and cake, pizza and cake, pizza and cake.
This is a busy and festive time for families across the country, but for my family, maybe even more so. Our season of celebrations begins on Thanksgiving Eve, when we open our apartment to nearly 200 friends, relatives and children who come in shifts to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons get inflated on our block. It's a New York City tradition. And so is our open-house menu -- about 10 pizzas, a pair of sheet cakes, plus wine, beer, soda, cheese, crackers, chips and salsa, and, oh, yeah, some heart-healthy olives. Can't forget them.
The next day, of course, is Thanksgiving, where we partake in a local family feast before heading up to Boston for the rest of the long weekend to indulge further with my side of the family, including my aunt, who makes the kids their all-time favorite cookies and brownies.
A week later, it's Benjamin's birthday. This year he turned 10, and celebrated with his friends at a bowling party featuring ... pizza and cake. One week later, it was Natalie's birthday. She turned 8 with a trip to the planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, followed by, you guessed it, pizza and cake. Adam, their 4-year-old brother, had a seat at the table at every event.
In between, it was Chanukah, with its fried potato latkes, chocolate gelt and jelly donuts. And now that we're through all of that, it's almost time for us to share lavish Christmas meals with some of the non-Jewish members of our extended family.
As I continue my weight-loss regimen, I've successfully avoided most of the pizza and cake. In fact, I'm down another pound or two, to a total of about 22 lost since Labor Day. It's never easy, of course, but I'm a grown-up. I can exhibit some self-control when I need to. My kids? Not so much.
Having become so conscious of what I eat these past few months, it's harder for me to watch the kids gorge on pizza and cake, pizza and cake, pizza and cake. I know it's not good for them, I know they're eating too much -- but, on the other hand, these are special occasions, and who wants to ruin them by being the junk-food police?
The season's most-special occasion was another event loaded with nutritional pitfalls. Benjamin and I were fortunate enough to win tickets through a drawing to the annual Christmas at Fenway event in Boston, where a small group of fans gains access to the historic park to take batting practice in the players' batting cage, meet coaches, players and legends -- we got Luis Tiant's autograph! -- and otherwise enjoy the run of the park. There was also free popcorn and, of course, Fenway Franks. Benjamin filled up on popcorn all day. And then, as we raced through the South Station bus depot to ride back to New York, I let him pick up a take-out order of some deep-fried Chinese chicken. As the bus approached Manhattan, he approached the bathroom, where he tossed the contents of his stomach.
Should I have limited what he ate? Probably, but this was a bucket-list bonding opportunity, and who wants to think about popcorn volume when you're in line to meet Terry Francona?
The problem this season highlights is that, right now, we have a lot of special-treat traditions in the family, and not so many of them built around the vegetables and fruits our nutritionist, Marissa Lippert of Nourish, has encouraged us to make part of the kids' routines. Dinner plates half-filled with veggies has become my new normal, but not the kids'.
One commenter on a recent diary entry took offense to the idea that we had a traditional stop at Dunkin' Donuts to get Munchkins for the kids whenever we drove to Boston. And the commenter was probably right. But I'd argue that the solution is not to eliminate the Munchkins. It's to make our kids' everyday meals as healthy as they can be, so that neither their gag reflex nor our guilt reflex has to kick in on special occasions.
Sounds like a New Year's resolution to me. But for the next couple of weeks, the good times will continue to roll.
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