I love fruit.
When we run out of fruit, even if we have an abundance of other food – delicious food, like homemade muffins or cake, or even chocolate – I feel like our diet has been somehow tremendously impoverished. And I’ve always loved fruit. Well, I guess I’ve always loved fruit. I’ve always eaten it. That’s because when I was growing up, the answer to “I’m hunnngry” would always be, “Have a piece of fruit.” There was a large basket which sat on the floor in the kitchen and it would be always full of fruit.
Even when I went away to high school, and then on to uni, I ate a lot of fruit. Apparently I was even renowned for it at the residential college. I didn’t realise this until I had dropped by a friend’s room one evening after our evening meal, and left my orange where I had been sitting on his bed.
“Whose orange is this?” asked one of our other friends.
“Oh, I wonder?” came the sarcastic reply from not one, but TWO other people.
Fruit has always been my thing.
When I got pregnant, most of my cravings were for fruit. Two of my pregnancies saw me giving birth in March, which meant I was at my most pregnant in the long, hot, summer months. When all the best fruit is around. I would eat six or seven plums, a peach or two, a few handfuls of grapes. Even though the other two pregnancies meant I was carrying through the winter months, I found a new appreciation for oranges, and would eat several on any given day. Something about pregnancy hormones made them just taste so good.
But in the years since I’ve been pregnant, I noticed that my fruit intake is way lower than it used to be. I’m still buying a lot of fruit – literally kilos and kilos of it every week, but I’m not getting it.
Because of my Offspring. My Offspring are eating all the fruit. And they don’t love fruit like I love fruit. Oh, they all “love” it. They happily eat it. They ask for it, and they would eat it all day if I let them. But cherries and nectarines and raspberries… these were special, special things which, growing up near a remote town, were available for a very brief time (or not at all) and were very expensive. That made them precious, and even more delicious. So when they come into season, they have a significance for me that my Offspring can’t possibly have ever known, what with them having lived most of their short lives in areas of plenty(ful fruit).
And now, still, fruit can be expensive, and I have to sometimes ration it out to make sure we all have enough to take to school or sport or playgroup. And when I ration it out, I often weigh the ration heavily in their favour. It’s important that they eat enough fruit, right? But – at the risk of sounding like a child myself – what about me?
Giving them all the fruit and keeping none for myself is indicative of a larger issue with regards to what I, as a parent, am willing to give away. That kind of selflessness is supposedly one of the linchpins of family life. People have done truly remarkable things for their children. Lied for them, died for them. All sorts of actions they might never have undertaken, if not for their children. It’s easy to slip into that role of martyr, when it’s so socially acceptable.
But what does that tell my Offspring about how I should be treated? As they grow older and our disagreements move from whether they can stay up on a school night to greater philosophical challenges – like whether they can stay up on a school night – I need for the relationship we’re establishing now to be something based on mutual respect. That means that they need to see me as a person with needs and desires, just like they are. Granted, many of our needs and desires mesh together: I want them to be comfortable, healthy, as do they. I need to love them, and they need that love. But I also want and need all those things for myself. As much as I’m willing to give up a lot for them, I can’t give up all of it. Not only is that bad for me, but it’s bad for them. It’s bad for our relationship, and it means I’m raising spoilt, precious people, whose needs must come first to the detriment of all others. That’s not raising good citizens. They should know that they’re important, but that others are too. Even – especially? – their parents.
And it’s important that I eat enough fruit, too. I realised I often go without because I want them to have a healthy morning tea, but I should be having a healthy morning tea! After all, I’d like to live many more very healthy years. I’m sure they’d like me to do that too. So I decided enough is enough. Now, instead of them getting all the fruit, we share, so we all get some. It might mean they get a little less, but they also get to understand that I’m worthwhile. I deserve to have healthy food, just like them.
And sometimes, I buy a mango, or a peach, or some cherries, and I eat them all myself: NO SHARING.
It’s almost like old times…