It’s always a funny thing as a parent to look back on the life lessons our parents tried to teach us. As a child I guess I always assumed that “grown ups” knew everything. As a teenager, however, I soon realized that clearly grown ups knew nothing and it was I who knew all. Well, now I am a grown up, and also the parent of a teenager so I guess the joke is on me! Ironically, it was at the age of 13, just when I began to think I knew it all, that my dad taught me one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life.
It was late summer and it was time for the most epic of events, the first football game of the year. Having just turned 13 that summer I was no longer in the “pee wee” football league. It was time to play with the big boys. The anticipation of that first game far exceeded even Christmas. My mom often reminds me how I begged her to let me sleep in my football pads the night before, that’s something I do not remember but I also don’t doubt its truth. We played well that day and we won the game. Covered in mud and bruises, I was grinning from ear to ear. I was on top of the world and it was time to celebrate! The mothers soon gathered us up and asked us that all important question, “So where do you guys want to eat to celebrate?” Melee ensued as we all barked out our favorite places “Sunshine Pizza!”… “TacoTime!”… “Spaghetti Warehouse!” Finally we decided that such a momentous occasion could only be celebrated at the mother of all eateries, North’s Chuckwagon, an all you can eat buffet restaurant that included a build-your-own ice cream sundae area that bordered on absurdity.
As we piled into station wagons and mini-vans, we foretold of the grand eating show we were about to display. Our car erupted in laughter as one of the kids yelled “We’re totally gonna eat them out of business!” Standing in line with my Dad, recounting the entire game to make sure he had seen every single play, it was now our turn to head down the buffet line. And then it happened. Just as I took my first step down the line, he put his arm around me and very quietly and plainly said “keep in mind, that everything the human body needs, grows on this planet naturally” Uh O.K.?! A bit of a buzzkill I thought but whatever. He took his arm from around me and set me free to ravage to my heart’s content. Halfway down the line I said, as if it were a sign of manhood “Dad we’re only halfway through and I already need another plate!” He just laughed and said, “Yea I see that kiddo!” An hour later, after mountains of half eaten food and a dozen ice cream sundaes that had double-digit toppings, we were all feeling joyfully awful. Our work here was done. It was a 13 year old’s perfect day.
The next morning I came out to the kitchen and my Dad greeted me as he always did on weekend mornings with “Good morning kiddo, want some breakfast?” And I said, “No, I still feel kinda sick from eating so much last night” to which he just chuckled and said “is that right” and I said, “Yeah dad, I probably wouldn’t feel so crappy if I had listened to what you told me in line at the restaurant”. He walked over to me, put his hand on my head, looked straight into my eyes and just smiled. The seed was planted. He finished peeling his orange and went to mow the grass. And I was left with the lesson of a lifetime.
EVERYTHING THE HUMAN BODY NEEDS GROWS ON THIS PLANET NATURALLY
Little did I know it at the time, but that little phrase began to grow roots in my young mind. And it was watered and kept alive by the examples my father showed me through his own food choices and the meals he prepared for our family. Although I often ate just as much junk food as the next teenager, over time that idea continued to grow in me. Through the years it has become the lens through which I see my food choices in life and to this day I often look at my plate and think “how much of this grew on this planet naturally?” It is the only barometer I’ve ever needed to eating healthy. Thanks Dad!