I made a pact never to interfere, but I am worried for my grandchild’s health 106



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I made a pact never to interfere.

As a grandmother it is a tenet I steadfastly adhere to for a number of reasons. Keeping ones’ council is keeping the peace. I recognise we all have different ways of doing things. Times change. Parenting styles fall in and out of favour. The adage of never to repeat the mistakes of your own parents looms large and as long as my grandchildren are healthy, happy and loved, that will do.

But now I see the latest generation is obese at two years old. The latest statistics on childhood obesity paint an alarming picture; there are a myriad of health issues associated with the condition. Alarm bells are ringing all around the Western world as type 2 diabetes in children is on the rise. I know all this and yet I hesitate to point out the obvious to my daughter. The reality gap that exists is very pervasive and persuasive – it seems big is fast becoming the norm. No parent wants to admit their child is less than perfectly normal – in every respect. We count 10 fingers and 10 toes at birth. We listen to the doctors for reassurance.

My granddaughter is a bundle of joy in every way except her bundle is a burden and will be in later life.

In a world where too much is just enough and children are fed almost on demand, the rot sets in early. We have a land of plenty and it is all so easy. The cornucopia is overflowing with cheap, tasty, convenient food. Never has it been easier to just pop something in your mouth and chew – nothing is in short supply and one of the first actions in young lives is to go shopping for food. See it, want it, have it invades our very way of life in the pursuit of happiness and fulfilment. Food is no longer sustenance, it is a lifestyle choice – a way of life.

I saw the way the one and a half year old helped herself to the fridge. I could have said something, but didn’t. I saw the pictures on Facebook when they described their outing, including fish and chips, Coke and sweets. I stayed silent. How could I gently suggest an apple might suffice when my daughter was tucking into a calorific bonanza? My daughter is, of course, now obese. My daughter is not shocked by her little girl. Her ‘robust’ health is a source of pride and a job well done. My granddaughter’s peccadilloes regarding food are something to be labelled under cute in the Instagram photos and a turned up nose at broccoli is funny on Facebook. The underlying problem is not seen, not noted, not acted upon. Either by me or my daughter.

I feel a duty to intervene, but intervene is so close to interfere in the dictionary they might be mistaken – one for the other.

Duty is a word that springs to mind, but the consequences of the truth could be a rift that has only just healed from the turbulent teenage years. And who takes their mother’s advice anyway?!

As a parent I have expectations of my offspring. It’s natural to want the best for the kids. Schooling, lifestyle et al, but there is a hidden expectation that I would guess all parents share. That is that the fruit of your loins and labours will grow up ‘just like you’. The values we instil into their lives we hope will be visited in generations to come. When it comes to love, we make excuses for everything. The sins of the mother have been well and truly visited on my daughter’s hips. She is fat. I was fat. It was in our genes, we told everyone who would listen.

I hoped as she grew up she would remain average and so she did, under my guidance. I knew if I could control the calorific intake all would be well. Willpower on my own part was in short supply and it became a case of do as I say, not as I do.

But now I feel I have the moral high ground because after a lifetime of being overweight and diets, self help and calorie counting I have reached a place in my life where I have done it. I have lost weight. A considerable amount of weight and like an ex-smoker I feel I have the right to tell others of their folly. The moral high ground can be a lonely place. I have led by example and shared the journey with my daughter. I have supplied percentile diagrams, healthy eating tips etc to give her all the subtle hints. I have yet to tell her she is fat – her child is fat and they need to do something about it, now. Parenting skills are on-the-job training. No amount of reading, good advice or example can replace living at the coal face with a two-year-old screaming for that ice cream. My daughter is killing her child with kindness and finger food.

My reality gap is bridged with the thought that my daughter will find that place in her life a lot sooner than I did. That my granddaughter will ‘run it off’ and her body will grow into her spare tyre as a face grows into its new teeth at 8 years old.

These are things to hope for, but hopes and wishes won’t take the weight off. For my granddaughter, the 11th hour is now. I can see school as ‘the fat kid’ might be a nightmare. My life was certainly blighted by the title although in the 60s fat had a different line on the percentile chart. Today, perhaps with childhood obesity in epidemic proportions, no boy or girl will be branded with the moniker.

My concerns might be taken over by the government. As legislation governs more and more of our lives, school might provide the impetus to slim down where parents have failed to act. Losing weight is a personal battle, hard won, but to abrogate the responsibility to an authority might be the only way to get things moving. It is the coward’s way out. The easier option than confronting the truth.

Baltasar Gracian, the philosopher said, “Hope is a good hand at faking a truth”. All the cogent arguments in the world are not a substitute for the truth. I cross my fingers our relationship will survive the truth.

The truth is a hard thing to swallow, maybe harder than broccoli, but better for all concerned in the long run. I live in hope.


Share your thoughts below. Has this been you? Have you wanted to intervene like this but not felt it was your place?

Hettie Ashwin

My short stories have been published in America, United Kingdom and Australia in magazines and online. I have published a number of books over the years, all of which have been successful here and overseas. I write a humorous column for the Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette called Slippery Grip.

  1. Very hard situation. But by the sounds of it, if you say anything you will cause problems with your daughter again, and you clearly don’t want that. Maybe just make sure your granddaughter sees you making healthy choices, and give her healthy food at your house At least she will see there are other options and may choose them for herself when she’s older.

    1 REPLY
    • My thoughts exactly Margaret. There is no point causing a rift, which intervention/interference almost certainly will. Hettie,it sounds as if you have done as much as you can. Your daughter could, but will not see and until she does you have to stand by and try to instil healthy ideas into your granddaughter as and when you can. Your best bet is perhaps to build a strong relationship with your granddaughter so that she will turn to you about her weight when it bothers her and you can help her then. Best of luck.

  2. I think you can advise, but in the long run people will make up their own minds, and later in life will say mum or dad was right after all.

  3. The key to this is that you are related to the child and therefore, if you have been a good grand parent to date then you do have a right and responsibility to speak up. However, there are ways and means. I am pretty hopeless at diplomacy so cannot advise…. but, perhaps you could ask about… get some ideas of how to speak out tactfully.

  4. Thank you for this. I have the same problem watching my daughter over feed her son, and he never eats fruit and vegetables. It is the worry about his overweight that keeps me awake at night. I have been criticised for suggesting” runnIng around the block’, eating an apple, or not having chips with his dinner when eating out. Not a good idea, so now, I say nothing! But I D o worry, having been a teacher and seeing the harsh treatment of “the fat kid”.

  5. Its hard not to say anything and rock the boat. Try taking “snacks” for morning tea – fruit platter – strawberries, grapes, carrot sticks, cheese, gradually introduce different healthy things. Make a game of having water instead of Cola. Just put water out at meal times. Good luck.

  6. I have been in similar situation and I tried to say something as diplomatic as I could to my daughter in law and it caused all sorts of trouble and didn’t help at all.

  7. Unfortunately I don’t get to see our littlest very often but when I do see her she always finds a banana in my bag! I would encourage all Mums and Dads to feed their children healthy foods for the nutrients and minerals they need for development and brain power – keep off the sugary, salty take aways! Protein and whole foods

  8. It’s hard to keep my mouth shut sometimes but know if I make a comment about something my daughter and I will erupt into WW3, although her two are now mid teens and lovely, well mannered and well behaved there are issues that have arisen over the years that I would have liked to comment on but it’s a no go for me.

    1 REPLY
  9. Very tricky situation. I once tried to say something,and was told that the word “weight” was never ever to be brought up again. I have a friend in a nursing home who constantly neglected her sugars,and being diabetic lost her leg. I have just taken the youngest Grandie to visit and finally I think this “weight” thing,has computed! It’s a desperate situation to just stand by and have to watch. I feel for you.

  10. If it’s your daughter and not your in law, you can give all the advice you like as we are always the mother of our child, it only causes trouble if you give the same advice to an in law,

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