Last week I was at the Mumbai Airport, navigating the snaking queue to check-in, when I noticed the family standing in front. This is what I love the most about travel. You get to see so many people and just watch them. Contemplate. Watch. Observe. Wonder. Smile. Be amused. Be intrigued. Just watch.
The family in front was a typical indian nuclear one – mother, father and a daughter. But what caught my attention was how healthy the parents looked and how obese the child was. The girl must be in her teens but it was difficult to differentiate between the mother and the daughter. For a second my glance drifted between both the mother and daughter, to figure out who was who. The child was filled out everywhere to the point that I thought the cheeks cannot fill out more.
This got me thinking about many children I see in malls, airports, railway stations, roads, parks and all over the place. One common factor that makes me sad and wonder is most kids around are Obese. The roundedness that we find adorable in their chidhood often turns out to be the reason they are bullied in their teens and a point of embarassment in their youth. Time to explore why is this generation more grith endowened than its predessors?
Does this pose a serious question on our parenting?
I am going to take you through what I think is making this generation unhealthy and weak, and I think it is us, their parents. We are creating what is these days called in Kerala – Broiler Generation – a generation of kids bred on growth hormones induced broiler chicken and bakery products rich in baking soda. Can you imagine what a thing made of growth hormones and baking soda will look like? Something as fluffy as kids these days comes close, I guess:
Busy Families Are Eating More Food Made Outside:
I don’t remember one day when mom said – let’s eat out! Possibly the only thing that we ever ate from out side in our childhood is 1 or 2 samosas per month. But today? Families have got busy, mothers have as busy a career as the father but the social norms of kitchen work haven’t changed. The kitchen is still considered the female domain with even the metro sexual man stepping in just sporadically. That makes take aways, order ins, dining out…the easiest option.
Fast Food Is Cheaper & Easily Available:
Supply meets the demand. With busy families any product that saves time will be lapped up and that is what marketers do. They created and continue to create foods which are easy to make and consume. One glance at the supermarket shelves gives you everything instant that you may need.
From instant soup, instant idli mix, instant bhaji mix, instant paneer masala curry to instant fish or chicken curry everything is available. Plus to top it you get foods which will immediately satiate your hunger anytime, anyplace – chips, cookies, cream biscuits, cakes; you wish for it, you can buy it. Anytime, anyplace. The sad part is that easier and cheaper access also brings along unwanted and insoluble calories.
Smaller Families, Bigger Portions:
While 2 kids was the norm when we were kids, it was 3 or 4 during our parents time and it is 1 now. Add to this the fertility issues that our generation faces, the one child that is born is usually after much trial – both physical and emotional. I don’t have to explain the importance of that one and only child. Economic abundance and the exclusivity of the child will mean stuffing the child with everything the parents consider in-trend and the child wishes for. Even if it is a cheese, all purpose flour and sauces laden pizza slice at the age of 5!
Eating Habits of Parents Are Being Copied:
Parenting experts say children learn more from what they see, than from what you tell them. You cannot tell them to have fresh juice after they come in from the park while you gulp down chilled tetra packs of synthetic juice immediately after coming home from office. You take them to a mall, order a fruit salad for them and icecream for you and expect the child to enjoy it? Expecting a child to do something because the parent says so is a very 70s approach and it is a psychologically wrong approach and it doesn’t work. Aerated drinks, synthetic juices, flavoured milks and the likes, even cereals like chocos or strawberry or any other flavours contain more sugar than any usable nutrient in it. The more you consume it, the more your kid will do it and the damage is more permanent to their little bodies.
While we looked forward to our physical exercise classes at school and our playtime after school, take a peak at what is happening today. The exclusive child and the resultant obsessive parenting is leading to parents making life hell for schools. Physical activities at schools will mean the child will fall, bruise, cut and the likes. Parents on the other hand want an atmost protected life for their child. So they are at logger heads with the school curriculum which gives even the slightest pain to their sunshines. The schools have found an easy way out, they are constantly reducing the physical activities in the curriculum directly impacting the physical frames of the so called sunshines.
And what happens at home? The father insists that the child should go out and play while he himself remains plonked on the couch, in front of the TV all through Sunday. The mother insists that the child should go to the park and play but she herself will sit on the park bench and browse through FB. Remember a child learns what it sees! How do you expect the child to not be addicted to the television or the tablet?
Making a baby is the easiest task in the list of being a good parent; Our parents dedicated their entire lives to the task, time to ask are we up to the job requirements?