Edited by berry987 - 2/17/12 at 5:53am
I think some of the things you've said in your post might bother some people, but I am just going to respond to what I think are the underlying issues.
You've said yourself you're an all-or-nothing kind of person. I can relate to that; I'm not as extreme but I don't value moderation like most people do. At the same time, black-and-white thinking can be problematic - leading to perfectionism and anxiety (or maybe it's the other way around).
I'm saying this not to criticize you but to point out that at a certain point, there is not much benefit in worrying about lost opportunities. And honestly there are a lot of potential drawbacks.
Perhaps you'll see this as a bad thing, but it could also be a good thing: you don't have control over all of these factors. Take dental health - you could have fed your own children the absolute "perfect" diet from conception. However, your own diet from the womb, plus your mother's diet from the womb are also factors. How is this good news? You don't have to be responsible for it all. You have not failed. (And, to be completely clear, your own diet as a child was not your responsibility, so you do not need to grieve over your diet as a teen - nor be angry at your parents who did the best they could within the society they were in).
Your children will be imperfect in some way no matter what - but perfect in their imperfection. They will be handsome. They will be smart. You are their mother, and you care enough about them to look after their nutrition to the extent that you have the tools and resources. Yes, it's worth it to do the best we can, even if we start from the age of 88. But panicking about whether they are as tall as they could have been, whether a certain illness could have been avoided, whether their faces are wide enough - it's just not beneficial. Nourish your children the best you can, love your children for who they are, and look at them as human beings meeting their potential, not as lost opportunities.
Oh, and this is probably what you were REALLY looking for:
My DD started off on a crap diet despite my best intentions. She probably has some minor metabolic disorder, and likely I do, and likely my mother does. I won't go into the reasons for the initial diet - it wasn't because I didn't care about nutrition - but when she was 5 and her weight dropped nearly off the chart (3rd percentile, down from 40th) I insisted we improve her diet.
She is now above the 10th percentile again and clearly gaining strength (she is hypotonic). It's impossible to say what percent of her physical improvements, if any, are due to her improved diet. No matter; I think it's helped. I think the ground we regained on her growth curve is pretty good evidence that it was worth it.
I *could* worry about whether she would have hypotonia at all if she had eaten better from Day 1. Or if *I* had eaten better as a young adult. Or teen. Or child. I don't. She is who she is, and this is the package she is in, the scenario she will play out. I'm going to do the best I can with what I've got.
Wow, I can see why this is such a sensitive subject for you. I bet you wish you could go back in time and mother yourself in a way - make different choices for you, that would avert a lot of difficulty and heartache. It's like you have a chance in your own children to make up for it. You are in a position to do them a lot of good - as long as you don't, in the process, create an issue that doesn't exist for them. I think I'm saying things that would be hard for most people to hear, but you seem receptive.
I do see a lot of anxiety in your posts, and perhaps a touch of catastrophizing (if I don't ____ then [horrible thing] will happen). Children are sensitive to that, and it can have unintended consequences. I am absolutely certain you don't even come close to saying things like "maybe you would be more handsome/smarter/etc if only ____" but kids have a way of picking up on such things anyway. What about your parents? Did they judge you? How did you perceive it? It's odd how our very efforts to fix a wrong in our own childhoods can lead us to continuing the circle, especially when our intentions are so good.
So, yes, nutrition is extremely important, it's absolutely worthwhile. But your real goal is to bring up your kids with healthy attitudes toward their diets and healthy self-images. Here's how you do that:
1) You provide healthy, delicious, nourishing foods in your home.
2) You permit your children to choose the amount of these foods that they will eat. Do not worry if they eat too much or too little, unless there is an actual medical condition. Trust that they will eat the right amount for their bodies.
3) You also permit your children to choose specifically what, of the food that you offer, they will eat. They are permitted to avoid the foods they dislike, be slow about trying new foods, etc. Trust that they will find balance in foods if you allow them to - even if that balance isn't achieved each individual day.
4) Should your children encounter foods that are not part of your lifestyle, yet are not allergens, do not make them "forbidden fruit." Feel free to discuss why you don't serve Cheetos in your home, but don't tell them they were wrong to try their friend's snack.
5) You continue to read about nutrition, keep an open mind, notice with as little bias as possible the positive and negative effects of food changes in yourself and your children. Make it an adventure. You will never have all the pieces, you will never have all the answers. Since we have lost our traditional roots to commercial food, it has to be a journey to find our way back. It was a journey of many eons to get there in the first place.
6) Accept your children for who they are and what package they are in. They are tall enough, handsome enough, smart enough and healthy enough. And remember, kids actually manage to thrive even in poor nutritional circumstances. Know that your children are hardy. You can't do any better than the best you can.