The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, May 10, 2007

174, Vegan murderers, and the Chancellor's Award

So…Today my morning weight was 174.6. My decision is to stay between 170-175, so it will be interesting to see how easy it is to keep my weight up that high on I.F. A note: your weight can fluctuate as much as 4 pounds from day to day. I guess that’s the weight of food traveling through your system! Must be kind of a relief when the system is empty enough for your body to rest and repair…

BTW, there is an Islamic tradition called the “Fast of David” which is I.F.—and considered the very best fast for spiritual purposes!
Did you hear about the Atlanta couple sentenced to life for feeding their baby a Vegan diet? I’m not at all sure about this. Sounds more like Manslaughter than murder. If they fed the baby similarly to the way they eat (the baby was fed Soy milk and juice) then it is reasonable that they thought, however misguidedly, that they were doing a good thing. Stupid, yeah. Malicious? I’m not at all sure. Life in prison? I’m REALLY not sure, unless they knew they were killing the child. This is sad…
Question: does a parent have the right/responsibility to do all they can to instill their own basic values in their children? I was recently questioned about my insistence that Nicki learn to control her body in the arena of weight. I don’t think anyone would have criticized me if I had insisted she do her Algebra homework. Is the difference that an external force (school or society) insists on the math? If I honestly believe that her life will be poorer if she doesn’t learn this piece, wouldn’t I be a bad parent not to beg, bribe and cajol? I have NEVER punished her for not adhering to a program, I lead the way personally, and make it very, very clear to her every single day how much I love her, would do anything for her, and am proud of her no matter what. Tananarive and I pushed her to keep her grades up and prepare for college—and trust me, we’ve pushed harder in that arena.
Comments, please: does anyone think I owe my baby girl an apology? God knows she REALLY trusts me. Tananarive once said: “I’ve never seen anything like how you guys are. She lets you ride her like Seabiscuit!” I’ve spent a lifetime developing the trust we share, and yes, on certain critical things I am willing to expend that capital. Weight has been a bugaboo because I know she’s not entirely comfortable with the extra padding (which is finally starting to leave! Thank you, I.F.) and I watched her lie to herself that she “couldn’t” take it off, when it was clearly behavioral: she plays no sports, has totally sedentary entertainments, and loves those Carbs. To DECIDE to be plush is one thing. To delude herself that this is based on something other than choice is another.

My belief is that if your reality map isn’t clear, if you don’t know
1) what you believe
2) why you believe it.
3) How to error-check it

Then you can be as educated and intelligent as you want, and still flail and fail. My entire parenting philosophy has been based around helping her see how to be “in control” academically/career-wise, emotionally, and physically. The theory is that if you have these three things, you can generate anything else you desire. I may be wrong, but I’ve been doing it myself for a long time, and she likes the results.

But EVERY day I tell her I love her, and ask if we’re doing well, and if there is anything she needs from me. Every single day. I am aware I put pressure on her. But you know what? Life kicks your ass if you can’t find the strength to stay balanced, if you can’t tell the difference between who you are, and who the world says you are. And I am completely willing to die to protect my Nicki’s dreams.

By the way: she is graduating Citrus College with a 3.78, and won the Chancellor’s Award to enter UC Irvine in September, with a full two-year scholarship. She has her first real boyfriend (a guy I actually like, named Mike. How the hell she found a black nerd is beyond me. All hail the Internet!) I am insanely proud of her.

But I am sensitive to the possibility that, in any way, I might be damaging her. It is not guilt that prompts me to write and ask your opinions: it is caution.


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