Do you wonder if you’re giving your children everything they need?
In the April 2012 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, Author Anne Lamott provides an interesting insight into something that she missed as a child – an atmosphere of love. She writes, “The food and life my parents created would have been delicious and nourishing, if it were not for one tiny problem – they were so unhappy together.” Lamott continues,
“I found the spiritual food for which I longed as a child in the families of my two best friends. One was Catholic, and lived up the block. The Catholics said grace before serving up aggressively modest fare–English muffin pizzas, tuna noodle casserole, fish sticks. The parents seemed to enjoy each other’s company: What a concept. Sometimes they yelled at each other and then later hugged and kissed in the kitchen–oh my God. It had never crossed my mind that peace could be found in full expression–in yelling, and weepy embraces.
I also loved to eat–and be–with a Christian Science family, who did not yell but read the Bible and Mrs. Eddy together. We prayed, eyes closed, breathing deeply. In the silence you could feel and hear your own breath in your nostrils, and that could be both relaxing and scary, like having a car wash in your head. Of course, I did not mention this to my parents–they would have been horrified. For me it was heaven, even though we frequently ate snacks for dinner–popcorn, store-bought pie. This food was so delicious because of the love in that house, the love that had at its core a sweet, strong marriage. They did not yell or kiss as much as the Catholics, but I felt enveloped by the friendly confidence of their faith, and I was sad each time I was remanded to the spiritual anorexia over at my house.”
While my own Christian Science family didn’t eat snacks for dinner when I was growing up, I love the sense of warmth and joy Lamott describes in these two accounts. I also appreciate the emphasis they place on a strong marriage to ensure a loving home life. Studies indicate that living in an atmosphere of love is not only a quality of life issue, but also one that impacts health.
For instance, consider a study by British nutritionist Elsie Widdowson published in The Lancet in 1951. Orphans in two different homes were given the same war rations, yet one group gained considerably more weight than the other. Vogelnest, the home with the healthier children, was run by a loving matron. The other home was run by “a cold and erratic matron…who frequently terrorized and humiliated the children.” Halfway through the study, the loving matron left the Vogelnest orphanage and the other home’s matron took over. Despite receiving extra war rations, the weight of the once thriving children fell sharply.
World-renowned physician Dean Ornish, M.D., writes, “I am not aware of any other factor in medicine that has a greater impact on our survival than the healing power of love and intimacy. Not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery.”
In an era of constantly changing dietary recommendations, it’s reassuring to know that some basic truths never change. When it comes to children, letting them know they are deeply loved and cherished are some of the most healthful nutriments parents can provide.