Table of Contents
The prosecution: Orlaith
I often ask Mum to go easy on the desserts, but she says kids deserve treats
My parents, Conall and Maureen, love their grandkids, but they go against my wishes when it comes to feeding them. Áine is five and Joey is three – my husband, James, and I have strict requirements for their diets.
My mum is a great cook but she’s not into clean eating, unlike James and me. She loves to make quick, easy things for their lunches, like cheesy pizza breads, whereas I give them meals that are a bit lighter but perhaps more complicated to prepare, like crudités, hummus and prawns. If they’re with their grandparents for the day, I might provide a packed lunch for them so they can keep to their routine.
But if they also stay for dinner, Mum will cook heavy meals, like steak and ale pie with buttery mash and crumble for dessert. At home we have things like salmon and veg, or chicken arrabbiata stew with greens. I’m trying to teach Áine and Joey the importance of natural, simple cooking.
Sometimes my parents pick up the kids from school, or take them if we have a weekend away. I appreciate that, and Áine and Joey always have a great time, but they get to eat these rich foods we’ve banned.
I’ll often ask Mum to go easy on the desserts, but she says kids deserve treats. Sometimes when I collect them, they are bouncing off the walls from all the sugar they’ve consumed. Also, my dad always feeds them biscuits. He says, “One won’t hurt”, then gives them free rein of the biscuit tin.
I’m the one who has to deal with the ramifications, long-term (rotten teeth) and short (hyperactivity). I might sound like a grinch, but it’s for their own good.
The defence: Conall and Maureen
They’re kids, for god’s sake, they like sweet things and need a bit of balance
We were never as strict with Orlaith as she is with Áine and Joey, so we’re not sure where she gets it from. We had plenty of rules for Orlaith growing up, but there wasn’t as much emphasis on diet. It was more around routines: go to mass, get your homework done.
But food-wise we just ate normal family meals, and still do. There’s nothing wrong with a shortcrust pie or a roast dinner; it’s classic cooking. The only thing is that Orlaith has moved away from the food she grew up on; now it’s all green juice and tofu. There’s a sugar ban for the kids and red meat is rarely eaten. Orlaith is a bit obsessed with health. She’s definitely conscious of her figure, and we think she’ll pass that on to the kids if she’s not careful.
A treat now and then never hurts. They’re kids, for god’s sake. They like sweet things and need a bit of balance. We like treating them, but we’ve been told off when we’ve given them a dessert or let them have a few biscuits.
Orlaith will say, “You’ve made the kids hyperactive”, but they’re five and three so they’ll be hyperactive anyway. She’s also very worried about their teeth. But Orlaith ate chocolate growing up and her teeth are fine.
If the kids see us eating cake, of course they want it too. Sometimes we won’t tell Orlaith, but the kids usually tell her in their excitement, then we get a telling off. Orlaith is a very good mother, but she needs to relax a bit when it comes to their eating habits.
The jury of Guardian readers
Should Conall and Maureen stop doling out the treats?
Healthy eating is great, but food is also about pleasure and love. Orlaith should enjoy her parents treating the kids, and hold her own line at home.
The grandparents are undermining the parents’ authority. However, Orlaith shouldn’t expect them to cater for her kids without providing an alternative.
They might not agree with what Orlaith does, but they are not the parents, so they should go along with it regardless.
Orlaith’s parents should respect her wishes when it comes to feeding her kids, especially when it comes to the biscuit tin.
Promoting healthy eating is important, but it sounds like Orlaith is an “almond mum”, promoting with an overly restrictive diet. The occasional pie and mash never hurt anyone!
Now you be the judge
In our online poll, tell us where the sweet spot is
The poll closes at 9am GMT on Thursday 23rd November