[This is part two of a two-part post. If you haven’t read the first one, go there first: Can We Save the Babies?]
The oxalate-educated grandmother (uncle, aunt, or step-dad) wrestles with emotionally charged conflicting realities. The trusted doctrine that vegetables are the unequivocal health pillar collides with her own jarring personal experience of pain, discovery, and a sometimes challenging recovery process.
It’s bad enough for her to be sick because of her “healthy” diet, the added mental struggle is a wound on its own. How could the very foods she served at her table with loving kindness be the hidden culprits behind her health issues?
Grief Turns to Worry
While navigating her own oxalate-induced health issues, the shock and disbelief can trigger a complex grief process. There is a sense of betrayal, and even rage: How could experts’ advice and accepted common knowledge fail her, and thus her family? Despite her best intentions, she unknowingly exposed her loved ones to harm. Her past teachings, she realizes, could lead to health issues for her precious family. It can be hard to avoid feelings of guilt and self-recrimination.
In processing the sad discovery, hopefully without self-blame, she needs time to process and acknowledge her private pain. From there perhaps she can find a strengthened sense of allegiance to her own well-being and truth.
In confronting an entrenched belief system—one she herself nurtured within her family—how does she break the news with her adult children and hope to invite them into a wholly different understanding?
Can she be vulnerable, share her heart, and be heard? Can she move forward to share her experience (and confess her feelings and mistakes) in a way that can spark interest and curiosity, and that opens the opportunity to reeducate her adult children. Does she have the influence to bring them along on this painful process of walking away from popular (mistaken) information?
It can feel like a no-win situation. Today’s lauded baby foods are loaded with high oxalate ingredients. Bite your tongue about this hidden hazard, and you’re guilty of not protecting vulnerable children.
If you speak out in hopes that family members will agree to protect children from oxalates, you either “damage” people and strain your relationships, or you feel the rejection—or both. You share your profound discovery, so dear to you, and they treat it like it’s of no consequence.
The work ahead isn’t going to be easy. Your precious news will not be cherished as a precious gem painfully dug from caves. If your news is not hated, belittled, or mocked, it might be sternly denied and ignored. Ouch!
“My son and daughter-in-law have a 2-year-old daughter and a baby. They don’t buy into the notion that oxalates are a problem. They don’t want to hear any other point of view; please help me get through to them now, while the babies are growing up.”—Marty
“Please Spare Them”
The grandmother’s mission to protect the young ones might keep her up with worry. At this stage, parents don’t have any special authority over their grown children. We can’t tell them what to do. Other adults will have to learn hard lessons themselves. Yet her hopeful heart pleads with God, “please spare them this one.”
“Don’t Tell Us How to Feed Our Kids”
Let’s consider the grandmother’s new information from the perspective of her adult children with children of their own. For many busy parents with professional ambitions, marriage, and childcare responsibilities, there isn’t time and energy to rethink accepted opinions on food and nutrition. It’s “normal,” “fun,” and easy to give kids potatoes, berries, chocolate, and peanut butter. Cutting these foods seems too hard.
The virtue of vegetables is a deeply ingrained truth, imparted by the most trusted source they’ve known, their mother, and backed up relentlessly in mainstream dietary advice.
When Mother, the architect of their earliest understandings, approaches them with a concern that some vegetables are toxic, it’s more than a ripple in their family routines. It’s an upheaval.
Do they believe their Mother and attempt to swap out the high oxalate foods in their shopping carts, or decide that she has gone bonkers or joined some cult?
And if grandmother has ever been wrong—we all have—that’s the proof she’s lost her marbles and she’s now consuming “fake news.”
Even if her children accept with compassion that Mother’s story is real and revealing, the revelation probably collides with their deeply ingrained worldview, sense of stability, parental authority of their own, and the irresistible tendency to favor information that aligns with their existing beliefs. Personal pride and the desire to fit in with popular trends also favor dismissing new information that contradicts those beliefs. The adult child stopped letting Mother run their lives in high school!
Few young parents are ready be a lone voice in the wilderness. Opinions refuting this new ‘radical’ claim about the dangers of high oxalate vegetables are everywhere. Countless health blogs, diet testimonials, and mainstream nutritional guidelines have always championed the universal goodness of all vegetables.
Do Facts Matter?
But really, it’s not about the scientific evidence that high dietary oxalates lead to poor health outcomes. In the face of the unsettling possibility that a foundational notion is flawed, the resistance is partly emotional self-defense. What would they have to give up? What will they miss out on without blackberries, dark chocolate, and spinach?
Are they up for reevaluating deeply held beliefs? Admitting that they live and perpetuate distorted information? Changing habits? Become cultural misfits? Add a new worry over their children? No Thanks, Mom!!
And as an adult, we’re far more likely to listen to experts and even some guy at the gym than we are to our parents. Perhaps you’d be wise to infect the guy they listen to at the gym with the oxalate-awareness bug. Let him convince your kid to give this a try. His facts are better than your facts (wink).
Eventually, our shared culture and popular collective “wisdom” will shift. In the meantime, accepting new information on oxalates may require uncommon bravery. It’s much easier to imagine that mom is a special case. Her ideas that the children are also at risk can’t be true.
Preserve Your Relationship
Like politics and religion, nutrition is a sensitive topic. A different point of view can spark power struggles in the family. Our listening within a family is mixed up with all the emotional baggage that comes with growing up (disappointments, and some degree of trauma and dysfunction, even in the healthiest of families) and then stepping free as an independent, self-guided adult.
The adult child has an opportunity to process the discomfort and be open to learning. In the long run, it’s a golden opportunity to grow, learn, and foster deeper connections within the family. Openness to new dietary principles and awareness may arise more easily from the fertile ground of relating well and supporting each other.
But all that takes time. It won’t happen on Thursday afternoon, or from reading one article or a web page. It depends on grandmother and adult child forming a mutually respectful learning partnership through which they can navigate what amounts to a societal betrayal by ‘expert sources’, while unlearning and supporting each other in building new wisdom.
It’s essential for grandparents to approach their family members with empathy, patience, good humor, respect, and technique. Learn to spark interest. Think hard about their values: What might inspire curiosity? For the answer, listen to your inner guidance. Without speeches, speak to those values with simple questions or revelations that can linger in their minds and hearts. Each moment is unique, and openings show up. Stay willing to make connections listen, learn, unlearn, and relearn to enhance the relationship, not tear it down.
Grandmothers can start by sharing their experience, their sense of betrayal by experts, and their guilt for promoting a plant-trusting narrative they now know to be potentially dangerous. We need to console each other over the unbearable shock.
Take the time to nurture a loving understanding of the complex emotions each is experiencing. Let the love be felt. We all want the best for the kids. Sadly, we’re not aware of the profound importance of non-toxic nutrition. The education can be a heavy lift and minds can open slowly.
At stake is more than a concern about defining a healthful diet for the young ones. It’s also an opportunity to strengthen intergenerational bonds, honor the value of relationships, and model invaluable lessons for young ones about navigating sensitive topics, being willing to change our thinking in the face of new evidence, and learning to sustain better life choices.
Patience, open communication, and loving respect for the deep emotions involved (our own as well as our family members’) are the foundation from which new understanding and new practices will emerge. By all means speak your new truth about oxalates: but the goal is not just to “make them believe.” We need to form loving partnerships to support each other in building the best lives possible for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren and extend that into the world.
Let’s Help Each Other
While the food fights rage on, our growing community is learning together. Please share your personal stories of mistakes or success in bringing inter-generational family members onboard.
Many families are reporting both benefits (and dumping) in children who seemed healthy. Here is one example from an Amazon Review:
Many seemingly unrelated ailments can all be from oxalate. I have found great relief in my low oxalate diet endeavor. My husband and children have also experienced oxalate dumping after lowering oxalate. It is not rare! Our modern diet, eating superfoods year round, is affecting kids and adults alike. In summary, do yourself a favor and buy a copy of Toxic Superfoods today. I will be buying copies for my family and friends.”-K.K., Amazon Reviewer
If you have your own thoughts on how to handle this situation, please leave them in the comments on this post.