Not once growing up did my mother exhort me to drink more water. There was no concern about becoming dehydrated, and not because we never got hot or sweaty. Farms in southern Indiana during the summer are hot, humid, sweaty places. It was simply expected that if I or my brother got thirsty, we would drink.
Food was not a big deal in our house, either. Mealtimes were not events. My Dad often worked late and so we would eat early, when we were hungry. Mom never told me I needed to eat more vegetables, or restricted certain snacks, or made me clean my plate. I don’t remember ever having a conversation revolving around what foods I had or had not eaten on a given day.
The one memorable ‘food story’ I have is that when I would go to my grandparents house and tell my grandmother I was hungry, she would look at the clock and say, “Well, dinner is in an hour.” Or whatever the actual amount of time was. And then after dinner you were treated to exactly one cookie.
I found this mildly annoying at the time. Now it is more than a little amusing.
I’m digressing, because what I want to focus on is the obsession parents seem to have these days with water. Why do parents act as though their kids are always on the verge of serious dehydration? Yes, I know we are all supposed to drink 64oz. of water a day – or at least liquids – but really, I’m quite sure that during my entire childhood I never once drank that much in a single day, even when I was a competitive gymnast. If I was dehydrated, I was happily unaware of it.
This is one of those (many) areas in which I feel we have gone overboard. Do we believe that a kid who gets thirsty will never drink water unless we hover and/or spend hours training them to do so? Maybe they won’t, if their instincts have been circumvented by a parent who constantly hovers with ice water, asking if they are thirsty or exhorting them to ‘hydrate’ on a regular basis. (I absolutely despise it when someone says it’s important to ‘hydrate’. It makes me never want to drink water again, just to spite them.) Maybe then a child could become so accustomed to the parent telling them to drink that they ignore the signals from their body – or never learn to acknowledge them in the first place.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not anti-water, and we are probably healthier now for drinking more of it. It’s just that it has become one more item on the interminably long ‘good parent’ checklist. My Mom – a great parent, by the way – pretty much left us alone when it came to water. It was always there of course, and when we were thirsty we drank it.
Why do we act as though kids today would do any differently?