WILL MAKE YOU FAT’
CARA and Chris Carter are parents to two children, Sophie (8) and Brandon (4). They live in Rathfarnham, Dublin. Cara is the founder of Cheeky Squeaks, a baby massage and yoga company; cheekysqueaks.ie.
Cara says: “Like a lot of parents, I am just muddling through. You try to do your best but at the end of the day you’re human and you’ve been raised by a different set of parents.
If you look hard enough, you’ll find a research paper to back you up in what you choose to do — or to contradict you. Then you berate yourself and feel guilty. Every generation is just trying to do the best with what they now know.
“My children get pizzas and waffles as treats but they also get their meat and their two veg. Lidl does great miniature peppers and carrots which are really handy to have in the fridge. And frozen sweetcorn is a handy little snack as well.
It’s such a cliche but I do think everything in moderation. It’s really naive to think that children can never have sugar because I think, at some point, sugar is going to cross their paths. Sophie turned around to me recently and said, ‘Ice cream makes you fat’. I said, ‘Ice cream won’t make you fat, darling. Too much ice cream and not enough healthy stuff will make you fat’.
“Of course, then you’re afraid of talking like that because you don’t want them to start obsessing about body image. I really struggle to know where the barrier is between teaching them about the consequences of things and making them neurotic and giving them body image issues. And the trouble with being a parent is that you never know if you’re getting it wrong until it’s too late.
“There was a time when Sophie was trying to watch iCarly and Sam & Cat on Nickelodeon, but I put a stop to it because I could actually see a change in her behaviour when she was watching these shows about these obnoxious kids.
“I think this is why we’ve got children walking around south Dublin with American accents.”
Screen time is an issue too, says Cara.
“They have access to tablets but I don’t let them have smartphones even though Sophie has me absolutely tortured for my old iPhone.
“Sophie gets an hour a day on her tablet and Brandon only gets it if we’re going somewhere. I’ve heard people say it makes them so angry when they see parents sticking tablets in front of children in restaurants but you know what, it works for us. The children enjoy it and we still sit down as a family to enjoy our meal.
“I don’t allow them free rein, though. They’re not allowed unrestricted access to YouTube and they’re not allowed to play games with messaging apps. “Even now, Sophie has me tortured for a game called Roblox, which has a messaging service on it.
And at some point you have to make a call about what’s more damaging: having access to this or the fact that they are going to be segregated from their peers because they don’t have it. It’s a real moral dilemma.
“The children play outside every day and we try our best to get them to do at least 15 minutes of reading a book and half an hour of drawing or writing before they get to sit and watch a movie. And I’ve been consciously trying to turn the television off...
“In my classes, as an ice-breaker, I always ask parents to share the best and worst parenting advice they ever received. And I always caveat it at the beginning by telling them that someone’s best piece of advice is always someone’s worst piece of advice.
“It reminds me of something a midwife once said to me at an antenatal class. Whatever keeps your chin above the waterline is what’s right for you and your family. And that’s what I try to pass on.”