This post is a little ironic because my middle child was in bed with a pretty high fever as I wrote this…
I know several stay-at-home moms who almost avoid getting together because every time they take their children out in public, they return home with some kind of viral or bacterial illness. It’s no secret kids can be gross. I know. My children have all gone through a “let’s see what the rabbit’s poop tastes like” phase… Yuck. And they still regularly get in trouble for eating dog food. So there’s a general understanding that kids put things in their mouths and germ-swap with relative ease.
In spite of their affinity for gross-ness, there are ways, and I believe reasons, my children experience sickness less often than their peers.
1) No processed foods– this isn’t a 100% thing, but I am serious when I say it’s rare- my daughter enjoys the occasional “contraband” cracker at church, and I do use sweet treats like M&Ms. And what would breakfast be without muffins and cinnamon rolls on the rotation? The kids pretend play is that they make and eat imaginary “rashy bread” (whole wheat, as opposed to gluten free) But the key here is rarity. The majority of the time, my babies are eating whole foods, raw when possible. This eliminates the inflammatory response caused by processed starches and sugars, and keeps their bodies alert and able to fight off germs.
2) Good hygiene- I’m not a clean freak mom. I don’t carry hand sanitizer or fuss over grass stains or dirt. But even I have my limits of tolerable filth. The kids brush their teeth at least once a day (with help) to maintain oral hygiene. And we do twice weekly baths, unless a blowout, or other mess necessitates more frequent bathing. Fingernails are one of my pet peeves. I cannot stand dirty fingernails. Since we established kids put their hands in their mouths, I try to curb any excess bacteria by keeping their hands and nails clean, neatly trimmed, and away from their faces as much as possible.
3) Plenty of sleep- sleep is one thing I insist upon. This is likely because I am not functional without at least 9 solid hours, and I prefer more. My autoimmune issues and hormonal imbalance rear their ugly heads if I don’t get adequate sleep. I’ve just accepted that I’m lame, and have to be in bed by 10:30 each night if I’m going to wake up at 6 am for my Bible and prayer time. So, I insist the same importance of rest and sleep to my kids. They know sleep is when your body renews and heals damaged cells, and without proper rest, they’re grouchy and unpleasant (aren’t we all?)
So I have a (fairly) strict 7:00pm bedtime for the two youngest, and my oldest gets to stay up until 7:30pm (his tuck in routine takes a good 30 minutes, so he’s not in bed until 8pm.) All the kids take an afternoon nap, ranging from 30 minutes to 2 hours.
My youngest is still loving his morning naps so I’m taking advantage of that time for homeschooling too. The point is, even though my kids experience various degrees of sleep, we prioritize rest to keep everyone functioning at 100%.
4) Holistic herbal remedies- whenever applicable, I opt for herbal or food-based remedies over prescription medication. I make my own cough syrup from ginger, lemon, and molasses. I made elderberry syrup last summer to keep for cold and flu season (glad I did too!). I prefer essential oils to NSAIDs. And I grow and maintain several native “weeds” that are actually excellent medicinal herbs such as day flower, mullein, wild violet, peppermint, red raspberry leaf, nettle, etc.
In addition to supplemental remedies when issues arise, I aim for a holistic “anti-inflammatory” diet with lots of veggies, lean proteins, nuts, seeds, and minimal starches and grains. This seems to work best for my family’s dietary needs and restrictions, but no two families are going to be exactly alike in their nutritional requirements. Learn what your body needs to function and feel its best, and then do that. My general rule is fresh in season, and if I can’t grow it, I buy organic (frozen organic veggies are cheaper than fresh, if you need a money saving hack.)
5) Spiritual and mental/ emotional health- last on this list, but first in priority this is, sadly, the area in which I feel most children are deficient. Divorced parents are the norm now, not the exception to the rule. Kids aren’t growing up in two-parent households anymore, and the mental/emotional and psychological damage is evident. My children may wear predominantly second-hand (or third or fourth) clothing, but they don’t wonder if they are going to eat at night. They may have to put up with a fixer-upper house with snot-green carpet, but they know Mama and Pa-pa are in love and in this marriage until death do us part. They may not have a lot of high-tech toys, but they have 5 beautiful acres to run, explore, and play on in the fresh air, and a warm, dry place to sleep at night.
My children are being raised to love the Lord and to love other people. And they know their worth and value as human beings created in God’s image. They know they are loved, and they have a solid church family that loves on them, cares for them, and supports us as a family unit. We encourage them, and teach them they have a place in our family; we give them responsibility to give them a sense of worth, and love to feel secure and stable. So that even with my oldest son’s tendency toward anxiety, (I swear, when he’s sick, it’s from worry) he and all his siblings have the spiritual, emotional, and mental health foundation upon which to build a solid holistic wellness of body, mind, and spirit.