There is a story about a family who purchased a prize pony. With great pride, the pony was brought home and for weeks was paraded before the neighbors and extended family members. Young and old marveled at her ideal height and weight, the beautiful color and clarity of her eyes, the beauty of her coat, and all of the wonderful potential she possessed.
For the first three years of the pony’s life, she was fed the finest grains, at exactly the right times of the day – perfectly mixed and prepared, so that she remained healthy and vibrant with all her possibilities and potential before her.
By the middle of the fourth year, things began to change. Although the family’s love for the beautiful pony remained as great as before, she had become part of their landscape. She was still fed her grain but it wasn’t as finely ground, nor as carefully mixed, as it had been before. Her water was sometimes left overnight and although her stall was always clean, it wasn’t as rigorously cared for as it had been.
The pony grew into a horse and the love remained but the care no longer matched the love.
It’s easier to love a pony than to care for one.
The pony is analogous to each of our children – the family to every parent.
The challenge: To care for our children as much as we love them.
The concept of love is not simply an emotion, it’s an action.
As we know, the words: “I love you,” said to our children, are not simply an expression of the heart, they are a commitment of the mind and of the will – to ensure the wellbeing of each child.
The love of a parent is expressed in every action taken on behalf of his/her children – to provide for them spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and physically.
So if love means action; what is the most important thing we can do for our children?
There is something more important than misvot, more essential than learning Torah and more life building than hesed. It is the platform upon which everything is built. It is the most serious expression of the love we feel for our children, and the love and appreciation we feel for life and for Hashem. It is good health, and all that is related to it.
As we acknowledge when we wish someone well, good health is the foundation of life. It enables our ability to serve Borei Olam by doing misvot; it enables our ability to study Torah and do hesed. The food that we eat determines the level of health we enjoy.
Rambam writes in Mishneh Torah, Hilchot De’ot:
The only foods or drinks that one should ingest are those that benefit one’s physical health.
In other words: If what you’re about to feed your child won’t make him healthier – you mustn’t feed it to him!
There are foods and drinks that are indisputably unhealthy, or at a minimum don’t enhance the health of our children. Things like: red meat, soda, sugar (in cereals, snacks, drinks) salt, anything that comes out of a can, and white flour are universally recognized as things that should be brought to a minimum or eliminated altogether. Once that level has been achieved, we as parents need to think about other things, like: What nutritional value your child getting from a slice of pizza.
Let the love we feel for our children be evident in every one of our actions. Let’s be aware and educated on the issue of food and drink, as it relates to health. We live at a time of unfettered access to knowledge and information. Let’s use the resources we enjoy to protect the lives of those about whom we say over and over: “They are the most important thing in my life!”
Let’s care for our children forever, as they were cared for when they first came into our lives; let’s watch everything that goes into their mouths. Feed them more fruits, vegetable and whole grains…
“…The pony survived, and the love remained, but the care no longer matched the love. It’s easier to love a pony (or a child) than to care for one.”