At Least We Did Something Right In The Parenting Department
I will be the first to admit, as a parent, I made plenty of mistakes. Looking back over the past two decades, there were times that I should have done something differently. Maybe I could have handled a problem in another way, reacted less emotionally, but on the other hand, there definitely are things my husband and I did right. Food comes to mind as one of the top ones where we excelled.
My years as a home daycare provider opened my eyes wide to some truly odd behaviors in children. I had one child who refused to eat sandwiches, but complicating this, was she had two siblings, that would, but not wouldn’t eat different foods. On the days she was there for lunch, I served food from her accepted food menu: cheese pizza, spaghettios, fish sticks or macaroni and cheese. For snacks she liked only vanilla ice cream, or butter cookies. As much as it killed me to give in to such tyrannical demands from a child, honestly I worked in survival mode during those years. My only goal was to get through each day with as few issues as possible. But then, this is the same family that we one time spent a day together and their mother ordered them one, four-piece Chicken McNugget Happy Meal to share…and I swear, there was food left over.
You may be wondering, how that brightly reflects on me as a parent? Well, for starters:
- Our kids went to restaurants at an early age, and often. In fact, coming home from the hospital with our first-born, we stopped at a restaurant for lunch. We were starving and knew there wasn’t anything at home to eat, so we carried her inside, she slept in her car seat as we ate.
- Even with baby number two, we often went out to eat at real restaurants. Not Chuck E. Cheese, but family style, no indoor playgrounds, talk softly, sit in your chair and color restaurants. As a result, when we went to upscale restaurants, with large groups of my husband’s co-workers, they behaved in the same manner. The rules hadn’t changed, and we weren’t embarrassed by unruly offspring, such as those who were sometimes were dining with us.
- We never refused their requests to try our food. We never replied with “you won’t like this…” We allowed them to try it. On occasion one of them would eat half our food. It was ok. We munched on their food. We didn’t starve.
- Once they routinely were eating off of our plates, and grew bored with the typical children’s menu offering of hot dogs, chicken tenders or macaroni and cheese, we searched the adult menu to find something they could share. We used to travel often in those days, and it didn’t seem right to me that my husband and I were eating great dinners and the kids were eating only junk food for ten days straight.
- I prepared real meals at home. That’s not to say there wasn’t the “Mom is tired, do you want bagel bites or corn dogs?” nights. Most evenings though we had the typical meal of a meat, a side dish and a vegetable. It wasn’t always made from scratch, but at least it resembled a balanced meal.
- We also allowed them their phases. My youngest for a while hated all starchy side dishes. She would ask for more meat and refuse to eat the rice or potatoes. This was actually a good balance for us because, my older one typically didn’t care much for meat.
- I also found different options as their tastes evolved. At first, canned vegetables are easier for young children to eat. When they decided their were too mushy, we moved on to frozen. They would eat broccoli if it came with a cheese sauce. As they got older, they preferred fresh vegetables, with no sauce.
- I constantly tried out new recipes and experimented with old ones. By keeping the menu forever changing, they became used to trying unfamiliar food.
- We exposed the kids to many different types of ethnic foods. From a very young age they ate Thai, Chinese, Japanese, German, Polish, Mexican. As a result, as adults they are very adventurous with food. They eat Indian food, sushi, and middle-eastern fare. Yes, today they tend to be expensive dates.
- If there were foods they truly hated, we didn’t force it. To me it made no sense to do so. The kids didn’t care for peas. If we wanted peas, I also made green beans or a salad for them.
- I often added a multitude of vegetables when making soups and sauces. They were used to seeing vegetables in everything, so it wasn’t a big deal if some landed on their plate.
- When we went out to eat, we typically ordered the food as it came. That means when I ordered them the Cheeseburger Happy Meal, they got it with the mustard, ketchup, pickles, and the tiny flakes of onion that came on it. It didn’t kill them. As they got older, and they developed preferences, they could specify how they wanted it prepared.
I’m sure what helped the situation when our children were growing up was that we weren’t picky eaters. They grew up watching us eat all types of food. Neither one of us has a long list of foods we won’t eat. Personally, I have no interest in eating liver, while my husband refuses to even try one of my favorite meals, Chicken with Molé Sauce. We both grew up with mothers that cooked wholesome meals for their families, and didn’t just serve a box of macaroni and cheese for dinner. We ate the same food the rest of our family did.
To me it seems that people do their children an injustice by not exposing them to different things. Whether it be foods, books, places or people, kids benefit from experiencing different things and cultures. It helps them develop a more open-minded view of the world and the people who live in it. There is so much more to do and enjoy in life when you’re not afraid to try new things, and parents need to begin setting that example at birth.