My husband and his brother grew up in a household where they were permitted to eat spaghetti-o’s and junk food cereals with prizes at the bottom of the boxes nearly every day. Today, they are two of the pickiest eaters I have ever met often turning up their noses at any food item that is not normally served with French fries.
My brother and I are polar opposites and will happily eat anything that’s put in front of us. Squid? Frog Legs? Chocolate covered bugs? Bring them on! If it’s edible, we’ll at least try it and we yearn for variety in our diets.
In our household, ‘kid food’ was a foreign concept.
My mother never served me a plate of plain white rice on a strawberry shortcake plate while the rest of the family ate meatloaf. I ate the meatloaf and I complimented the chef afterwards or I felt the pain of starvation. Growing up, no one ever asked me if I preferred mustard or mayo on my turkey sandwich. I got both, along with a leaf of lettuce, a slice of tomato, and a bit of a red onion….and no one EVER cut the crusts off. Hell, as an adult, I absolutely adore spicy food and I credit this completely to my toddler years when I used to sit on my Father’s lap and share jars of jalapeño peppers with him.
This is not to say that I was never reluctant to try something that looked icky to me. Kids, in general, are reluctant to try new things. However, my parents never gave in when I cried, pursed my lips, or tasted a little only to fake gag and hysterically insist that cottage cheese would make me vomit. Instead, they would calmly inform me that I was not permitted to leave the table until my meal was finished. Period.
I remember playing the ‘I’m not hungry’ card one time to avoid trying Brussels sprouts and inadvertently starting ‘The Great Brussels Sprout War of 1985.’
I knew the second I saw the nasty things on my plate they would be gross, but I also knew that whining would not convince my parents to let me off the hook when it came time to eat them. So I faked enthusiasm and carefully ate everything else on my plate. When all that was left were my brussels sprouts, I dramatically rubbed my belly and said, “Oh these look so good! But I’m full. Can I be excused?”
Suspiciously, my Mother said, “But you didn’t eat your brussels sprouts…”
Quickly, I reassured her. “That’s only because I was saving the best for last. But now I’m all full on that yummy chicken you made.”
“Well…” my Mother reluctantly replied, “You don’t have to eat if you’re not hungry then. You’re excused.”
I left the table that night in awe of my own genius.
The next morning I came downstairs for breakfast to find a big plate of re-heated brussels sprouts waiting for me. I had been found out!
Furious that my trick had not worked, I audibly refused to eat the vegetable. I curtly informed my Mother that I would starve and die before I would eat brussels sprouts. With firm resolve, I crossed my arms and refused to take a single bite until the school bus came to pick me up.
By lunch time, I was starving. My stomach was rumbling and it was all I could do to refrain from running to the cafeteria. I opened my lunchbox expecting to find an apple and a tuna fish sandwich. Instead, I was confronted with a cold bowl of brussels sprouts. Delirious with hunger, but still determined to win the battle; I threw the entire bowl in the garbage.
When I got home from school, my Mother was in the kitchen preparing lasagna. I took that as a sign my Mother had finally admitted defeat and grinned inwardly. But to my abject horror, everyone but me got to partake of the delicious meal. I was served a piping hot bowl of brussels sprouts. My resolve crumbled. I broke down and ate them glaring at my Mother the entire time.
Now brussels sprouts are one of my favorite vegetables. Go figure.
Every once in awhile, I will skim a mommy blog or two and I am shocked at the number of people that have children with ‘food issues.’ They lament for days on end about their stubborn children who absolutely refuse to try new foods. The cry and fret about the lack of fruit in their little tyke’s diet and speculate that it’s affecting their bowel movements.
These are also the Mothers that cut pancakes into hearts for their little dears and never serve them a piece of chicken that isn’t dinosaur shaped. These are the Mothers that frantically thumb through kid magazines looking for ‘fun’ ways to prepare healthy foods and desperately refer to broccoli as ‘little trees.’ When none of that crap works, these are the Mothers that insist that their child is more stubborn and intense than the average child in a sad attempt to justify letting the little bastard live on pop tarts and twizzlers.
I say that parents that lack the ability to convince a kid to voluntarily eat a plate of green beans aren’t cut out for parenthood. If you can’t outsmart a 3 year old, then what the fuck are you doing raising one?
The first step towards implementing a healthy diet is to get rid of the ‘kid food.’ There is no reason that children can’t eat the same thing as adults and feeding your child the processed garbage designed especially to appeal to him only reinforces the idea that anything not covered in sprinkles will kill him. Also, strictly serving your child bland food like butter noodles and plain white rice only emphasizes a child’s natural anxiety towards anything different. Spices won’t kill your kid and every time he hears you say, ‘Oh he won’t like that, it’s too _____’ you communicate to him that trying new foods will be a strictly negative experience. Instead of catering to your child’s limited palate, try encouraging your child to step outside of his flavor shell. And if that doesn’t work, just put your fucking foot down already. Aren’t you the adult?
Your alternative is to plow your kid full of pizza rolls and hot pockets and wonder why your daughter is a size 14 by her 6th birthday.
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