No. 2. “The lunch is coming home untouched, what’s going on?”
Boy, do we hear this one a lot, especially at the beginning of the year.
On one hand, as a parent myself, I can understand that feeling of wanting to be a provider. Feeding one’s child is the ultimate act of nurturing and caring … and, it is how we show our love, hospitality, appreciation, celebration and (for some of us!) how we balm our feelings and calm our anxieties. Sorry, I digress! …but they are complex relationships we build with this necessity.
And so, when our culinary efforts are apparently rebuffed by our children, it’s hard to remain circumspect. But, circumspect is really the best way to sit with this situation.
Consider….your child will be eating for the rest her life. There is no time like the present to set a tone of peaceful abiding with food and all of it’s gifts and delights. There is also the fact that all new tastes require development. The science says that you have to introduce a savory food 12 times before it will be an accepted taste, but apparently you only have to introduce the sweet stuff once (exhibit A – Nutella).
Children’s appetites and their immature palates are nothing like ours. I can testify on this point…my youngest daughter lived on a diet of plain noodles, plain burgers and peanut butter sandwiches through most of her childhood. Since she was the second, it was much easier for me to roll with it (“Oh, you don’t like the grilled salmon and brown rice? That’s fine, you know where the bread and peanut butter are…”) She is now twenty-four and the one who got ME to eat sashimi for the first time.
I didn’t have the energy to beg, cajole and wheedle on every point like I did with the first one (who was a totally precocious foodie by the way). But … she was plenty energetic and was growing out of everything, and those seemed like pretty good indications she was sufficiently fueled. We didn’t adjust the whole family’s menu for her but I did make sure there was relatively healthy stuff around that she would eat and we still had plenty of lively dinner table conversation after she’d returned with her P & J. What still makes the most sense to me is to offer a variety of nutritious foods, attractively prepared and easy to handle. We also need to create an ambiance that promotes a positive, shared experience around food.
Seriously, what are you eating? They are watching us – not so much with the listening sometimes, but definitely watching. Are you on some sort of diet? Do you have different things on your plate than the rest of the family? Do you obsess over what, how much, etc. that YOU eat? I heard somewhere about a researcher who asked a five year old what ‘dieting’ meant … she said that it means you cook food but you don’t eat it. Yikes!
At our school, meals and snacks are a pretty straight forward affair. We all bring healthy food. We all sit down together (all teachers, all kids). We chat, we eat, we recycle and compost and then we get on with the day. It’s an essential part of a successful day – given no more or no less importance than any other wonderful thing that happens on any given day. Sometimes we cook together, which is just one more way to explore a new skill and enjoy another shared experience. Then we eat … that’s the point of the whole thing, right?!