Friday, October 15, 2010

family: ... chicken lips and lizard hips and alligator eyes...

you guessed it, it's anther "food-stuffs friday" - giving you something to chew on since oct. 2010

One of the challenges of parenting has to do with food. M & I have to eat. The kids have to eat. But what we want to eat, and what they want to eat, and what they ought to eat, none of these things necessarily coincide. (For example, there are nights when what I'd like to do is dig out the potato chips and a beer and call it 2 out of 4 food groups. But that's not going to fly these days.)

We had an unexpectedly successful zucchini season this year. Hard to imagine, given the wet summer we had, and our garden's tendency toward powdery mildew. It was, a sadly unexpectedly successful zucchini season.

By now you're getting the idea that I'm not a big zucchini fan. I'm not against them, per se, but I find that they go "moogie" fairly quickly, and moogie and my mouth don't coexist well. It's the reason I don't do eggplant either. I don't mind the taste of either of them, but I can't take the gloppy texture. (Note: There is one recipe that I can stomach zucchini in - it's a chocolate bread recipe our niece Maggie gave us (I think), and I can't for the life of me find the zucchini in it anywhere. Which is to say, it's fabulous. Thanks Maggie!)

So it's a challenge, when K or L reject something, to insist that they eat it anyway. I tend to identify with their reactions. Sometimes it's just funny. K doesn't like basil. But she loves pesto. Try to explain to her that pesto is just basil with some olive oil... logic doesn't gain me any traction. There's no explanation that is adequate. Other times, it's not quite as funny. L wants cottage cheese, but decides once I've served it that she doesn't like it, she wants apple sauce. You can guess where this is going. I get her apple sauce, but not, apparently, enough. I know this not because she quickly finishes what's in the bowl and asks for me, but because she tells me that it's not enough.

me: Here you go.
L (pushing the bowl away with pouting lower lip): That not enough!
me: It's not enough.
L (falling face down on the window seat): No!!
me: And you're going to eat it?
L (sitting up, enthusiastic): Yeah Daddy! Yeah!!
me (after adding more to the bowl): Here.
L (slipping off the seat): Acthually, I don't want any. K, you want to ride horthes?
K (slipping to the ground from her place): Yeah!
me: !!!!!!

I'd always thought the stereotype of parents finishing up their kids food was overdone. But I find myself eating that cottage cheese, the bowl of apple sauce, the grilled cheese sandwich.... (which reminds me, I really need to get out and exercise this weekend!)

I realize that some parents would insist the kids eat what they've asked for. I'm not so good at doing that. For one thing, I have never much liked the "clean your plate" approach. I'd rather the kids eat when they're hungry, and not feel they have to finish all the food (like I do when I'm picking up the plates - see the previous paragraph!). We also tend to give the girls more choices in food than some parents would.

us: Do you want pasta tonight? Or soup?
K: Not any of them.
us: Uh... that's the choice. Pasta or soup.
K: Oh, all right!
us: 'All right' which one?
K: Pasta I guess!!
L: I want thoup!!!

K has recently decided she doesn't like mushrooms. And this is after having eaten them happily for some time. But here's the thing: I can remember not liking them either! (I can remember when I decided I did like them, and it had to do with butter and sauteing and white wine drinking and it's all not quite appropriate for K just yet.) So, recalling how mushrooms smelled/tasted/felt to my kid-self, there's no way I can force K to eat them. Which is why I find myself willing to pick them out of her soup. Or pasta.

(K, if you're reading this at 6, EAT YOUR MUSHROOMS! If you're reading it at 16, please eat those mushrooms. If you're reading this at 26, I completely understand. Go have a beer and some chips instead.)

One of the only real lines we've drawn, is that if the girls don't eat at dinner, they don't get to eat later, even if they claim to be "starving" in bed. It's been difficult a time or two, when K or L is crying, not wanting to sleep, claiming to be hungry. I can't imagine what it would be like to not be able to provide for my kids, and I can understand why parents who are in very difficult circumstances would skip meals so that their kids can eat. But the thing is, our girls are not starving. They might be a little hungry, but no so's it will damage them. More often, they just don't want to go to bed, and are trying on different approaches to see if any one of them sticks to the wall (to mix in a pasta cooking metaphor). And they have learned that if they choose not to eat at dinner, there'll be nothing for them until the next morning.

One of the best parenting tips we were given came from the mother of a friend, a woman who is trained as a nutritionist. She said that if kids get one good meal every 3 days, they're doing fine. Having that bit of knowledge right from the start helped us not worry when K or L didn't seem to eat much for a day or two. And for the most part, it's held true. They'll come around for a big meal, tossing back 3 pieces of fish, or 4 complete waffles, after not eating much for a while.

I've seen new parents who are freaking out because their child doesn't seem to be interested in eating on a given day. Luckily M and I were on the same page, and we just didn't get too concerned about it. They always seemed to come around the next day or the day after that.

No comments: