Sunday, January 13, 2013

Help Yo Self

 The J-bird has always been a picky eater, and I am guilty of every bad-mother approach to this issue. Sincerely, if there's a bad idea of what to do or not do with a kid at the table, I've tried it. And, as with most things involving children, the bigger deal you make about it, the bigger deal it becomes. What a drag.

Whatever. Anyway, he's almost six years old, and we've progressed to the point where he will eat what I put in front of him, grudgingly, but I realized that I'm probably not helping him or his sister (who is not picky in the least, but still) develop a relationship with food that even approaches healthy or realistic. I have no problem admitting when I'm wrong, and I have probably completely screwed this up so far, so - screeeeeeech! - I applied the brakes and changed course.

Now, I prepare the food (with their help, when possible), and it goes onto the table in serving dishes. They set the table with their empty plates and bowls, and then they help themselves to the amount of each food that they want to eat. They ARE required to have at least one bite of fruit and/or vegetables, and they are supposed to try to finish what they take, but that's about it for rules. Doing this has revolutionized meal times. Both kids are figuring out the manners we've had such limited success teaching them so far (offering the food to your sister/brother first, only taking what you will eat, realizing that it's only food and that we are lucky enough to have more of what we like/it's ok if there's some of what we don't like left over), and, with no one standing over them, demanding that they eat, complaints about the food have mostly disappeared. I am re-training myself not to nag at them to "take bites!" and "get done!". It's much more pleasant. And, when they're done, the kids clear their own dishes and we go on with our day.

My children are very fortunate to have been born into a life where there is more than enough food available to them. They have the luxury of "favorite foods" and foods they'd rather not eat. I recognize how lucky they are. Food can be fun. Food can be an indulgence. Food can simply be fuel. There are lots of different approaches to it, and I want them to figure out what it is to them, without me and my pressure and hovering gumming up the works. I take a moderate approach to what I serve them - mixing the strictly healthy in with the somewhat-less-nutritionally-sound kid faves, and I'm trying hard to stand back and let them help themselves.

 (Noodles cooked in chicken broth, with "shaky cheese" and Craisins on the side.)

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