I like lots of different flavors. Though my mom is a good cook, I didn't grow up exposed to exotic foods, mainly because in the early 80s in Charlotte, NC, there weren't any. I remember one Mexican restaurant (various things drowned in cheese and sour cream), a few Chinese restaurants (various things deep-fried in a sticky-sweet sauce), and that was about it. I was at least 16 before I'd ever had a bagel. Now, of course, the city has many good restaurants with cuisine from all over the globe, which would be lovely if I weren't jonesing for my mom's fried chicken whenever I'm there.
|"Hey, y'all! You sure you don't want to go get some of that sushi?" Nah, I'm good.|
Anyway, both my parents were interested in trying different foods. They took me to the Mexican and Chinese restaurants. When an Indian restaurant opened nearby, we went there, too. I remember them coming home from a French restaurant, determined to make bouillabaisse, and actually trying it, making their own fish broth and going so far as to figure out where to buy saffron in a place where few people at the time had ever heard of it. It was delicious. Overall, I remember very few things that I simply wouldn't eat, but when a meal was served, you ate what you liked, and if you didn't eat, you would be hungry, because that was all there was. And, as I went out into the larger world and tasted all kinds of food, it was like a revelation. I couldn't imagine turning down all these possibilities.
This is how I assumed it would be with my own children. I remember self-righteously proclaiming that I would never prepare special meals for my kids, or feed them chicken nuggets all the time. I would just give them the things we liked to eat, and they would like them, too. Thank you to everyone who heard me say that and didn't smack me. I had no idea what in the hell I was talking about. I'm really, really sorry.
When Tweak was little and started eating lots of solid foods, he would eat anything. All kinds of vegetables, meats, whatever you gave him. I remember cutting up little pieces of lamb chop for him (which I hadn't had until I was in high school) and thinking triumphantly what an exemplary mother I was to expose him to all this wonderful food. What, I wondered, could be wrong with these people who said their kids would only eat cheese and crackers?
Payback is a bitch.
|What IS this sh*t, Mommy?|
When Tweak was about 3, he stopped eating anything but a very short list of foods, which was subject to change without notice. He has other sensory processing issues, and it all seems to be centered around texture, blandness, and predictability. Tink has been somewhat better, but I think she figured if her brother was making an issue of this, she didn't want to miss the boat. The more excited that you got that they were eating at least something with some nutritional value, the more quickly they would stop eating it. I learned pretty quickly that was a sucker's game, but I had no idea what to do. I was facing a vocational crisis and a marriage crisis, and was honestly not doing all that well. I was not up for fighting with my kids about food when everything else was so sucktastic. I caved really, really quickly. Mac & cheese. Plain pasta. Mini-bagels. Peanut butter. Cheese sticks. Kidney beans from the can. Fruit, oh please God at least eat fruit so you don't get scurvy, please. At least they drink milk.
For years I have been deeply ashamed that my kids' palates are so limited. It's especially bad, because most people will tell you that I'm a reasonably good cook. My kids have no idea. It's hard not to take it personally.
Everyone here in yuppieland LOVES to brag about how they just fed their little Parker sushi, and now she loves it! And little Ashton can't get enough kale! It's all about kale for Ashton! Thank God I at least don't have to put up with the playground snack scrutiny anymore, in which the children of the Perfect Mommies are snorking down organic homemade baked brown rice and tofu fritters with kale (!) while my kids are begging for more Flavor-Blasted Goldfish (the horror!). I'm one of the few parents in America who hopes the school lunch program makes her kids try new foods from time to time. I'm aware of how pathetic that is.
|Not. One. Word.|
Seriously, though, I work full time. At the end of each workday, I have a limited amount of time with my children, and I am freaking exhausted. I'm not willing to slave over a family meal only to have it rejected every damn time. I cook healthy meals for myself in bulk and freeze in small batches. I give the kids some combination of a protein (grilled chicken or browned ground beef, pre-prepared turkey meatballs, beans, cheese, scrambled eggs, sometimes fish sticks or chicken nuggets or bacon), a carb (rice, pasta, tortilla, bread, usually whole wheat), carrot sticks or frozen peas (the only vegetables I have a hope of them eating), and fruit. Milk to drink. I offer them a taste of what I'm eating, and they make a face like I'm giving them hemlock-infused cat poop in gasoline sauce. But then we usually have a nice dinner and a good conversation, and that seems a lot better than spending that time fighting about food.
We all have to pick our battles. I suspect that some of the Ashton-loves-kale mommies of yesteryear are now in my tribe, too, as Ashton will no longer eat anything that's not white (what I like to call a "food racist"), or things that are touching other things. I think a lot of moms (and dads, too, but there's no guilt like mommy-guilt) beat themselves up over their kids' eating habits, but as with many things in life, kids do what they're going to do when they're ready to do it. My instinct is not to go to the mat about this, because it would be a waste of energy.
I'd love to know whether I'm alone on this. I suspect I'm not, but nobody wants to risk the Wrath of the Perfect Mommy. Whatever. What I do know is that if you're feeling sanctimonious right now about what your kids had for dinner tonight, I could probably get them to give me their college funds for a bag of Cheetos.
*OK, I know, it's an in-text ad, but I actually own this kind of cocktail shaker, and I do like it. I'm not getting paid to include the link, but if you do buy from the link, I might make a nickel. I'm just experimenting, so please cut me some slack.