This past weekend, I woke to two kids eager to make popovers. Not with me, but by themselves. Was I still dreaming? Was my picky eater actually planning to cook?
Over the past few years, I’ve occasionally mentioned my kids’ eating habits. An update: My seven-year-old daughter has become a more adventurous eater each year. But my five-year-old son? Not so much. He still refuses to eat any vegetables or fruits.
If I were to make a drawing of my son, composed of the foods he eats, it would consist of:
-peanut butter jars for legs
-a ramen torso
-chicken tender arms
-pizza for a head
-Honey Nut Cheerios for eyes, nose, mouth
It pains me to admit this. I feel I should run for cover in case heirloom tomatoes start flying my way. This is certainly not local, seasonal, sustainable eating.
And yet? Miraculously he grows a little each day. He runs, he plays, he’s full of joy and brimming with life. This way of eating, it’s sustaining him.
Having picky eaters in the house can take the joy out of cooking and make mealtimes painful. When each dinner decision prompts verbal shrapnel from the kids, it’s all too easy for us to throw in the (dish) towel and offer ramen as a remedy.
I can hear people tsk-tsking. They say, don’t give them an alternative, the kids have to eat the same meal as everyone else. Or, have you tried kale chips/hummus-n-veggies/fruit kebabs/[insert clever supermom idea here], my kids love those. Or, have you tried hiding vegetables in other foods?
I say, have you met my kids? Those moves don’t work in our house.
Believe me, I’ve read all the advice – Take your kids shopping with you! Expose them to lots of different types of foods! Get them involved in cooking! Model good eating habits yourself!
Done. Done. Done. Done. No dice.
As a food blogger who encourages healthy eating, I feel like a hypocrite, not to mention defensive and frustrated. I think, where did we go wrong?..if only we hadn’t had packaged foods in the house…if only we had pushed more foods when the kids were toddlers. Surely we’re lacking as parents.
Then again, both kids were raised the same way, exposed to the same foods. See Exhibit A (who eats a range of foods) and Exhibit B (who does not). Surely it’s nature, not nurture.
This week, I read an affirming opinion piece in the New York Times, Parents of Picky Eaters, It’s Not Your Fault, which essentially says “back off” to those who cast judgments. Author Stephanie Lucianovic asserts:
Picky eating happens. It even happens to famous chefs like Tom Colicchio and famous food writers like Ruth Reichl. And it could be biological, genetic, psychological or just because. … you can do everything “right” and still get a picky eater. That’s what everyone needs to understand, because the parents of the picky don’t need the comments, the score-keeping and the castigation of their parenting skills.
No parent needs that on any front, let alone when it comes to what their child might or might not like to eat. Parents need the support of other parents. None of us has all the answers to everything. Every single one of us is just making it up as we go along and hoping we don’t make too many mistakes.
But, back to those popovers. That morning, my two little kiddos looked up a popover recipe in their cookbook, found the ingredients in the cupboard and fridge themselves and divvied up the prep chores (you break the eggs, I’ll do the stirring, we’ll take turns pouring batter into muffin cups). They even resisted the urge to open the oven door for the entire 30 minutes of baking.
Yes, I’ll continue to introduce my kids to new foods and strive to limit the amount of sugar and processed foods they eat. But otherwise? I’m not gonna sweat it. The kids will turn out fine.
Maybe, the recipe for success is:
- Take two free-range kids.
- Sprinkle with the seeds of healthy eating. Add a dollop of patience. Then another. Then another. Stir.
- Take a deep breath. Wait. Allow to age 10-15 years.
- Release into the world, along with a CSA subscription.