Enter two little bundles of joy into our lives. (Not twins, they came separately, two years apart.) And then – you may have heard this adage: “life as we knew it was over.” You may have heard this one as well: “Here I am: feed me!”
Oh – I had wonderful visions of how healthy my children’s diets would be! I bought books and magazines filled with knowledge on how to raise healthy happy children. I would nurse my babies for a whole year, feed them homemade baby food, and then move on to healthy table food and snacks. My daughters may have inherited my genes, but I was determined that they would not have to inherit my jean size. Nature vs. nurture and all that.
I should have foreseen the conflict to come when the first bundle of joy, at the age of about a half hour, decided that she was not going to be nursing, thank you very much! I was determined, and almost as stubborn as she was. I spent literally hours trying to get this child to latch on. Finally after 10 days, our paediatrician told me that nursing is the best choice, but that this child was dehydrated and needed to be fed. That was the first of many battles over food in our home.
When Munchkinette Number The First One was nine months old, she went on another hunger strike to protest my attempt to feed her chicken. For the next month, she ate nothing but Cheerios. I guess she must have thought it was a pretty safe bet that Mommy couldn’t hide chicken in those crunchy O’s. This time, the paediatrician pinched our baby’s chubby little leg, and assured me that this was not a malnourished baby, and that she would eat vegetables again when she was ready. The month of Cheerios was followed by about six months of eating only foods mixed with yogurt. I envisioned another 18 or so years of mealtime grumbling and conflict.
Munchkinette Number The Other One started off much more cooperatively. She would gladly nurse 24/7. I weaned her after her first birthday (actually I was admitted to the hospital with a nasty case of gall stones on her first birthday, so Grandma had to deal with the weaning process- but that’s another story for another day.) For the first couple of years, this child ate what I fed her. Her first table food was tuna noodle casserole, which she ate happily. I envisioned another 18 or so years of pleasant mealtimes with this one.
Some sort of character switch along the lines of a “Freaky Friday” episode occurred in our home around the time that Pretty Princess the Elder started school. The good news was that the Elder started to eat what was placed in front of her with a minimal amount of grumbling. The bad news was that Pretty Princess the Younger started her first hunger strike at about the same time. All she wanted to eat was junk food and sweets. Being the well-read mother that I am, I knew a couple of tactics. We did the “no dessert until you have eaten your supper” routine for a while. Actually for quite a while. I don’t think she got any dessert for at least a year. She just informed us that she didn’t want any dessert if it meant having to eat the healthy, well balanced meal in front of her. We tried putting her supper plate in the fridge and threatening that she couldn’t have anything else until she ate that. That didn’t work either – probably because I couldn’t stand to make her miss breakfast and lunch the next day. I’m just too soft, and she is much more stubborn than I am. Again, our paediatrician said not to worry – a healthy child will not starve to death if you put healthy food in front of her three times a day. I’m not sure how my girls grew on the tiny amount of food they ate, but they are both still healthy.
It is a good thing that my sense of self-worth does not depend on compliments from my children. I’ve learned that the amount of time and effort I put into preparing a meal is inversely proportional to the chances of my children actually eating it. I recall one meal when I served hot dogs and canned beans. My then 5 year old told me: “Mommy, you are such a good cooker!”
So why am I still knocking myself out making Pasta Primavera, homemade soup, and lasagne, knowing that they would be much happier if I heated up a frozen pizza or hotdogs? I think it is a form of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I have this hope that if I keep serving steamed broccoli with homemade cheese sauce, eventually they will develop a taste for it.
I know. I keep a little basket of marbles on my kitchen window ledge, just to comfort myself with the notion that I haven’t quite lost all of my marbles yet.