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What’s For Dinner??

DinnerPlateAbout a year ago I made a threat promise to my children.  I said it out loud.  Many times.  In 2009, when my daughter turned 5 and my son turned 8, that was it…we would all be eating the SAME thing for dinner.  Every night.  No more “kids meals.”  No more different menus for children and grown-ups.  Ah yes, what do they say about good intentions?  It’s only been a week and already what I want to eat most are my words!

This all ties into the big aha moment I had – that started me us on this journey.  Why did I think it was necessary for my kids to LIKE what was being served for dinner??  They were as shocked to hear my discovery as I was to make it.  But once I did, it was like DUH!!  Talk about a moment of parental clarity.

In my defense (of which there is none really) it has less to do with overprotective parenting and more with just being a People Pleaser by nature.  I WANTED dinner to be a pleasurable experience.  One to be enjoyed and savored by ALL of us.  As such, I let things slide.

Both my kids had texture issues as toddlers that caused extra focus and attention to be placed on food and what they could and couldn’t eat.  There were struggles with some foods above and beyond typical kid taste bud patterns.  I was perhaps too sympathetic.  My son quickly moved up the ranks to reigning President of Picky Eaters of America.  Being a member myself, I vowed my second-born child would never join. 

At age 2, my daughter’s repertoire was fairly wide: salmon, steak, scrambled eggs, etc, (all things my son would not let near his lips).  At 2½, coinciding perfectly with what many child rearing books warn you about, my pride in all I had done went out the window.  The wide variety narrowed considerably. We quickly had another member of the club.

I confess: at times I gave up in.  The path of least resistance meant food wouldn’t go to waste – and that I wouldn’t have to deal with cranky, hungry children.  Somewhere along the way, I bought into the notion that they should LIKE at least some most of what was put in front of them. 

But when my son boasted how he was a vegetarian who didn’t like vegetables, I finally saw the light.  So what if he didn’t like vegetables – few kids do.  Just because he didn’t like them shouldn’t mean we should be avoiding them at all costs.  Was I really expecting that he would just wake up one day and say he wanted to try zucchini, or a piece of chicken, or anything really besides cheese pizza or a similar combination of melted cheese and bread?

I put them on notice so there would be no arguments or misunderstandings.  Once they had their birthdays this year, things at our house were going to change.  God help us all.

We reached the jumping off point at the end of May and now there is no going back.  I am as much locked into this as they are.  No more endless questions being asked of “What are the kids having for dinner tonight?”  Now we are all in the same boat together.

You would think, this being the case, that life would suddenly be easier.  Oh no-o-o!  Let’s see, so far for dinner we have had pizza, pasta, soy hot dogs and my new Taco Nite (which was kind of a bust – he ended up turning his taco shell and cheese into a quesadilla – again it is all about the melted cheese and bread; she (true to form) choose not to eat it at all.

I was chickening out.  You can’t just serve kid food to the whole family every night, my husband reminded me.  But I became terrified of anything beyond the basics.  Again, the wasted food, the hungry kids (you can see a whole lot of issues being brought up for me – so interesting what we put on food). 

Tonight I am giving it another try.  We are having my homemade Potato Leek Soup, with some hearty whole wheat bread I just bought today at the local Farmer’s Market.  The soup is delicious, if I do say so myself – but they don’t eat potatoes in any form (we all know French Fries don’t count as potatoes) and they won’t go near soup – period.  Groovy – two strikes already and we haven’t even gotten up to the plate.

I know, try to make sure they are really hungry when they sit down to eat. Make sure there are a couple things being served that they like – so they at least have SOMETHING to eat.  If all else fails, bribe them with dessert.  The tricks up my sleeve sure do feel old these days. 

What are YOU making for dinner tonight?  Any family pleasing menus you can share?  Let’s face it:  this Zen Mama Wannabe needs all the help I can get!

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4 Responses to “What’s For Dinner??”

  1. LarkLady Says:
    June 7th, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Well, I don’t recall being fed special food after I was out of a high chair (except on liver nights — Thanks, Mom!), but I know I didn’t start actually liking quite a few foods until after I had grown up and left home. Broccoli and asparagus, for instance, which are two of my favorite veggies now. Maybe my taste buds didn’t develop fully until college?
    Anyway, Zen Mama, don’t let yourself get into a snit over this… and don’t keep letting your kids get away with it, either. Have them take an honest try of each food served… and be sure there’s some variety in the meal. And if they don’t eat enough to make you believe they really did give it a try, then excuse them from the table before dessert is served.
    Just understand that their taste buds and habits aren’t going to change overnight. Serve healthy meals pleasantly presented — and offer, don’t nag. By the time they graduate from college, they’ll probably be eating right.

  2. callieandbatido Says:
    June 10th, 2009 at 5:18 am

    I am in awe of you Zen Mama. Not only for jumping into the arena of “no kid meals” which is daunting in and of itself, but for sticking to your guns and following through with something you have been talking about for months. It would have been so easy to just let it go.
    I too jumed into the no kid meal arena at far to late a date so think doing it earlier rather than later is so important. My 11 year old daughter is a self proclaimed vegetarian that only eats bacon 🙂 and she too tried to tell me she doesn’t eat veggies or beans. Luckily she is a major rule follower so when I told her that she had to eat veggies and beans to be a vegetarian she reluctantly started to eat them.
    Wouldn’t our parent laugh at the amount of time and energy we put into getting our kids to eat healthy and a variety of foods?
    I would love to hear some menues others have found to be family friendly. Great topic!

  3. LaarkLady Says:
    July 23rd, 2009 at 6:32 am

    Hey, Zen Mama! How’s this whole program going? Have the kids resigned themselves to it? Or is it still a battle at mealtime?

  4. Zen Mama Wannabe Says:
    July 24th, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    It is definitely not smooth sailing. I get discouraged a bit – but I am trying to stick with it. I try to serve a variety of things so I know there is SOMETHING on their plate they will eat. The good news is they have tried some new things and at least are not as quite as stuck in their ways. But the battle is far from over. I am looking at this as a mission over the course of YEARS. When they are teenagers we will know if I’ve been successful or not. The interesting thing is the work and effort it takes for me. I see why so many parents just serve the kid meals year after year. Much easier that way. But I’m in it for the long haul – wish me luck!!

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