Posted by: bullyforme | May 2, 2013

Go Ahead and Judge Me.

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Steak.  It’s what’s for dinner.  His dinner.  Yes, just steak.  Steak on a plate.  Nothing else.

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I was reading a post on a “healthy foods”-style Facebook page yesterday.  The post asked whether or not readers cooked a separate meal for their kids during the week sometimes.  Many parents were offended at the very idea that they should cater to their children.  Those who said they did cook separately for their child seemed to feel they needed to offer a lengthy, apologetic excuse.  I’ve shared some of the responses below. 

“Same dinner for adults and kids, 7 nights a week. If we have something new, they have to try it and if they truly can’t eat it, they can have a bowl of cereal. “

“We all eat the same meal at our house. Our menu: Eat it or Go Hungry.”

“I can barely make one meal…if the kids don’t like it, they go hungry!”

“Don’t run a restaurant.  I make one dinner.  You eat it or starve.”

“Unless my husband and I are having wine and cheese for supper, we all have the same meal!”

“I usually end up making something separate for my sons, they each have sensory issues, one is autistic and one is has food allergies.  I’ve tried making them eat the same as us but it’s so traumatic.  They eat only a few things and I feel really bad about that.  I would love to one day have the whole family eating the same meal.   It’s almost impossible to plan out one meal for four people considering each of their allergies and issues.”

“I never fix them a separate meal because I am not a short-order cook!! They can eat what we have or go to bed hungry.”

“The kids usually complain but they eat what we eat. I refuse to raise ‘picky eaters.’”

“I am not a short order cook. It’s important they respect me, my time and the food we eat.”

“You’re kidding right? They are lucky to get what I am cooking cuz I’m not cooking two damn meals at the end of my day. We have a nice little philosophy to that ‘Take what ya get, and don’t throw a fit!’”

I’m not judging these parents, only they could know what’s the right thing for their families.  However, I found the philosophies in these responses sad.  How sad that many parents feel mealtime is a non-negotiable demand rather than a part of the day to be enjoyed by all.  Sad that some parents think it’s okay for separate meals as long as it’s Mom or Dad who is choosing it.  Sad to expect kids to respect “me, my time, and the food we eat,” without considering whether kids deserve respect and time as well. Sad most of all that they would rather raise complainers than picky eaters.  I found it disheartening that those who admitted to cooking separate meals felt they had to offer a lengthy explanation and a full food allergy or sensory condition report to complete strangers.

There was a period when I fought with my son about mealtimes.   He is a very picky eater.  Every day he’d ask “what’s for dinner?” and when I told him, he’d say, “I don’t want that.”  I’d get so frustrated!  If it were up to him, we’d eat the same three meals over and over again.  I felt I was a bad parent if I didn’t force him to try new things, or eat outside his comfort zone.  I worried about his vitamin intake, I worried that he wouldn’t eat vegetables.  I felt helpless because I wasn’t ready to follow my own heart and mind when it came to parenting.  Parenting magazines, professionals, and other parents will tell you that as a parent, you should be in control of what your kids eat.  Lay down the law.  Don’t take any smack.  They’ll eat what you put in front of them, or they’ll go hungry!

After one particularly unsettling dinner argument with my picky son in which I was next to tears and he actually was in tears, I was reminded of a time long ago.  I had picked up a new kind of food for my dog.  She hated it. She would not touch it.  I settled in to a battle of wills with her – a hungry dog will eventually eat what’s in front of it, right?  She didn’t eat for three days.  On the fourth day I had an epiphany.  I loved this dog!  I was her sole provider!  She looked to me for security, love and comfort.  Why was I trying to force her to eat something she found so distasteful that she would go hungry for three days?  I threw out the food she hated and bought some she would eat.  Wouldn’t you? 

I realized if I can do this for a dog, surely I could do this for my own child.  I decided not to care what parenting magazines, professionals, or anyone else had to say about my son’s mealtimes.  I decided to go with the flow—our own flow, that is.  I make what he wants, even if it’s just steak on a plate and a glass of milk.  And I make what I want.  I ask him if he wants to sample my dinner, but I don’t force him to try it.  

My response to the aforementioned Facebook “poll” was simple.  Outside of a few rare meals we both enjoy such as make-your-own pizza and spaghetti marinara, I always make two meals.  He’s a meat eater and I’m a vegan…but even if this were not true, we simply have different tastes. 

Usually, I can’t stand what he likes, and he can’t stand what I like.  I’m not going to force him to eat something he hates…I wouldn’t eat something I hate.   As he’s gotten older, he even cooks for himself sometimes.   But I still don’t mind cooking for him.  I love him.  I provide for him.  He is my child and his happiness is important to me.  I won’t make excuses for that. 

But wait, there’s more to judge me by!   He slept in the crook of my arm, in my bed, until he was a year old.  I stayed in his room until he fell asleep (at his request) for years after that.  Sometimes I let him sleep in the living room while I watch late-night TV because he doesn’t want to be alone upstairs.  Sometimes I cancel plans of my own because he asks if he can be with me.  Sometimes he just needs a break from school and I let him stay home.  Sometimes when he’s at his dad’s, I get in his room and knock it out of the park clean for him…just because.  I don’t typically care if he swears, because I taught him all the swear words I know.  He listens to rap music and plays video games that have guns and decided not to play Babe Ruth baseball this season, none of which I find too appealing, but it’s not about me.  And yes, I usually make him what he wants for dinner, whether or not it’s what I want.  I have two hands, two eyes, two ears, two arms & legs and two sides of a brain…I can make two meals. 

I could go on and on about the whys and why-nots, the sensory issues, the anxiety, but I’m not going to here.  I have my reasons for why and how I parent my child, but the only reason I’m willing to explain is that I had a child and this child is unapologetically the center of my universe.  His needs (and wants!) come before my own.   

This is not to say I’m a martyr, or helplessly at his beck and call.  He’ll be the first to tell you I’m plenty stubborn and spoiled.  I get my way.  It’s just that many times, my way is his way too. 

Oh he’s a spoiled kid, for sure.  But he’s also compassionate and loving, self-sufficient and able.  He’s funny and happy.  He doesn’t worry about what others think of him.  He respects authority, but he will also question authority.  He never has to guess if I love him, or if I’ll be there, or wonder whether he’ll go to bed hungry because I cooked what I wanted to cook, and HE WILL EAT IT OR GO TO BED HUNGRY.  Go ahead, judge me.

 

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Responses

  1. I cook Allie something different a lot.. It is not a big deal to me. Although I wish she would try more things, it’s not the end of the world.. Oh and she slept in our bed too.. Guess what kind of child I raised? Super confident and happy so yeah they can judge me too. When I go to bed at night I know my daughter is happy and since my daughter is the single most important thing in the world to me…… I don’t care what others think… .judge away…

  2. So glad to see another parent who puts their child first and has some decent, human give and take.

    I didn’t believe in controlled crying either… wonder if they’re linked?!

    Tonight we all ate the same, toad in the hole, potatoes and stringbeans. yesterday we had two different meals, curry for hubster and myself and sausage and chips for child. yes. she has had sausages two days running. so fricking sue me.

    • Love it you guys!
      Flibble, the very idea of controlled crying makes ME want to cry. Not going to sit there and listen him cry. No way! it’s unnatural!

      That’s funny, tonight was a night when we ate the same (although slightly different) meals too…he had chicken noodle stew and American cheese, I had vegetable gnocchi stew and vegan cheese.


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