It is something I have given a lot of thought.
Why is it that after all the things we do quietly all day long for our children that we tend to judge ourselves solely on our children's reactions to what they are served and what they will eat at the end of the day? I do suspect it has something to do with tiredness but........
Parents are the worst judges of their own behaviour and definitely give the Catholic church a run for their money when it comes to guilt. Our minds flurry with self directed insults.......see list below and see if any have crept into your head sometime.
- "I am such a bad parent- my children won't eat (insert any number of food types here)".
- "If only I had made my child sit at the table until they finished their dinner when they were a baby they would be eating whatever I served now."
- "I wish my child ate like (insert someone else's child's name here who you once saw eat something your child won't"
- "I dont know why I bother to cook dinner only to chuck it in the bin"
As you know I have five young boys- aged 12, 10, 7, 4 and nearly 2.
I used to give myself SUCH a hard time over what my children would eat. I am the most guilty parent going around who judged myself entirely on dinnertime success.
I look back now and ask "What the???"
I can laugh now especially as my fussiest eater whose diet was solely peanut butter sandwiches (at least they were on wholemeal bread!) and green apples is now my most adventurous eater. He is 10. He is the one who so excitedly dealt with the gutting of the sardines in a previous post. He is the one who when we go to the market seeks out the items that are challenging for most adults and asks if we can buy it and cook something. Last market trip it was tripe. He loved the way it looked. Food aversions aside it is a beautiful thing!
Anyway little Mr.10 cooked it up according to a traditional Italian recipe and we shared it with our extended family. Delicious. All but 2 of the 9 children at the table devoured it.
His favourite foods now are the most adventurous of all of my five. Hot curries, cheese (especially from Bruny Island Cheese- and the stinky, gooey and blue are his special faves), offal, weird and wonderful fruits (custard apple his current fave) don't put him off anymore. Don't get me wrong- he doesn't eat ALL things by any means but he will try whatever is out in front of him- even things he has tried time and time again and doesn't like. He still won't eat most tomato based cooked sauces- and when you think about it this rules out a lot of food. No spaghetti bolognaise for him- CAN YOU BELIEVE IT????!!!! Have you ever heard of a child who doesn't LOVE it?? He just has cooked pasta with parmesan cheese instead. Despite what you think- very healthy in itself and no effort for me.
Why did I expend so much energy giving myself a hard time on something that in the scheme of things in fairly insignificant.
I have mentioned on a previous post about my children being very different. Well of course they are! Think about it like putting five of your friends together in a room . You would never expect them to be the same would you? Well either are my children....thank goodness.
Maybe this is where we find it so had to serve a family dinner that everyone eats. We have an expectation that everyone eats the same things and enjoys it. For me there are five little people's food tastes to cater for- no mean feat to find meals that they all eat. Why, when we happily accept that personality is unique, do we expect that our palate is not? When you go out to dinner- do all your friends order the same thing? I doubt it.
OK- it is all sounding as scarily like I am leading to cooking five different meals. NO WAY!
I'm going to let you in on a mind blowing secret of mine! You know what liberated me from the stress? Brace yourself...........
I GAVE UP!
I didn't give up serving dinner but I gave up expecting them all to like the same things. And I gave up expecting all five of them to eat the meal put in front of them. Don't get me wrong- you can hear the screams of delight in the next neighbourhood on the rare occasions that they all do eat the same dinner!
As a child growing up in a family of five kids also it was the same for us. We liked different things. It became especially apparent when we all started having to cook for the family (I was 10) once a week. Mum knew that the only way to get us cooking was to let us choose what we wanted.....mmmm ham steak and pineapple anyone?? Ooops! But her theory worked. All five of us are now keen cooks.
I already loved curries and I still cook the same curry now that I cooked as my first meal for the family.
It came from the Asian cooking bible- Charmaine Solomon's Complete Asian cookbook. I am happy to say this is one of the few dishes that my children all eat (and one of the few with cooked tomatoes that Mr.10 eats).
It is a Malaysian chicken curry. As a beginner I forgot to add one of the ingredients (there were quite a few!) that first time (coconut milk) but I have to say I still prefer it without.
Click here for an adaptation of Charmaine Solomon's recipe.
One sibling had a special love for porridge. Porridge it was for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Actually I am being unfair........sometimes he had weet-bix. My mum decided it was a battle not worth waging. He was growing and healthy. The irony is that as a young adult he trained as a chef and is now a wonderful cook with an adventurous palate.
I cook one dinner for my kids and those who don't like it can serve themselves Weet-Bix....but not until they have at least thanked me for my effort while I mutter "You little bastard do you know how much effort I have gone to?" under my breath!
A while ago one of my most precious friends taught me a trick to deal with all tricky situations and here is where it comes in very handy. "Put it in a bubble and blow it away". Very freeing indeed.
I know now that my stress about mealtimes came from a place where I wanted my children to love the things I did (food especially)- but what I forgot was that for me it is the act of sharing that is important not the food itself. More than anything I don't want them to grow up finding being at the table anything but an enjoyable experience.
Can I say all this now because my older children have given up their food anxieties?.....that I don't think I can answer but giving up the stress was good for me and I know that that was DEFINITELY good for them.
Sitting at the table at the end of the day is lovely. We light candles and somebody chooses music. It is generally not too stressful and pretty enjoyable. Sometime it is a full blown disaster- but hey I have 5 kids!
So tonight when your kids kick up a fuss about dinner- break out the weet bix, open the wine kick back and stop beating yourself up. After all when you think about it there aren't too many adults out there that are still eating weet-bix for dinner are there!
We are often listening to this at dinner........