I hardly ever write about parenting. Mainly because I am terrified my girls will grow up to become writers and take revenge. What if they write about me like Alexandra Fuller did? She wrote, in her mum’s words, “that awful book”, Don’t Let’s go to the Dogs Tonight (because mother is already there?) and she exposed the full depths of her mum’s despairing behavior.
The truth is I am not in the same shoes as Alexandra Fuller’s mum, nor have I endured the turmoil she did, so perhaps I will avoid having my darkest foibles exposed by my offspring?
Anyway this parenting snippet exposes my mistakes and not theirs, so I am giving them a head start. It’s about eating. Food. Let’s go back to the beginning.
You know that day, early on, where you make all organic homemade baby food and they spit it out and fling it around the room, and smear it in their hair?
Oh. Wait. You’re doing that?
Then there’s that day they take mashed potato out of their mouth and wipe their tongue clean with all available fingers?
Oh and that day at Very Expensive Preschool when your child refuses to eat the Michelin-star-priced cooked lunch?
Just joking. That Whole Year.
(Also when they call you aside to discuss your child’s poor eating and imminent malnutrition.)
Fast forward to now, when you go to someone’s else’s house, and your children are about twenty five already, but they move the foreign food round and round their plate, without eating, until they self hypnotize?
Yeah. Well, in the end I had two picky eaters and I’m owning it that I failed. So here’s my School of Hard Knocks Guide to avoiding being written up in the annals of The History of Poor Mothering.
- CHOICE – the only choice you EVER offer is this: Eat or Don’t Eat. I hear you, but no. No. No. No. Don’t go there. Not Oats or Maltabella, darling. Not Juice or Tea. Not Pronutro or Weetbix. Not peanut butter or jam. NONE OF THAT. IT SNOWBALLS AND THEN THERE IS AN AVALANCHE AND THEN YOU DIE. Just this: Breakfast. Here it is. Eat it or not. (You are a mother, not a flight attendant with a chicken or beef trolley.)
- HUNGER – don’t feed them too many snacks in between because you feel guilty/sorry for them because they didn’t choose to eat at their last meal. (Refer back to CHOICES. ) A child can’t starve in the time frame of the one afternoon she chose not to eat lunch. But a bit of a tummy rumble might make her think twice about that choice next time. There’s nothing like the feeling of hunger to improve their perception of what you provided.
- YOU – you are going to run out of time, energy and money making endless selections. THEY are going to get used to always having a choice of another food item and are going to demand it. (Refer back to CHOICES) And who would blame them, when that is what you inadvertently taught them.
- THE PRESSURE – You are going to be the sole provider/conjurer of the magic food item of their desire and the pressure of being this chief food magician is real. (Refer back to CHOICES.) You are not Mr Delivery.
- FIRST WORLD PROBLEM – Ain’t no one asking for peanut butter instead of jam in many, MANY, homes and schools just beyond your neighborhood.
That is all.
Except, that it is never too late to haul it back. Haul back your money. Haul back your time. Haul back putting down a plate and enjoying family time instead of World War Food.
P.S. If anyone asks (especially my offspring), all of this is based on hypothetical experiences.
P.P.S. If you want to read about really interesting but bizarre, if not downright dangerous, parenting, (and a further lesson on the merits of not raising a writer) penned by the daughter, then The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls is a must.