Who's In Charge Here?
I have a co-worker who returned from her Thanksgiving holiday with a story to share. Her family holidays include lots of family traveling from lots of places and everyone gathering in a cluster of small towns in the South. Families will travel together, meet up along the way, caravan down. My friend traveled with a cousin and a nephew from Michigan.
The nephew is around 6 or 7 years old. He is overweight. He was traveling for the holiday with his Aunt and my friend.
He only eats McDonald’s chicken nuggets, french fries, and soda. And sweets.
I thought she was exaggerating. She was being literal.
Her family does a huge spread for Thanksgiving and there are at least 3 or 4 different family meals over the course of 2-3 days. Almost every vegetable you can think of was served. Fruit salad was on every table. Ham and a variety of turkeys. Casseroles, plain food, mixed up foods.
He would sit on the floor and cry. He ate rolls, croissants, cake, pie, and cookies. My friend and her mother and other family members made valiant attempts at getting him to try some veggies, some turkey, some fruit. Nothing. The boy was miserable for the entire holiday weekend and was only happy when they finally caved and went to McDonald’s on the way back out of town. According to the aunt, this is how it always is. Mom and dad work odd shifts and long hours. There is a lot of guilt on the part of the parents for a variety of things. And after 7 years, they find themselves in a position where their child will only eat McFoods.
How does a family get to that point? Who’s in charge of what our kids eat?
I was rather surprised recently to be in a grocery store and standing in line and my eyes were glazing over as I stared at the plastic and foil wrapped snacks that they hope you cave in and buy since you’ve been wandering around food for the last 2 hours. A bright yellow package caught my eye as it sat next to foil wrapped chocolates, dehydrated and salty beef, and other junk foods. Upon closer inspection, I found that this was a package of cheese puffs for toddlers.
I brought it up on a community forum and was surprised by the responses. “The ingredients are better than on actual cheese puffs.” “They’re whole grain!” “They disolve so they aren’t a choking hazard!” No one seemed to have an issue with a company marketing a product for toddlers to mimic adult junk food.
My kids aren’t perfect eaters. They don’t sit around begging me to roast beets or steam up some lima beans. My husband rolls his eyes at some of the veggies I make. Eating in a restaurant can often mean having to say “No” to a side of fries. Sweets in my house can become a battleground.
But that doesn’t mean I give up and give in.
And because I keep eating interesting and unique foods and because I keep serving various vegetables and because I keep lots of fruit in the house and because I say “No” to french fries… I get little victories. I get a daughter who has suddenly found her adventurous side at the Indianapolis International Festival and fell in love with African food. I get a son and daughter who team up on eating edamame- he shells it and she eats it. I get a son who loves to go through the produce section at the grocery store and name every fruit and vegetable he sees. I get a daughter who prefers to share the salmon dinner to a burger or chicken fingers at a local steakhouse. I get kids who ask for water as their beverage a good percentage of the time. I get a husband who has finally given up years and years of soda-only consumption and chooses unsweetened iced tea or plain water for his beverage.
Yes, it is sometimes a fight. Yes, I have to have rules and say no and be the mean parent sometimes. Yes, my kids eat some junk food and go to fast food places sometimes.
I’m the mom. I set the example. I make the rules. I set the tone in my house. And a diet of McFood, bread, sweets, and soda isn’t going to cut it.
Who’s in charge? I am.