The other night the kids and I sat down to dinner together and we were eating 3 different meals. Wesley had spaghettios and meatballs, Nikki had bean burritos, and I had a baked acorn squash stuffed with sautéed peppers, onions, mushrooms and black beans. We all cleared our plates while enjoying nice conversation about our days.
My Dad did NOT understand why you would put forth an hour of effort to prepare a meal just to be eaten in 5 minutes. When he visited me as an adult, especially on a big holiday like Thanksgiving where I’d be doing a lot of cooking, he would just be in awe that I developed any desire to do that. And I always correct him – I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t LIKE it.
Now, I don’t LOVE it. There are parts of cooking I dislike. I truly despise cutting things. But I like cooking overall okay, as long as it’s a meal I know I’ll enjoy. But you know what I hate? Trying to figure out something to cook that everyone likes. Because that something does not exist. You know what else I hate? Fighting with the kids forcing them to eat something they don’t like. And yes – in a perfect world you never give your kid an option and they always eat what’s on their plate. But we tried that FOR A MILLION YEARS (at least that’s how it felt) and it never panned out. As a matter of fact, some of the staples that the kids would eat without fighting THEY WON’T EAT SUDDENLY. And now I’ve given up. I don’t care any more.
If I want to sauté veggies in a baked squash, a meal there is NO WAY to modify so the kids will eat it, I just make them something else. Something fast. Something not terrible. Sometimes it’s a can of chicken noodle soup. A lot of times it’s a grilled cheese and fruit. But whatever it is? They eat it and I eat my meal and no tears are shed.
On a less extreme night they eat a variation of what I’m eating. Like I’ll make them chili without tomatoes in it. Or I’ll make them some of their favorite fake meat products to go along with the veggie dish I’m making and I’ll say, “If you want dessert, you have to eat the veggies, but if you don’t want dessert, you don’t have to eat them.” I encourage them to try new things still, that’s how Nikki finally caved to bean burritos. Wes is, in general, the better eater. But you know what? I grew up eating frozen fish sticks, cans of Dinty Moore Beef Stew and lots of cereal and sandwiches and school lunches and I AM BAKING ACORN SQUASH AND STUFFING IT WITH PEPPERS AS AN ADULT.
They’re going to be the kind of eaters they’re going to be eventually. And then that will change with the next fad I’m sure. And then they’ll find out that one thing is carcinogenic or harmful in some way. Think of how often your diet has changed since you were an adult…Theirs will too.
The goal in my house is simply to have nice dinners with decent food. We don’t keep a lot of junk in the house. I don’t even own a fryer. We do TONS of fruit and veggies. And I’m a short order cook because a has become a top priority lately with our daily behavior challenges. If I can create one space in the day where I’m not having to get upset with someone over something? Then I’m going to do it. No matter how many special dinner orders it takes.