It’s Tuesday evening, 7:30 p.m. My husband is arriving home with kids in tow after finishing 3 hours of soccer and baseball practice. Our cars meet at the driveway as I pull in from a late night at work. The kids are hungry, dirty, and full of energy. All we have to do is feed them, bathe them, and put them to bed by their 8pm bedtime. Ain’t … gonna … happen.
To make matters worse, no food has been cooked at our house. Neither of us planned to get home so late. A last minute issue popped up at work for me so Orlando was left alone with the three kids. Practice went over the usual hour, and my son wanted to keep playing. Being that he was with his dad—and not his mom—dad spent an extra hour helping our son work on his swing.
No one home …
No food …
No plan …
No crockpot …
I open the freezer, see a big bag of frozen broccoli, and think, “hmmm, I should make pasta with broccoli sauce.” A quick Google search turns up a recipe that I kind of follow but I don’t have the time or the ingredients to do it right. I put the kids in the bath while the pasta boils. I don’t know who dressed them after their bath—maybe my husband, maybe themselves, maybe me—but at some point they are in pajamas and sitting at the dinner table.
I grab a bag of broccoli, dump it in a bowl with a little bit of water and steam it in the microwave. Then I pour the broccoli into my Blendtec and I add a cup of coconut almond milk, salt, and nutritional yeast. I don’t measure anything. I press the “soup” button on the blender and let it do all the work. I sprinkle in some more nutritional yeast and salt until I like the flavor. And that’s it. My pasta sauce is ready.
My expectations that the kids will eat this concoction are pretty low, but much to my surprise, they actually like it. I am thrilled. I’ve managed to feed them, bathe them, brush their teeth and put them to bed—and its only 9:30pm. Ok, it’s an hour and a half past their bedtime, but who’s counting?
Some of you may look at my broccoli pasta sauce and say something like, “oh, she’s so lucky her kids eat like that.” But this is not luck.” I used to think I was lucky because my first two kids were good eaters. Granted, there were nights when my oldest son did not want to eat and there were foods he did not like, but for the most part, eating was not the stressful scenario that I had heard other moms had with their kids. And then my third son was born. This is the kid who I had the healthiest of pregnancies with. I didn’t eat anything unhealthy during my pregnancy. I was told that the child likes whatever the mother feeds it in the womb, so I ate tons and tons of veggies. So isn’t he supposed to like vegetables? The answer is an unequivocal NO. I didn’t feed this child rice cereal as his first food; I fed him avocados. Isn’t he supposed to love avocado? Nope. The kid does not love avocados. The child loves sugar. He loves sweets. He loves candy. He looks at my vegetables and decides at first glance that he detests them. He sees Cheetos and doesn’t think twice; he loves them, and so do his brothers. And in the process of dealing with Mr. Picky #3, #2 got the memo and suddenly decided that he doesn’t like vegetables or salads, either. To make matters more complicated, both kids #1 and #2 had friends at school call their lunch “yucky.” Now all three of them resist healthy food. They prefer the junk—all of them. So the fact that they are eating this pasta with broccoli sauce is not luck. It’s a small victory in a war where I lose many battles.
On many evenings I make beautiful meals that I am proud of, and my kids poo-poo them. My third child has gone to bed without eating dinner. He’s tried my food and spit it out. I’ve threatened to put him to sleep if he doesn’t eat. I have put him to sleep when he doesn’t eat. I’ve negotiated one more bite, two more bites. I’ve added banana to the meal. I’ve threatened to take away dessert. I’ve removed dessert to avoid those threats. I’ve tried all the tricks. To add to the frustration, I always end up hearing a podcast or reading an article offering reasons why a mom should never do the tricks I tried the night before.
I’ve tried many avenues to get my children to eat healthy, some successfully and others a total failure. The one thing I have not done is given up on introducing my kids to healthy foods. I’ve never accepted that because they don’t like something at a particular moment, that they will never like that food. They have to try the same food every time I prepare it. They always have the right to tell me they don’t like it, but only after they have tried it again. There have been many “aha” moments where one of my children tries a food he is certain he does not like and suddenly changes his mind. I never stop educating them. I continuously explain to them what ingredients are, what they mean, where to look for them, etc. I talk to them about the principles of eating healthy and why it is important to do so. I draw boundaries with them and only offer them healthy food, snacks, and desserts when they are home. They have plenty of opportunities to eat junk food at school, at birthday parties, at grandma’s house, or any time they step their little feet outside our door, but at home I try to keep it clean. And I lead by example. I eat healthy. They see me preparing salads, vegetables, and smoothies for myself. They see me opt-out of eating junk (well, 8 times out of 10). And they even see me dig into a chocolate lava cake at a restaurant, when its just sooooo worth it.
Getting kids to eat is not about luck. It’s a big effort that requires commitment, consistency, and thick skin. Isn’t that what parenting is all about?
Yes, it is. It’s a tough job and we all do the best we can.
That broccoli pasta sauce that was so delicious on Tuesday night was packed as a school lunch on Wednesday. Great idea, right? All 3 containers came back uneaten. You win some; you lose some.