Tuesdays are a big work day for MySuperFoods. By that, I mean that Silvia and I are always together from about 9-4p. Although this sounds like a normal (or short) day to most of you, it’s just the in-person element that makes it “big”. It is also the only day of the week that I’m less likely to be receiving or sending texts to her at 5am or 10pm. Because we have spent so much time face to face. Last week we went more than 7 days without seeing each other and nearly had to be put on medication. We then spent a 14 hour day together and didn’t stop talking for more than 2 minutes. Apparently we like each other.
Today, in the midst of packing up some of our largest orders to date, we got on the topic of how our kids eat at parties, carnivals, and all special occasion/party events. Having just attended two such events this past weekend, we were intimately familiar with their behavior. Basically like sugar starved monsters. As in, I-don’t-care-it’s-your-birthday-kid-hand-over-the-ice-cream-and-no-one-gets-hurt kind of focus. The kind reserved for military professionals in combat or neurosurgeons in the operating room. Uttering the phrase “blah blah blah…or we won’t go to the party” is, quite possibly, the most effective sentence I can utter in my house in terms of getting my daughters to do something that I want. I could say I’m not proud of that, but I don’t like to lie.
In my house (and in Silvia’s) we offer a pretty good balance of nutritious food. The kids don’t always want to eat, try, or digest what we offer, but we encourage at least a taste before moving on. I prepare a meal and that’s what they get. I am not a short order cook. If they choose not to eat what I serve, I know that another meal will come and they will survive. We eat organic when we can (especially with dairy, meat, and the most offensive produce), non-GMO when we can, and try to make it fun and involve the kids when we can. I notice that if they help me prepare a meal, I have a better chance of getting them to eat it. Coincidentally, I also have a better chance of needing to clean the floor. But we also eat ice cream sandwiches after dinner and use dark chocolate chips as eyes in our pancake faces on Saturdays. It’s all about balance.
When I take my kids to a party, I seem to throw all of the nutritional guidelines out the window. I don’t want to be the mom, hovering over my kids, telling them that they can’t eat the awesome candy that fell out of the piñata. Because, by the way, they had never seen a pinata and “mom, did you KNOW about this?” I don’t want them to associate fun parties with a crazy mom who forbids fun. The problem is, party food is anything but balanced. High octane sugar. Brightly colored, icing covered, dipped in syrup. Surrounded by balloons and confetti as if to say, “this is living, kid.” I want them to have fun, enjoy some snacks, and maybe, just maybe make some good choices about what they put in their mouths. Bottled water, instead of juice to wash down those cookies? A baby carrot dipped in hummus in between bites of cupcake? It happens occasionally. But I’m still the one in charge of making up a plate for them and putting it in front of them. How do I encourage good, informed choices to a 3 1/2 year old without sounding like a lunatic?
Here are some things I say to my daughters when we’re eating at home, with the hope that something sinks in:
1. You’re right, desserts are delicious. They taste yummy and mommy likes them too. Even though they taste good, they don’t make us get big muscles or swing higher on the playground. Can you think of something that makes you run fast?
2. This food has protein in it. Protein helps build muscle and that’s how you get stronger. Remember that big box you helped me carry yesterday? Wasn’t that fun?
3. Do you want to help me make the muffins? This is cinnamon. Want to smell it?
4. You don’t have to eat it all, but I would like you to try it.
5. You want something else to eat? Listen to your belly first. Does it still feel hungry?
Some of these things I’ve read. Some of these things I’ve heard from other moms. I have no idea if this is what I’m “supposed” to say. Mostly, they make sense to me without making me feel like I’m forcing my children to do something. Because as any mom who has put her kids to bed knows…when they know you are trying to force them to do something, they hardly ever go along for the ride.