Okay, it is official. The blah, winter doldrums have set in for me I think, and it is barely past New Year’s Day. All I can think about is how cold it is and how much longer it is going to be cold. The routines are back in place, and that of course, involves, mealtimes. Preparing food. Figuring out what to feed my family. Anyone out there here with me? I have to confess, that one of my least favorite parts of parenting is feeding my children. Ironic, given what I do, right? But there it is. I do wish they could feed themselves.
But I also notice that when I have the time to really spend preparing a well balanced, nutritious meal, that I feel fabulous. Sort of like SuperMom. I get it why moms obsess over what, when and how much their kids eat, it can make you feel so ‘complete’. (Visions of the 50′s housewife with the beautiful apron, and calm demeanor accompany the idyllic picture.)
Of course the reality is more challenging for working moms, or even stay at home moms when you want to have a hassle free mealtime. One kid is a vegetarian, one is a ‘meat-a-tarian. One is an athlete and growing an inch a minute, the other is trying to lose weight gained over the holidays. What is a Mom to do?! Makes me want to throw in the towel before I even start. But, given that this seems to be a simple fact of parenting life, I will offer up some tips to how I deal with the dilemma of the constant feeding and caring of children who demand different options:
1) Get them involved as much as possible. One week out of the month, they make the grocery list, they come with me or my husband to shop for the food and they help put it away. It inspires all of us. I notice that just buying food that they choose gets us all excited about at least one or two meals. Each of them gets to choose a meal a week.
2) Pick one benign meal that the family can eat, and for the picky eaters, let them choose one meal that they can prepare for themselves. (For the older kids, it can be something they prepare without too much hassle, for the younger ones, have it be something they can get for themselves in the fridge.) The simple act of them getting and doing it for themselves, if you can stay out of it, helps them to take some responsibility and appreciate feeding themselves. Also frees you from getting pissed off when they hate what you have prepared. Obviously, the choice cannot just be a dessert but it is not unreasonable to have something like fruit salad. The rule is that it has to have some redeemable nutritional value.
3) Make room for ‘silly suppers’. Popcorn, cereal, waffles for dinner. Reverse the usual order. If it is a cold winter night and you all crave some comfort food, go for it.
And as always, in parenting, pick your battles. Find the rules around safety and health that are vital, important, stick to them, and be reasonable. Challenge your kids to do some of the work. And then of course, there is always ‘take-out’. Happy Eating.