The pretty photos are taken by Maris
I think some of the most limited people in the world are the kind who don’t eat different kinds of food. Like me, for example – ever so often I have to apologize and say “I’m sorry, I don’t eat that”. For someone who enjoys cooking and eating as much as I do, that’s an enormous limitation. Now I don’t know if that’s because I was born a little snob or if my mom did something wrong along the way so I won’t analyze that much further for now. But I’ll share some thoughts I have on the topic as a mother.
The worst thing a parent can say to a child is “you won’t eat that anyway!”. We’ve discussed this before when my child was still a baby and just started weaning and I think now what I thought then. But it’s more complicated now.
I remember from my own experience growing up that kids get all sorts of weird ideas. I also know that those ideas pass if they’re not proven to be legitimate. Something in your room might cast a spooky-looking shadow at night and cause you to believe that there are monsters lurking around in your room, waiting to eat you alive once you fall asleep. Then, one day, you realize it’s just a huge branch on that tree outside your window and the idea doesn’t seem rational anymore. You forget about the monster.
I think the same goes for eating habits. Something your kid puts in her mouth might feel funny, taste different or require too much valuable time and energy to chew and swallow. So they spit it out and make that “I-can’t-believe-you-just-tried-to-poison-me”-face.
What I do in those situations is pretend that nothing happened or, sometimes when I really think so, tell her she’s silly for not eating something as delicious as what’s in front of her. She’s been eating pretty much everything since she was born, with some exceptions that have come and gone as she’s grown older. She hated tomatoes for a long time but we never stopped serving her salads or foods that included tomatoes. She has always been allowed to sort out the stuff that she didn’t like, but also had the opportunity to try it once more if she liked. She is now stuffing her face with cherry tomatoes as we speak.
The Ladybug now eats pretty much anything, but has had periods when she’s refused to eat certain types of food or ingredients. She didn’t eat fish at first, but is absolutely crazy for it now. That’s all she would eat if she could. Same goes for tomatoes, onions and quite a few more ingredients. Our philosophy has been to always offer her a taste of anything we have available. That’s why she once munched on a chili pod when we were at the market. She wanted a taste, got one and liked it. When it got too hot for her, she silently handed it to daddy…
Lots of children refuse to eat meat. My theory is that it’s just annoying to eat, especially if there’s somewhere else you need to be (playing with your toys or pulling neatly folded stuff out of a drawer somewhere) and eating is nothing but a dull necessity. Someone offers you a piece of meat that you agree is delicious, but takes SO MUCH TIME to eat compared to pasta, potatoes or bread. You prefer to fill your stomach with whatever is easiest and most comfortable to eat.
I don’t think children (especially toddlers) can decide at an early age if they eat something or not. I think those ideas come and go and if they pass, the opportunity to try it out again has to be there when the time is right. The same goes for odd flavors that you just have to get used to – you never will if you can’t try.
That being said, I know how frustrating it is to eat an extra portion when you’re already stuffed or, even worse, throwing food away. I know how easily the words “you won’t eat it anyway” come to mind, but try to avoid them. After all, you’re the only one who can confirm those odd, irrational ideas and make them stick. 🙂