Amazement

It is possible.  It is possible.  It is possible.  All you parents out there who struggle each day to believe that your kids will actually choose to eat healthy foods, and will maybe…someday…possibly even try new things without a fight, repeat this mantra with me.

I confess that despite my relative show of bravado, I’ve spent many a mealtime thinking that there was approximately as much chance of L. eating his vegetables as there was that Colin Firth would suddenly appear at the kitchen sink, wearing a ruffled apron and proclaiming his deep desire to do the dishes.  And as we all know by now, fruit was even LESS likely.  I mean, seriously, given L.’s deep sensory aversion to fruits of all kinds, I would have had to enlist the lotto odds-makers to calculate my chances on that one.  The fact is, kids are naturally neophobic, and fruits and vegetables tend to be the hard sells, and that’s just the way it is.  Cue parental hand-to-forehead, woe-is-me gestures all across America.

But that’s not the end of the story! Far from it.  I’ve said this all along, and I’ll continue to say it, now with evidence — actual PROOF — that it works: If you continue to put the effort into helping your kids make good choices, they will eventually pick up what you are putting down (to be colloquial about it).

A little while back, as I was musing on accountability here on the blog, a loyal reader asked if I’d talk sometime about whether or not the RRG family ever goes out to dinner or gets take-out.  The short answer is rarely.  We don’t do take-out often at all; I’d say less than once a month, actually, because there’s not much in the way of convenient take-out that we’d really want to feed the kids.  As to the out-to-dinner question, that’s even less frequent.  First of all, dinner out is expensive, especially if you’re planning to eat anywhere that has food that can even loosely adhere to some sort of standard for quality or nutrition.  Secondly, the dinner hour for most kids under the age of 6 or so — and especially our two boys — tends to be a real toss-up when it comes to agreeableness, behavior, etc.  They’re hungry, they’re tired, and they need room to run, which is not a good combination of factors for restaurant success.  We have taken them out to restaurants plenty of times — we believe that you can’t teach good manners in any situation unless you put them IN that situation on a regular basis — but we always stick to breakfast or lunch, when they’re more likely to be predictable and, well, civilized.

However, last Friday, we gave it a shot.  J. had received a gift card from a client at work for a meal at a relatively decent chain restaurant — we don’t usually go to chains, but this one has some things that are akin to “real” food, so we thought we’d go for it.  We were facing a Fend Night, but were uninspired by the stuff in the fridge, so we decided to risk picking the boys up from school and heading straight to the restaurant for an out-to-dinner experiment.  Surprisingly, it turned out to be a great evening.  The kids were well-behaved (and excited about eating dinner out — go figure!).  The food was good.  It was cheap, since we had the gift card to cover most of it.  And THIS happened…this thing…this wonderful, amazing, unbelievable thing….

When contemplating the menu, I picked up the kids’ section just to give a quick perusal.  We don’t usually order off kids’ menus for the boys, but I was pleasantly surprised to see actual real food entrees in kid-sized portions on this one.  So I turned to L. and offered him a choice of the grilled chicken or steak.  He (not surprisingly) chose steak.  I then read him the list of side order options: mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, french fries, or mixed vegetables.  (I could have omitted the fries, but truthfully, if we’re eating out I’m prepared to let him have the opportunity to make his own choice about that — and to let it go if he does pick fries.)

My child.  My beautiful, sweet, wonderful child.  He turned his face up to me, deep in thought, and said, “I just think I should have veggies, Mom.”

I almost fell over in shock.  J. and I, probably stupidly, kept asking “Are you sure, L.?”  But he was resolute.  Steak and veggies.  End of story.  Even when the plate arrived — with a petite and perfectly cooked 4-oz. portion of steak and a heaping pile of nicely steamed broccoli, snow peas, summer squash, and carrots — I wasn’t convinced that he was going to eat it.

But after polishing off the meat in about the same amount of time it took me to cut up P.’s chicken and get it in front of him, L. pondered the vegetables, then said to me, “I think I want to try these.”  He pointed to the snow peas, which he’s never in his life agreed to taste before.

“Go for it,” I said, then purposely turned away and pretended to be concentrating very hard on my salmon.

Long story short: He ate, and LIKED, the snow peas.  Then tried, liked, and finished the summer squash.  He didn’t have room for the broccoli and carrots, but I didn’t care — he’d had a very acceptable portion of vegetables, and I hadn’t had to say a single word to him.

From that moment onward, the floodgates have been open.  Every day since our dinner out, L. has tried at least one new food with no prodding.  Asparagus?  No problem.  Grape tomatoes?  Sure thing.  And then, last night, it happened.

He ate fruit.

We made a cobbler — it was COLD outside, and the boys wanted to do a cooking project with me for dinner.  It’s hard to let them help me make risotto, so I grabbed a bunch of the frozen fruit we always keep on hand and we whipped up a little something special together.  L. has never tried a single bite of any fruit cobbler, crumble, pie, or anything else containing fruit.  I was sure he’d continue the trend last night.  But as we sat eating our dinners, I caught him looking at me with a contemplative expression.

I looked back, not saying anything.  And he picked up his fork, eyes dead level on mine, and scooped up a bite of juicy peaches and berries.  With no fanfare, no discussion, L. ate his whole serving of cobbler just as if he’d been doing so his whole life.

There’s more in his lunchbox today.  Oh, am I amazed.  And proud.  And shocked.  It is possible.  It is possible.  It is possible.

Now I just need to keep telling myself that for another 2 years or so, until P. gets around to turning the corner, too.

 

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8 Responses to Amazement

  1. Donna says:

    I am so glad you touched on the subject of eating out at restaurants–as a woman who hasn’t had children yet, it’s eye-opening to see what effort would go into an evening out. I have noticed the children’s menus at restaurants leaving a lot to be desired though, and can’t imagine feeding kids mac & cheese, pizza, and chicken fingers at every restaurant. So bonus for you finding one offering steak and veggies to begin with. It reminded me that I wanted to share something with you–have you ever been to Chipotle? It’s my go-to fast food place, but it didn’t occur to me until recently to order their kids’ meal, because I never finish three tacos, which is the adult meal. I got: one pretty stuffed chicken taco with black beans, salsa, lettuce, and sour cream; a side of cilantro lime rice, small bag of chips and salsa, and water (could have gotten milk or juice), for $3.71. Is that a good-food bargain or what? The only thing I’d say is that it’s probably way too much food for some children, because it made a perfect meal for me 🙂

    • Hi Donna! You’re welcome — I have been meaning to address that question of yours, and this was the perfect chance to do it. We sort of believe in setting children up for success — most of the time when little ones really act up, it’s because their needs haven’t been met adequately, and they’ve been put in a situation where the expectations are too high and the accommodations for them are too low. So dinners out are not common, that’s for sure! (Though I should say that the only other time this month that we didn’t eat at home, we grabbed a pizza from the place across the street from their school — every once in a while you’ve gotta live a little!)
      I’ve never actually eaten at Chipotle, but it’s quite popular with a lot of my coworkers. There is one nearby that J. and I have meant to try. We actually just get so used to eating home made lunches and snacks that it almost never crosses our minds! Thanks for the heads-up, though — that does sound like a great bargain (and I will say that when he’s going through a growth spurt, like now, L. could probably polish off most of that portion!).

      • Claire says:

        I think it’s fitting to mention the portion size, because although I too have never been to one, I almost went over vacation and my sister suggested we split something because the portions are so large there. Good food I heard and definitly on our list for one of our trips to the hometown 😉

      • Yeah, the portions are really big! With the salmon dish I got it wasn’t so bad — I didn’t FINISH it, but it’s also possible to eat a bit more fish than, say, steak or something like that, and I made a good dent in the veggies (which really are tasty). But honestly, the kids’ steak is really a correct portion even for me. And cheap, too, so there you go! 😉

  2. Claire says:

    I couldn’t help but comment since last weekend when traveling we opted to stop at the chain restaurant of our high school days. We ordered the boys a side of veggies assuming they would also eat our fries. The veggies were drenched in melted butter and all o could think of was your blog. So much for trying to be healthy 🙂

    • HAHAHA Oh, hm, let me see…which chain restaurant could that be? 🙂 I have to say, I’m pretty sure the veggies L. had at the restaurant had butter on them too (frankly, they tasted too good not to!), but it wasn’t an excessive amount — like, there was no pool of liquid in the bottom of the dish or anything like that, and they didn’t have any greasy texture to them. If it weren’t for the flavor I would have thought they were plain steamed veggies. On the upside, though, most nutritionists will say that if it takes a little bit of butter or cheese sauce or whatever to get your kids to eat vegetables, go for it; then you can decrease over time. So you get points for the effort! 🙂 Did they eat the veggies?

  3. Kim B. says:

    I needed this today! It’s not so much that T. has a problem with veggies in particular, it’s that he has a problem with anything that is “new.” So, he loves pasta, meatballs, and spaghetti sauce, right? Oh, and cheese. That kid can’t get enough cheese, be in it stick or shredded form. So I baked a lasagna. I thought he would love it. Really, I did. He looked skeptical, but to his credit, T. tried it. But then he spit it out. I tried to convince him that the meat in it was meatballs, but he just begged for real meatballs instead. Sigh. Strawberries for dinner, it was. 😉 I’m feeling like I’m having a hard time diversifying his mealtime experience.

    • Oh, Kim, that’s so frustrating…and SO typical! Isn’t it amazing how kids find even the slightest change in any food item to be completely unacceptable? If it’s any consolation, my kids can’t stand lasagna. I think it’s something about the interplay of the textures — the ricotta, the gooey shredded cheese, the soft noodles, etc. that bugs them.
      The good news is this: If you continue to try to diversify the mealtime experience, it will eventually take root. By “eventually,” I mean maybe in 6 weeks, maybe in 6 months, maybe in a year… but slowly, he will begin to realize that food can take a variety of appearances. One thing I think has actually helped us tremendously is that I don’t tend to make foods the same way all the time, so the boys have had to learn that broccoli can be just steamed, or raw, or it can be chopped up and mixed into things, or it can be roasted (they really like the stems cut up and roasted, go figure), or it can show up on pizza, or… That’s a concept that I think has helped because it finally sinks in, after a while, that food is food, no matter what form it takes. Hang in there!

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