I've been watching the TV show 'Jaime's Food Revolution' which is all about Jaime Oliver's attempts to deal with obesity in America's most obese town, Huntington. I'm often really saddened by what the mothers will let their children eat and can't understand why they think it is OK for their families to eat stacks of pre-prepared food.
I've been wondering if perhaps part of the reason for these mums letting their kids eat this kind of food is that they end up taking the path of least resistance. That is, to get your kids to eat healthy food can be hard work. It can be emotionally draining and feel like a battleground at times. I think you need to be determined and focused to get some kids to eat well. At times to just get them to eat something it's tempting to let them eat rubbish. It just feels easier.
I have a preschooler who won't eat fruit. Do I feel like a failure? A little. Am I glad she's not my first child? Yes! Otherwise I would be a mess. The pressure to have a fruit eater is quite considerable in my world. She eats vegetables and my other children all eat fruit so it's not all terrible.
As I cooked dinner last night I was asked five times the identical question, "What's for dinner Mum?". With a variety of responses. The older kids didn't say much because they've learnt the wrath of a mother who hears complaining about dinner. One of the younger kids said "yuck, I'm not eating that" which of course results in a whole tedious interaction about being polite, and yes, you'll be eating it, blah, blah, blah ...
Sometimes I'm asked 'what's for dinner?' as we walk out of school. I tend to be vague because I want to put off the inevitable 'sadness' (putting it politely) from one or more members of the family. But it's such a big concern for my kids.
I don't think I cook terrible food. I'm not a gourmet cook and it's not always that exciting but I would say it is bearable. The problem is that some kids like some meals that others don't like. So we usually have someone who is not happy. Occasionally at dinner I leave the table because I can't bear the sobbing between mouthfuls. They aren't allowed to complain so we have the quieter protests. Slow eating, eating while crying, picking at it. ARRGH!
So why do I go through all this torture? Because I'm determined that my kids will be polite about what is put in front of them and give new foods a go. And that they learn to eat a variety of foods. But sometimes it takes a lot of emotional energy to help them eat well, behave well, speak politely about what is given to them.
That path of least resistance is very tempting sometimes ...