Fire the short-order cook!
I admit it: I’m a short-order cook. Those of you who are parents to small children know what I’m talking about. It doesn’t mean that I work in a restaurant. It means that I’ve turned myself into a slave to my child at meal times. In my defense, it started off innocently enough.
My son is not a giant. He is not one of these Texas-size children who seems to double in size each morning when he surfaces from the cocoon of his bedroom. He’s got long, lean legs, but an itty-bitty waist and, if not for the miracle of adjustable waistlines in children’s wear, his pants would be falling down throughout the day, and not in a downtown-hip-rapper kind of way.
As an infant, he ate everything. As a toddler, he could be bribed into eating most things and other things were easily “hidden” into his foods thanks to the inventive cookbook written by Jessica Seinfeld. But, then a month-long stomach issue when he was early in his 4th year, turned me into the short-order cook that I am today. I was so concerned with getting him to put some weight back on after that illness that I would prepare whatever foods he asked for. Then, life got busier and, for some reason, I never went back to the good food habits that I had tried to instill in him from early on in his life.
Flash forward to today. My 7-and-a-half year old thankfully does eat more than chicken nuggets. He’s actually quite fond of many fruits and an assortment of vegetables. He’ll eat green things, and fish (as long as it is fried), and can work his way successfully through a cheese platter. But, when asked to try a NEW food – one that isn’t part of the plain pasta, fried meat, or grilled sandwich food groups – he begins a fit that would rival that of a cranky 2-year-old in the middle of a supermarket tantrum.
I’m tired of being a short-order cook. I have visions of sitting down to the dinner table with one main course, a couple of sides, and no tears, complaints, or dramatic “Mom, are you trying to poison me?” statements. Now that my life has slowed down a bit, I’m willing and rested enough to break the short-order cycle, but I’m in need of expert advice from those of you with experience. He will try foods for his dad with minimal argument, but with me, it’s a “who can make who cry first” power struggle. I’ve tried incentive charts, taking him to pick out the produce in the farmers market, and having him help prepare dinner each night. But, then, he doesn’t eat any of the things he has helped to prepare…even if it was his idea!
So, any advice from those of you who have already been down this road? I realize that I’m coming to it a few years late, so please go easy on my long-running bad habits.