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Food Fight

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how my kids hated Thanksgiving dinner. The point of my post was that my kids are picky eaters and I was wondering if they would ever expand their culinary horizons.

My point, however, was lost when everyone in the whole wide world (or at least the vast majority of the tiny part of the population that read it) took one small part from my post and made the entire discussion about it. That one part, an aside that I honestly didn’t even think much about when I was writing it, became the thing that a lot of people focused on. And also the thing that a lot of people felt the need to criticize me about.

So, what was that one thing, you ask?

It was: “When we got home, he asked for a hot dog and macaroni and cheese. Which he ate with great gusto.”

Yes, GASP, when we got home from Thanksgiving dinner at my husband’s Grandmother’s house, a good three or four hours after the original meal, my son asked for more food. And I happily obliged.

According to some of the comments I received, I am contributing to a culture of children who are coddled, who are never encouraged to try new foods, who are going to be obese because, on occasion, they are allowed to eat hot dogs and macaroni and cheese.

The point of this post, though, isn’t to argue about those comments. It isn’t to defend myself. Or to start a discussion on how quickly mothers jump to criticize other mothers. I’ll save that for an upcoming post.

I want to discuss the argument that was presented in a lot of the comments, and that was the idea that children should always eat what the adults of the family are eating. That children, whether they like it or not, should be forced to eat the food that is put in front of them or be sent to bed hungry.

On a fairly regular basis, I make two, or even three, different meals for dinner. One kid loves spaghetti, one kid doesn’t. In fact, he hates pasta of all kinds because of that one time I forced him to try a spaghetti noodle. He gagged on it, coughed, and then threw up all over the table. So when we have spaghetti, he doesn’t.

On nights when we have pizza, or anything that contains dairy, the baby gets something else because he has a dairy allergy and can’t eat it. On the (rare) nights when we have filet mignon, the boys get something easier and cheaper, because, honestly, at this point in their life I’m not willing to pay for fancy steak for them. They don’t really even like steak anyway. So they get a piece to try, alongside whatever they are having for dinner.

My husband and oldest son hate green beans, but the rest of us like them, so on nights when they’re on the menu, I also make something else for them to eat.

I’m unwilling to try escargot or frog legs, and I’m pretty sure no one is going to force them on me. On numerous occasions, I have tried, but still don’t like, seafood. We each have our own food preferences and aversions. It is one of the things that makes us individuals and just because they are children doesn’t mean that they aren’t entitled to an opinion about what foods they like.

I don’t want every night to turn into a battle. I don’t want my kids to decide they hate trying new foods because it’s always an unpleasant experience. I don’t mind making a few different things to satisfy our family. In fact, I’d rather do that than argue with them, deal with the tears and frustration and then feel guilty when I send them to bed hungry.

It might not work for everyone, but it works for us. And I, for one, don’t see anything wrong with that.

How does your family handle this type of situation? Do your kids have to eat whatever the rest of the family is eating? Do you make a few different dishes, or different versions of the same dish, to appease different palates?

Photo Credit: Massimo Barbieri via Flickr

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