The first time my oldest son tried solid food, he grabbed the spoon from my hand and put it in his mouth. He ate all his meals as finger foods from that moment forward. When he was a toddler, he would not sit at the table to eat, he would stand naked on a chair. My husband and I had the conversation, “what is more important, sitting still or being nourished?” Thankfully we were both on the same page. In the beginning, it was about getting food in to the children however that looked. It was not about obedience, it was about being fed, nourished and coming to understand what foods felt good inside their bodies.
My youngest son, spit the food out the first time he tried solid food. He has a sensitive system and food didn’t always feel good in his body. He breastfed for a large part of nourishment well in to his toddler years. Again, it was about being nourished not about what was socially acceptable. I heard it all, that if I stopped breast feeding he would eat, he was too reliant on me etc. But I knew, in my heart, that it was more important that he have the time to find what foods felt good inside his own body, cause he was the only one living there. It turned out that for the first 4 years of his life he was allergic to dairy as well as having a deadly nut allergy. His body needed more time to be ready for foods. He is 8 now and eats like a champ, most days I can’t keep up.
Now that they boys are older, the focus still is about nourishment however it shows up differently in our relationship. Yesterday as I turned to leave my ten year old’s room, with a half eaten plate of hash browns he said to me, “I like my hash browns a little crispier.” I will admit that my first reaction, thankfully only inside my head was something like “are you frickin’ kidding me. I bought you these stinking potatoes, cooked them special for you and your gonna tell me they weren’t crispy enough. Next time get your lazy ass in to the kitchen and cook them yourself.” Thankfully, what came out of my mouth was more like, “I’ll try to remember that next time”
My first reaction is way more accepted in the world around me. However, as my earlier examples showed food and eating in our house has never been about me, or about cooking time, or about obedience. It has been about nourishment. About having the time to figure out what foods feel good in your body, what flavors rest most comfortably on your tongue and overall knowing yourself well enough to speak up about your personal preferences.
I am the sole cook in this family. I do the shopping, prepping, cooking and a lot of the time the cleaning as well. It’s a big job. And I do it considering the personal preferences of the folks I cook for. They don’t always like what I cook, even when it was a favorite just the day before. Regularly, they offer feedback that is ill worded and well harsh. The reminder for me on a most regular basis is that feedback is not about ME. It is not a judgement on my skill level. It is not ungratefulness for my efforts. It is about a growing understanding of the people they are becoming. It is an ownership of self knowledge. “Hey I’m a guy who likes crispy hash browns. ” This is good information to have. It will help him when he is a grown up out in the world feeding himself.
I also try to avoid using terms like junk food, crap, bad for you when referring to food items in the house. Cause from the beginning it has been about nourishment. And sometimes what a body needs truly is a greasy burger and fries. And I personally believe if you eat it from a place of yummy instead of guilt the caloric intake has less of an impact on your overall health. I want for my boys to eat food in order to nourish their bodies. Sometimes that will involve a plate of fresh fruit and other times a bowl of candy. They are inside the body and thus the best judge of which one fills them up.
When asked, I do answer honestly. “Mom, what do you think I should eat before hockey?” is an invitation to discuss muscle building foods and carbohydrates that provide access to quick energy. Or, “mom I don’t feel good can you make me something to feel better” is an open door to arrive with some immune boosting options and a chat about why these food choices might help fight off the germs inside. Offering only, not insisting, has created a pathway for my children to truly discover their own relationship with food and how it best nourishes their individual to them bodies.
I do ask, “What meals do you want to eat this week?” “Is there anything I can get you from the grocery store” and then I make sure I pick up the items and cook the meals. And you know what, they don’t always ask for candy. In fact, we just went through the cupboards and culled the candy that was piling up in there.
On the journey of food, the work has been more mine to do. I came in to this relationship with my own issues around food, my own struggles, but they were mine to conquer not to pass along to my children. They will live inside of their bodies, outside of my home, longer then they will inside of it. The best thing I can do for them is support them in uncovering how best to nourish their own bodies. Which means hearing the words, that’s not cooked enough, I don’t like that anymore, I never liked that time and time again and noticing these simply are declaration of self knowledge and not judgements on anything I’ve done.