My 12 year-old, Tom, has not eaten a vegetable in so long that I could be reported to the mom police and get hard time.
Before his first birthday, my darling, perfect baby quickly showed his independence the minute I offered him his first taste of broccoli. He pushed away his plate with a dismissive wave of his little hand. It was war.
A war I was determined to win. I was older and wiser, wasn’t I?
Before I had children, I vowed to practice and preach good nutrition. I exclusively breast fed Tom until he was six months old, and then fed solid foods in their most natural form. I foolishly believed the books that said, “If you feed it, they will eat it!”
I did not have white bread, soda, or sugared juices in my house. I diligently introduced new foods, always looking to expand his palate. I served pumpkin ravioli, spinach brownies, zucchini muffins. It was my mission in life to raise a well-rounded, well-read, vegetable-eating person.
Nothing I did made my wonderful little boy eat a vegetable. I covered a host of vegetables with cheese, butter, or brown sugar to no avail. Sometimes I got lucky, and he would eat a sauce with puree of carrots or sweet potato. I can’t tell you the pure happiness I would feel, only to be dropped into a depression the next day when he would say, “No tank you mommy.”
I dreaded each check-up when the pediatrician asked about his eating. I still remember his five-year check-up when our pediatrician asked Tom if he ate vegetables.
Yes, he replied.
I was speechless.
He then added, “I just don’t eat anything green, orange, red, or yellow.”
The pediatrician replied, “What do you eat then?”
“Pizza,” was his proud reply.
Now I know some of you may be thinking that I just didn’t try hard enough. That’s fine. I can live with your disdain. I know in my soul I did everything possible.
Some children, no matter what you try, just have certain food aversions.
Do you know how I know this? I have two other children.
By the time Lizzy and Peter came along, I was so wiped out by the food wars that I joined the ketchup-is-a-vegetable cult. The only way they saw a green thing was on my plate. And they begged for it.
Lizzy and Peter get so excited over broccoli that Tom tried it once, just because he thought maybe he was missing something!
Beets, kale, lima beans, you name it, and my two darlings will eat it. They have actually passed up ice cream to eat more green beans!
Are they freaks of nature?
Did God just feel sorry for me and make sure he found me two vegetable-eating children?
Or, are there just some things that are out of my control?
Our first pediatrician told me that my job as a mother was to offer and provide three nutritious meals a day, and my children's job was to eat them, or not.
That’s some of the best advice I have ever been given, and it doesn't only apply to food.
It’s my job as my children’s ambassador to the world to introduce and offer all that I think is safe and appropriate, and it’s their job to decide what works for them and what doesn’t.
As much as I love this advice, I still find it a bitter pill to swallow. And not always easy to follow. Especially as they get older.
What if they choose wrong? What if they get hurt?
Tom is going to be 13 in a few short months. There will be so many things the world will throw his way. So many choices that at times really can mean life or death. So many things that will be out of my control that I can literally loose sleep if I allow myself to think too hard about it.
As much as I hate to think about it, Tom, as well as his brother and sister will make mistakes. I know I made my share, it's how I learned some of my most valuable lessons.
Perhaps in respecting my son's food preference's, while still introducing him to a wide variety of food, I'm doing more than dealing with the food wars. I'm giving him the building blocks to make decisions for himself.
The broccoli battle was Tom's first attempt at independence. My loving withdrawal and a really good multivitamin was, and continues to be, my gift to him.
*Author's Note: A version of this post was first published in December, 2010, on my blog at Momster.com where I published under the name Blessedmomofthree. This version has been revised slightly from the original. I don't want anyone who has followed me over to this site to think they are going crazy!