Get to the Table


 Get to the Table

As a child, I was a notoriously picky eater. Once, at Thanksgiving dinner, where the table was certainly groaning with all kinds of delightful treats, I asked if I could have a bowl of Raisin Bran cereal instead. I know; I am the least qualified person to be talking to you about how to teach a kid to eat, right? Even my cereal choice — Raisin Bran — raises some concern, as it is one of the least exciting cereals.

So as I prepared to introduce solid foods to my daughter, I wanted to do it the right way.

I wanted to help her eat nutritious food and be open to all kinds of textures and flavors, and hopefully avoid her own sad Raisin-Bran-Thanksgiving story. But as I started to research this topic for myself, I quickly realized this was a lot more complicated than I had first thought. Baby led weaning? Purees? Store bought vs. homemade baby food? When should peanut butter, eggs, and honey be introduced? There were so many options, and so many opinions about why each once was best that I quickly felt overwhelmed about what we should do. Just one look at a new moms’ online discussion forum confirms I’m not the only one feeling this way.

Which begs me to ask: when did feeding our babies get so complicated?

If I had asked my mamaw how she started solid foods with her kids, I think she would have laughed at me. “How? I fed them!” she’d laugh, and keep right on rocking her chair as we sat on the front porch at her house.

Sometimes, as new moms, I think we make things too hard on ourselves.

Any choice we are faced with – no matter how big or seemingly inconsequential – becomes a CODE RED BIG DEAL in our minds and we spend hours on google and various websites trying to figure out what is the exact right choice. Or maybe that’s just me. We feel all this pressure to do everything just right, or worry our kid will have some major issue down the line that will be entirely traced back to a decision we made – in this case the way we introduced solids.

I don’t buy it.

I think feeding our kids matters, yes. I think we should teach them to make mostly healthy choices, to not overdo it, to use a fork in a normal way, and to not fuss when supper doesn’t contain their favorite foods every single night. But more than all that, I want my daughter to enjoy sitting at the supper table with our family, to feel nourished and fed down in her soul, not just in her belly. I want meal times to be filled with discussion and laughter, to be a safe place where we can catch up at the end of the day. I want her to make good food choices and feel confident in her body. I hope she enjoys cooking old family recipes with me, like I did with my mom and grandmas growing up. And when I really look at my goals for her about eating, I realize that the exact method isn’t what’s most important. The table, and our family gathering around it, is what is most important.

Don’t just take my word for it; this is actual science. The American College of Pediatrics states that kids who eat supper at the table with their families multiple nights a week are less likely to struggle with drug use, depression, poor self-esteem, and a myriad of other issues. Even more so, kids who sit at the table with their families are statistically shown to do better academically and have better overall health and eating habits later in life. I don’t know a single mom who doesn’t want these things for her kids, and we’re in luck! We can do this.

Before you launch into an intense google search of how to make gourmet meals your family will enjoy, let me be clear: the actual food has little statistical importance on everything I just mentioned. Though certainly we should strive to provide good things for our families, some days your best efforts will be pizza, leftovers, mac and cheese, or a delightful bowl of Raisin Bran. And that is OKAY.

What is on the table doesn’t seem to matter as much as just getting there and being together.

While this seems so simple on paper, we know it is much harder in practice. Sports, work, church, dance practice, and so many other good things can take up time in our evenings and make getting to the table every night difficult. But it matters. Certainly we won’t pull this off every single night, but we need to try and get there a few nights a week, every week. So do your homework; decide if traditional pureed baby food or baby led weaning suits your family best, and go for it. But don’t get too hung up on the details, because chances are your kid will figure out eating just fine no matter what method you choose. Even me! For example, I couldn’t tell you the last time I asked for Raisin Bran as a meal, and that is progress my friends.

Some final tips:

Put away the phones, turn off the TV, and other electronics.

Ask questions: how was your day? How did this go? Tell me more about…?

This is my favorite resource about all things feeding baby.

Unsure what to cook? This is what Pinterest was created for. I especially like searching for “one pan dinners” or “supper in under 30 minutes” because REAL LIFE.

Thirty years down the road, you probably won’t care how or what you fed your kids. But you’ll remember sitting down, looking them in the eye, talking to them, and getting to know them. Get to the table; you’ll be so glad you did.