When my first daughter was a baby I read two French books. One was called Bringing Up Bébé that was wildly popular in New Orleans because of its rich French heritage. The other was called French Kids Eat Everything. Already in love with the traditions of my mother’s ancestors, I committed to feeding my children healthy, delicious food only at the dinner table at designated meal times. While eating healthy in New Orleans was a struggle on its own, I found that as my daughter got older, she became pickier. Then we moved to Tennessee and had our second daughter. That’s when we fell off the wagon.
My personality as parent is certainly more laissez–faire than rigid.
I promised myself that the more kids we had, the more I would let things go. But I find myself at a tipping point with meal times and snacks. The issues got worse about three months ago when my one-year-old decided she no longer liked her high chair and she would rather eat in our laps or on the floor. Eating at home was incredibly frustrating and eating out was nearly impossible. We would spend the entire meal trying to corral the girls and convince them to sit down, only to come home and hear, “Mommy, I’m hungry” (from my four-year-old) or “Nack” (from my one-year-old).
I tried every trick in the book: posting a list of Table Rules, only allowing food at the dinner table, making them try a bite of each food, and limiting snacks between meals. But my efforts were not working. I think it’s worth mentioning at this point that I come from a long time of cooks on both sides of my family. I don’t take it well when someone leaves food on their plate or says, “This is disgusting” (like my four-year-old has).
I take a lot of pride in preparing healthy, tasty meals for my family.
I came to a breaking point one day when I decided we were done with snacks. I showed up to Pumpkin Patch Playground WITHOUT snacks. They could drink water and wait until lunch for food. Well, my plan backfired on me. My girls were begging for food 10 minutes upon arrival, and when I told them I didn’t have anything, they began foraging for food in other peoples’ bags. They also followed around a mom who brought a whole bag of veggie straws as if they were starving children on the streets.
French kids don’t snack.
They eat three square meals a day with the addition of le gouter at 4pm when they come home from school. They eat what is served with gratitude and they will sit for three-hour dinners while the adults converse. My kids on the other hand will sit for a maximum of five minutes if the meal is really good (think grilled cheese) and routinely throw food on the floor.
While I get that comparing my kids to French children may be too much, I feel like we could use some serious improvement. If you haven’t already noticed, this is not one of those blogs where I have all of the answers and I’m going to spell them out for you.
I would love your tips on how you:
1. Get your kids to sit still during meals (without an iPad).
2. Respect food.
3. Snack without ruining the next meal.