Mealtimes around here can be a real pain in the ass.
There are days when the kids simply cannot be satisfied… They want pizza, not chicken. We just had chicken last week. The chicken has sauce on it. The chicken looks suspicious. The sauce is highly suspect. They don’t like potatoes. They do like potatoes, just not cooked that way. The spinach is too green. The tomatoes are too red. The water is too clear. When can we have soda instead? When will we buy bread? Why can’t we have bread? Pizza is better than chicken, cause it has the bread on the bottom. Why can’t we have pizza? It’s better than chicken. We just had chicken last week.
The criticisms and complaints are annoying, and even hurtful. I know they don’t intentionally say it to hurt my feelings, but I just want to snap ‘”do you know how much time and effort I put into planning, shopping for, and cooking this just to make sure that everyone would like it?”
I imagine that wouldn’t get me very far.
Our standard has been to ignore the whining and redirect, or to keep asking them about how they feel, digging down into why they don’t like these potatoes, why they don’t like the sauce. I’ll admit, though, there are days when ‘Eat your dinner or go hungry; either way you will be quiet.’ is issued through clenched teeth. No matter what the situation and our level of irritation, we try to emphasize the ‘why’ of eating like cavemen- that we believe it’s better for our bodies, eating like cavemen makes us healthier, gives us more energy, makes us feel better. I’ve learned that empathizing with them, at least a little bit, goes a long way (“I wish we could have pizza too. It sure would taste good.”).
Because we’re still adjusting as a family to this new mindset, we try and give them options, especially at dinnertime. The hard and fast rule is that you don’t have to like it, you just have to try it (and if they don’t like it, they have to replace it with a healthy choice, not just go without). It takes a heckuva lot for me to stay patient when they poke at the food, bring the fork to their lips, barely taste anything and promptly announce they don’t like it. I swear, some weeks it happens with nearly every single thing I make for every meal. Even stuff they normally love will have them turning their noses up at it…and at that point, they get turned away from the table.
The Cavemom has her limits.
Alex, at 9 years old, is my bravest eater. He’ll try just about anything new, and usually with great zest. He’s become super-enthusiastic about fruits and veggies, which is a delight; his brothers have yet to follow in his footsteps, but we still hold out hope. He really seems to understand that this lifestyle isn’t just about doing without the things we used to have, and he’s embracing the new foods with enthusiasm. We’re hoping that his attitude gets passed on to Cameron and Logan!
I have to keep reminding myself that it takes time. It was nearly four months before my own mental mindset switched from ‘this is my diet’ to’ this is my lifestyle’, and I imagine it’s a bit harder on the kids- they were never given the choice to change.
For every clash over meals and battles over food, my frustrations are (increasingly) offset by the compliments they shower on me when they really like their dinner (we won’t talk about how sometimes it can be the exact same thing they had a few nights before and refused to touch).
I love when they shop with me and are excited to try a new fruit or vegetable, or mention that we should look for a paleo version of certain foods.
The way they remind one another about why we don’t go out to eat as often or why we only have certain foods makes me smile.
It is becoming more common for them to question whether or not something is paleo, and every once in a while, when given the choice, they’ll choose the paleo way.
I can’t help but laugh when Logan eyes the things in my shopping cart with suspicion and asks if the items are paleo- and when it’s something he really likes, the way he scoops it up and holds it aloft and jumps up and down, doing a paleo happy-dance.
I have to tell you, it’s a really, really cute paleo happy-dance.
Looking back at where we started, things are definitely getting easier as time goes on; I suppose that the more infrequent their episodes of dissatisfaction are, the more they stand out.
I just need to remind myself of how far we’ve come, and that it’s all about the journey, not the destination.
I need to focus on the positive and not the negative, remember that they ARE only 9, 7, and 5, and that this shift in lifestyle is a big deal for all of us.
I need to listen to their complaints, make them eat their vegetables, and give them lots of hugs and kisses.
And then I need to count my successes along with my blessings, and do a paleo happy-dance of my own.