Before I really start this post, I want to say again that all these thoughts - the ones I've shared so far, and the ones I'm about to share - have to do with my vibe with my tribe. You may disagree with my vibe and may have had amazing success with a completely opposite approach from what I've talked about here. There are as many vibes out there as there are parents. I say all that because this post feels a little more dogmatic on my part - even as I write it. I must confess, I'm pretty passionate. But, I kind of can't help it.
So, here goes nothing.
When my children were little, they did not get to make decisions when it came to food. They ate what we put before them.
I didn't ask them if they wanted it. I don't know that I ever asked my 3 year old what they wanted to eat. Does a 3 year old know what's good for them? No. They are 3.
I had the following conversation with a complete stranger about a month ago at a dentist's office. After we finished talking, I wrote it down as fast as I could so I would remember it as accurately as possible. The conversation started after I asked her if she had any children.
"Yes. I have a daughter who's 3. Actually, she's what you call a threenager. Very strong willed." I interjected here and there knowing nods, because I've had 6 three year olds. She continued with, "This morning was hard. I got her up and gave her goldfish and a poptart. I give her anything she wants for breakfast because, you know, we've got to get out the door. Well, she saw me getting yogurt out of the refrigerator and wanted yogurt. I gave her that and took the goldfish away because she didn't want those anymore. When we got in the car, she started screaming, "I want goldfish!" and she wouldn't calm down. I told her she wasn't going to get any tablet time tonight because of this acting out. The people at daycare tell me they don't know what in the world she's gonna be like when she's a teenager."
I wanted to cry for her. I wanted to tell her it didn't have to be that way. The hard she would have to go through for a few days reigning that stressful morning behavior in would be so worth it. It couldn't be any harder than what she was going through already.
So, for what it's worth, here's my vibe on this:
When you have small children, they obviously have to eat breakfast - whether you do or not (and really, this applies to all meals - I just happen to be picking on breakfast here). So, as parents, it's our responsibility to feed them somewhat nutritiously. We have to plan for that to happen, or it's probably not going to happen. Whether you are a stay at home mom or a working mom, breakfast has to be planned for and it has to happen.
You plan it. You are the mom who knows what is best for that sweet or strong willed or compliant or difficult child. You plan it. We moms get the amazing privilege of introducing a young life to all the amazing tastes that God made! And the options we have now for food combinations are crazy varied. Pinterest alone can supply a parent with more options than they can possibly use! We are responsible for what our children eat.
They are 3. They don't know what to do or what they should do.
Do we get tired of doing that sometimes? Of course. Do we still do it? Yes. Do we just survive some days and give our kids pop tarts? Yes. Do we make a habit of it? No.
And, of course, there are some days you are throwing them in the car with that pop tart because the morning got away from you. Should that be the norm? Do you want to live like that? My answer - my vibe - to that question was/is "No."
My best mornings were the ones that I thought through the night before. If we had to be out of the house by a certain time, clothes were laid out, breakfast was thought out, and plenty of time was allowed for it. We are a sit down and eat at the table family, so we budgeted time for that. I was not one to ask my children if they were hungry, or ready to eat. Ready or not, they needed to eat before we went where we needed to go, or did what we needed to do.
I neither had time, inclination or energy to let my children graze and eat when they felt like it.
And, I did not give my children a choice about the menu. I did not run a restaurant. If I cooked eggs, everybody ate eggs. Oatmeal and toast on tap for breakfast? Even the ones who didn't love oatmeal downed a few bites and gobbled up their toast. Some foods are more of an acquired taste. Don't give up on a food (especially one that you know is good for your child) if they, at one point in their young life, turned their nose up at it. Remember...we know more than they do what is best for them!
Before you think I was a complete Attila the Hun, I did learn what foods they were completely averse to and tried to be sensitive to that. There wasn't an aggressive "you'll eat it and like it!" feel to a meal. What we were trying to foster was a thankful, gracious, I'll try new stuff kind of attitude. Our goal was to foster a rhythm in our family life that, at the very least, put us on a course toward peace instead of panic.
It's all such a learning process, right? Our children are learning and we are learning - we are all just one big beautiful learning mess! But in the midst of that mess, we still need to remind ourselves that we do have an edge. We still know more than our kids do about what's best for them. Especially when they are 3.