Monday, May 3, 2010

Negotiaton: It's What's for Dinner

Opening the cupboard full of baby food, my task is simple.  Choose a jar of vegetables.  Choose a meat.  Choose a fruit for dessert.  Easy as pie...okay, okay--pun intended.  It helps of course that Ila can't yet speak.  So while I am standing at the microwave waiting for the beep, I am sure that I won't hear her little voice say, "Mom, I hope that's not ham.  It makes me gag."  And while I spoon the banana mango pineapple into her tiny sweet mouth, I can take comfort in the fact that there won't be any dramatic eye-rolling-tongue-curling-body-folding-puke gestures.  Mealtime with Ila is SO peaceful...then there's mealtime with Gannan.

 Last night dinner was his favorite:  Meatballs simmering in a combination of barbecue sauce and grape jelly cooking slowly in a crockpot all morning and afternoon.  When he started liking this concoction I felt like I had won the lottery.  You see, he is what mothers call "a picky eater."  (Cue the foreboding music...)  He doesn't like meat at all unless it comes in the form of a nugget.  (Of course there was that time during my pregnancy last summer when I was on bed rest all sweaty and swollen, and our sweet drop dead gorgeous blond and busty neighbor showed up on our front stoop--in a mini skirt--with a mouth watering pork dish...He ate every morsel.)  ANYHOO...ah yes, the meatballs.   Yesterday he came inside to search for food after a long hard day of trying to break the speed record on his Slip and Slide by lubing his body up with baby oil before sliding.  (I wish I was kidding!)
Gannan:  Mom, I am starving.  What's that smell.  I hope that isn't pot roast.  That stringy meat makes me gag.
Me:  No Gannan, not pot roast.  It's those meatballs that you love.
Gannan:  Alright!!

I spooned a healthy portion into his bowl, and sat down to spend some time with him while he ate.   With bite one I knew there was trouble.  Two chews in and he dramatically began an eye-rolling-tongue-curling-body-folding puke gesture.  He spit what was left of the meatball on top of the other steaming balls in his bowl.

Gannan:  Mom, these meatballs taste like fish.  I'm gonna gag.
Me:  Ganny you LOVE these meatballs.  They're your favorite!
Gannan:  NOT ANYMORE!  Do we have any chicken nuggets?

So there I was faced with the age old question, a question that all mothers grapple with at some point.  No, no, not "Do we have any chicken nuggets?" rather  "Do the kids HAVE to eat what I make for dinner, or do I make them something else?"  This seems to be a tough dilemma for moms.  I mean what it comes down to is compliance right?  After all, don't they know how much work we put into making a nice meal for them?  All the chopping and the grating and the marinating, not to mention the mixing and the stirring, and the clean-up, oh don't get me started!  Then again, do we make meals for the gratitude?  That is the question that my very bright and dapper pediatrician asked me once.  Actually he said, "Logan, why do you want him to eat the food that you make?"  I answered, "So that I know he is eating healthy foods."  And without blinking he asked, "Does he only enjoy foods that aren't good for him?"  In fact, Ganny loves fruits and veggies.  I mean, I can't keep grapes or berries in the fridge for more than two days, and heaven forbid I don't have a week's supply of cucumbers and red bell peppers chopped up and placed in Ziploc bags ready for him to munch on in a moment's notice.  Dr. Dapper continued, "Logan, lean on the foods that you know he likes that are good for him.  That's not to say don't introduce new foods but do it gradually at times when it seems that he is getting sick of his old standbys."  Great advice!

A wise friend of mine once suggested that it was the relinquishing of control that parents had  problems with when it came to mealtime.  But he insisted that giving choices at dinner wasn't letting go of control at all.  "On the contrary," said he, "a parent is still in control if he or she is the one providing the choices."  I am in full agreement.

And so, when Gannan asked the question that I hear probably five dinners out of seven, "Do we have any chicken nuggets?"  I simply smiled and said, "Of course dear, but eat this bowl of fruit while you wait for me to cook them. After all, you need all the energy you can get if you still want to break the speed record for the Slip and Slide.