The only management parallel to this particular parental dilemma is the human resources department.
After all, human resource professionals anticipate and design action plans for the various scenarios they will encounter; given the variety of personalities, backgrounds, preferences, and behaviors of the employees they must deal with.
That is exactly what you will be doing each day in many ways as you deal with today’s topic – feeding the troops!
They pick, they whine, they move food around the plate and pretend to eat it. Family lore at our house abounds with stories about both parental foibles when it came to food.
I went through an entire decade-long stage (according to my mother) when my foods could not touch each other on the plate. According to her, I would look up with the most heartbroken look in my big brown eyes and tears would start to trickle down my face as I realized that the beans were touching the mashed potatoes and were therefore forever inedible. There evidently had to be an eighth of an inch or more of clearance between all foods on a plate and God forbid the gravy happened to run! I hated more foods than I liked and would gag at the smell of split pea soup or potato salad.
Now we know I am possibly a “super taster” and perceive tastes more intensely than many people, but back then, some things were just overwhelming and not in a good way. On the up side, I loved spinach and many of the greens that many kids did not like and would even give liver a chance if my mom fried it. Go figure!
My husband has his own set of picky eating requirements.
No peanut butter. The very smell makes him gag and it isn’t an allergy. He jokes that his rule used to be, “No vegetables over one syllable,” although he would make exceptions for carrots because you could say it really fast and it would sound like one syllable, “Kerts.”
Broccoli – out of the question, “Good Lord woman, that is three syllables, what are you thinking?” And brussels sprouts? “TWO words! It doesn’t bear thinking about!” For school lunches, he lived on tuna sandwiches and bologna sandwiches and did not even try pizza until he was in high school. As a new family member, I was regaled with the story of the bread crust hideouts under lunch plates since they had no family pet to slip them to…family stories that will live on and on as long as his sisters will tell them.
When we began dating I realized that I (a Northwest Washington woman raised on seafood and loving it) had hitched my star to a man who could only tolerate canned tuna and mild white fish that did not actually taste like fish.
What possessed him to try to impress me by taking me on a date to the new Sushi restaurant in town, I will never know, but I have to give him points for courage. He really did fine until the raw tuna. In his words, “It went in, but I knew in my heart it was not going down.” We opted for safer options in the future!
He offered to cook for me in our early dating days and pulled out all of his culinary stops to prepare his very best meal. Tacos and seven layer bean dip. Pretty good if I do say so myself, but at the same time I got a look at his cupboards and realized I was dating the most Caucasian man in the universe: Really. Even his food was middle-American WASP. Frosted Flakes, Wonder Bread, Tuna…well you get the picture. When I went to his family home for dinner with his parents the first time, I found out why.
His mom is an excellent cook, but definitely not big on the ethnic side of things.
She asked me to get the salad out of the refrigerator for dinner and I was happy to do so but searched and searched in vain for the bowl of greens I pictured as a salad.
I finally admitted defeat and said, “I am so sorry. I must be looking right at it, but I simply can’t find it.”
She reached into the fridge around me and pulled out a green Jell-O mold. I just laughed, because at my house that would have been dessert!
So, long story short and back to parenting…our children were DOOMED. They were going to be picky eaters and there wasn’t a blessed thing we could do about it…Or was there?
We tried the “ONE BITE” strategy.
Seriously, just one bite: Then if they did not like it, they did not have to eat it, but they had to give it an honest try.
You never know, they could surprise themselves. It turned out that they both love Indian food, Pad Thai, Dad’s special tuna, and they really love salmon (Yay, NW genes!). My husband’s horizons have widened, as well, and although shellfish is still a no-go, he loves all sorts of ethnic cuisines and has even given sushi another try!
Try the “One Bite” strategy at your house and see what happens. Then tell me about it!