I’m all for doing things differently from how we were raised, revisiting how it used to be when kids walked to school in their barefeet through blizzards, uphill both ways.
Especially if I think my way is safer, better or just plain works for my family. Progress is good. Knowledge is power. Remember how we used to ride in the “way back” of a wood-paneled station wagon, unbuckled, face pressed against the back window?
But I’ve recently learned that old school is still sometimes the best school. Some readers will recall my vegetable-hating oldest, now 6. I’d hide bits of shredded carrots and zucchini in super sweet cinnamon muffins. I’d try every trick in the book for the teensiest taste. Some tips worked, others didn’t.
What do you do? Magazines and books are full of suggestions. Kids can be full of opposition. So I figured I’d just keep trying and wait for him to come to his senses. One day he’d wake up and discover the sweet comfort of roasted root vegetables on a cold winter night, the earthy goodness of asparagus in spring. Just you wait. And at least the younger two love their veggies.
But pre-K became K and K became first grade. It became increasingly clear that he was settling comfortably into his near vegetable-free existence. He was going to be like a college acquaintance who spent our semester abroad in London eating at the McDonald’s on Kensington High Street.
So the proverbial parental foot came crashing down. (And I’m in no way taking the credit here. My husband is the one who really took the big leap forward on this, though I certainly agreed it was time to do something.)
Vegetables would be eaten. No arguments, no pleading, no nothing. It was 1950 all over again. And as every parent knows, once you start, you can’t waver. Kids can smell a weakening resolve a mile away. They must believe you will keep them there all night until they finish. In his corner he gets to use a “strategy,” an amazing bit of parenting pixie dust my husband devised.
He’ll say, what’s your strategy? And they’ll work it out together. It might involve ketchup or eating the veggies together with something else on his plate. All fine by us. If it makes it into the stomach, it’s all good in the ‘hood.
The result? I won’t lie about the tears in the beginning. Change is hard for any kid, especially when we let them coast along thinking they’ve somehow landed on culinary Easy Street where the sidewalks are paved with chicken nuggets. But here’s a list of what is in his regular vegetable rotation now: corn, French cut green beans, peas, carrots, broccoli. He professes to hate them all, but that’s the least of my worries. He’s actually eating them.
My only regret? That we didn’t do it sooner.
(Photo credit: Mark Vergari / The Journal News)