When I was growing up the relationship between parents and children was very different from what I’m experiencing now with my own children. For one thing, I grew up in Europe in a close-knit family. We respected our parents. We learned from them and knew we needed them. Homework was meant to be done, and we ate the food that was given to us.
This is not how it is for me in America. At a Suppers meeting attended mostly by mothers who are struggling to improve their children’s food choices, I commiserated with them. I shared that I have three beautiful children who have a completely different attitude toward adults. My nine-year-old tells me that if his homework doesn’t get done, that’s too bad for the teacher; personally, he’s fine with it! His brother claims he was born just to skateboard. None of them have a taste for the traditional homemade foods that are so familiar and comforting to me. Their palates are American. The older they get, the harder it is to find ways to teach them to appreciate the flavor of real food.
Do you want to hear a story? The other day I made a brown rice cooked cereal for breakfast for my sons. It is steel cut so it is a bit chewy, even after you cook it for an hour. I also made fresh apricot jelly for them as topping, also for bribing. Then one of my darlings says, “Mommy, it is not possible to eat this, it is like a stone.”
After a brief discussion with him where neither party persuaded the other, I went out to the garden, found a nice piece of stone, washed it and served it on a plate with my fresh apricot jelly on top. All three kids became quiet immediately and looked at me in total shock.
“If it is a stone, eat the real thing,” I said. “I’ll finish up your cereal.” He was so surprised that I was not kidding, and finally said he would eat the rice cereal instead. And he did!
Sometimes my children need a jolt. I have to do something crazy and unexpected to get their attention and let them know I mean business. A friend at Suppers said she also had to grab her children’s attention. But who has the patience, energy, time, and creativity to come up with something crazy all the time? I certainly do not. Although I must admit, I can’t wait for one of them to tell me that dinner tastes like cardboard.