Who’s ready for a little “Goofus and Gallant
” action, here? Gallant first:
I just finished writing a nice little article about nutrition for Little Girl’s preschool newsletter. I’m not much of an expert on the topic myself, but I was writing about Cynthia Lair, this amazing lady who spoke at our Parent Advisory Council’s event last week. She’s a nutritionist, she wrote this cookbook
, and she does a great Web series called “Cookus Interruptus.” Check it out:
So, that was Gallant. And now…
It’s impossible to go to one of these nutrition lectures (much less write about it) and not start tallying up your own “goods” and “bads,” even though that’s not what Lair is all about. She spent a fair amount of Q & A time just trying to reassure fretful parents that it’s okay
! (It’s okay
if your kid really likes eggs and eats a lot of them! It’s okay
if your kid doesn’t drink any milk at all, ever!) But she is a big advocate of fresh/local/organic/etc. And – like all responsible advice-to-fretful-parent-givers – she’s a big advocate of family mealtimes.
And that’s where we part ways. Say hello to Goofus.
I don’t do family mealtimes. I know, I know, I know
. I don’t do them anyway. We have an Ikea kids’ table in the living room where Impy & Chimpy sit down and enjoy their (mostly) fresh/local/organic meals together. And we have a rickety old table in the kitchen –the only piece of furniture from Mr. Black’s bachelor days that’s not stashed away in the basement – where we pile the mail, do our messier art projects, and let the kids “help” us cook. And that’s where I hole up for some nourishment and solitude while the kids eat in the other room.
I love my kids. Sometimes I actually miss
them when they’re at school, and I’m continually amazed at these brilliant, funny little people. They are the light of my life. I love spending time with them. I just don’t want to eat with them.
Really, I don’t much care to eat with anybody. I love
food, and I enjoy it so much more when I can just be quiet and relax, think my thoughts, maybe read or take notes for something I’m writing. It can be fun to share a meal sometimes, if it’s with someone I really love and trust. But I don’t like people noticing what I eat, or how much, or whether I have sauce on my face or sesame seeds in my teeth. It shuts the appetite right down.
And nothing shuts the appetite down like navigating my way through a family meal – making sure everyone stays in their seats, wiping faces, jumping up to refill drinks, reinforcing politeness, vegetable coaxing. It’s work
. And who can enjoy a meal in the middle of work?
I think my kids do pretty well having their own little mealtime. I put the food on their table, toss them some napkins, peek in a few times to make sure no one’s choking to death, and the expectations are clear. They stay in their seats, they use their napkins. Okay, they don’t always use silverware. But they converse with each other. And they eat! Little Girl, for example, won’t touch a carrot if I’m in the room. It’s like she can sense the will of my “eat your damn vegetables” vibe. Or maybe she hopes that eventually I’ll give up and bring her something yummier. But the minute I’m not in her face, she picks up those carrots and nibbles away.
I’m not advocating for the end of family mealtimes. I’m sure there’s been study after study that proves my method wrong, wrong, wrong. I’m just saying this works for us, for now. We spend plenty of time conversing and interacting with each other away from the table. We read to them, play with them, volunteer in their classrooms, discuss all manner of topics from earthquake faults to unicorns. And they are capable of joining grown-ups at a table and using silverware if the situation requires it (family gatherings, restaurants, etc.).
These kids know they are valued and loved. They also know that mealtime is mommy’s quiet time. And – at least for this family – that’s okay