Children tend to be picky eaters, and although, as a parent, I need to encourage my two daughters to eat healthy, I have never been one to try to force them to eat foods they don’t like. After all, I still consider myself a picky eater. But I am proud to say that I have come a long way.
When my girls were too young to communicate their dislikes, mealtime sometimes turned into a battle, and I remember frustration taking over, leaving us all crabby. Now, when either of them says she doesn’t like something that is on her plate, I always ask, “Have you tried it?”
My 4-year-old will always tell me the truth. “No.”
I reply: “How do you know you don’t like it then?”
Her answer varies; sometimes it could be as simple as the way it looks.
I urge her to try it, because I remember there were certain foods I would turn my head away from, too. Sadly, my eating options were fairly small because of this. I had brainwashed myself into somehow knowing I wasn’t going to like shrimp, blueberries or a fish fry, no matter what anybody said.
My parents must not have been very convincing. It was probably because when they forced me to eat things like green beans, and they turned out to be yucky, my parents’ credibility rapidly declined.
Then there was the time we had cabbage with dinner. I tried the cabbage, and gagged on it. I did not like it. Yet my father, stern as he was, made my sister and me sit at the table until we finished that cabbage.
I can’t recall if we actually did finish that awful stuff or if my step-mom finally took pity on us when it grew dark outside, but eventually we were released from the table. I suppose I still feel a tad angry about that, but it was one of those I’m-never-gonna-forget moments, which ultimately closed my taste buds off to cabbage for good.
But there was hope for me yet. I’m not sure what it was about my husband (it could have been as simple as the way he looked), but when he urged me to try something new, I usually gave it a whirl. Fifty percent of the time, I would find that I actually liked it.
I couldn’t believe how much time I had wasted not enjoying all those wonderfully delicious foods. I mean who doesn’t like shrimp – voluntarily? Hello? It’s like crazy goodness with every bite. Or the sweet taste of blueberries? And who would turn down a fish fry, battered and greased to my liking?
It is because of this awakening that I want my daughters to enjoy all the different foods out there, too. Just because something doesn’t look good on the outside doesn’t mean it isn’t wonderful on the inside. I certainly don’t want my girls wasting 20 years like I did.
So each time they open up and allow a new food to touch their palate, I celebrate a silent victory. If they don’t like it, I do not make them sit there until their food turns cold and the sun goes down. Forcing them to eat is not the answer.
Instead, I’ll keep trying new things, in hopes that they will see my actions and want to copy them. That’s the best I can do.
Though there is one thing that they will never see me try again. Not even my husband can get me to do it. I might even like cabbage now, but I will never find out. I can guarantee you that.