"Why does mommy never eat french toast dunkers? They're sooooo good!"Came the innocent inquiry at the dinner table.
As I sat there munching on a tuna sandwich while everyone else gorged themselves on maple syrup-laden sticks of french toast, I pondered...
Yes, why DO I get to opt out of eating Dunkers? Why do I get a free pass from eating something I absolutely hate?!
It doesn't take a genius to figure out the obvious but unfair answer...Because, I'm the MOM...the cook...the person in charge of planning the meals...and I get to choose what we eat and what we don't!
But here's the GOOD and the BAD of that pronounced truth...In this particular case with this particular meal, no one really cared whether MOM ate it or didn't, because they ALL looooooved it. They didn't worry about the unfair-ness of it all.
What about those meals that I love and cook but they hate...chicken scallopini, biscuits and gravy, sweet potato casserole, fried okra, black-eyed peas...(Yes, I know these aren't the healthiest of choices, but stay with me here...)
The truth is, as children, they don't always get a choice in what is set out on the table. I buy the food, I make the menu, and for the most part, I cook the meals.
Up until recently my husband and I have had a "you have to eat everything that is on your plate" kind of mentality. We tried the "at least eat X number of bites" plan for a few weeks early on in our parenting and realized that all that did was breed "negotiations" and unnecessary whining...at least in our children, anyway. So, we dug our heals in and insisted that plates must be cleaned in order to be excused from the table. While this certainly DID curb the negotiations, it didn't always foster gratitude for the food that was laid out. Outwardly, my children ate their food. But inwardly, they ate begrudgingly and sometimes with a sour attitude.
Now don't get me wrong. I believe whole-heartedly that as a mom, I should be able to serve food that was paid for by a hardworking husband and expect that my children eat it without complaint. The truth is, there are certainly children in this world who would give ANYTHING to be served "gross" food just to be able to EAT food...ANY food. However, as a CHRISTIAN mom, I choose to parent with truth AND grace.
The truth says, "I am the parent and you are the child." The grace says, "You are a child, but you are a unique child with likes and dislikes."
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (Ephesians 6:1)
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)
For us, the grace part came that night while everyone ELSE was eating french toast dunkers. The grace came after examining a bit more of the truth.
And the truth of the matter is, I've been served french toast all my life...and I have HATED french toast ALL MY LIFE. There's nothing you can say or do...no tweaks to the recipe that you can make...that will ever make me like it. I hate it...plain and simple.
My kids are the same way. Take my Blonde Warrior for instance. That child has hated apple sauce from the very first time I ever served it to him. HATED IT! I think it is safe to assume that he MAY always hate it. When he is an adult, he will obviously have the luxury of avoiding it, but up until this point in our family, he HAD to eat it. END OF STORY.
That night, the Hubs and I sat all the kids down and afforded them LUXURY. We gave them the option of picking ONE "pass" food that they never had to eat under OUR roof. (Eating at other people's homes is a different story as we should all learn to be gracious and grateful guests.)
Once each person's "pass" was selected, it became a permanent "pass". In other words, he/she couldn't suddenly choose a new "pass" at each new meal. In a few years, we might revisit the "pass" list and make necessary revisions should the need arise. But for now, the "pass" list looks like this...
- The Hubs - any soups or stews with large chunks of tomatoes in it
- Me - french toast dunkers
- Sweetie Pea - peas
- Super Boy - plain brown rice
- Blonde Warrior - apple sauce
- Greased Lightning - mashed potatoes
- The Newbie - too early to tell
Although I still serve ALL of the foods on this list, I only expect six out of seven mouths to eat all of them. The added benefit of affording a "pass" at the dinner table has been a change in attitude. While I can't see into my children's hearts, I have noticed what appears to be a much better attitude about having to eat everything on their plates.
I've found that they are much more willing to eat "gross" foods with a smile simply because we've afforded them the LUXURY to avoid those food items that they have deemed "REEEEEAAAAAALLY gross".
We've chosen to PARENT.
But, we've also chosen GRACE.