We are a family that stays home to eat. We don’t have a ton of money to spend on meals out, and with kids ages 2 and 4, it’s often just easier to stay home, anyway.
Jack and Viv are pretty good eaters — they love scrambled eggs, hummus, spinach-stuffed shells and pesto. Viv would eat an entire bunch of broccoli on her own, and chase it with a sweet potato and pint of blueberries, if you’d let her. And Jack will eat as much chili as you’ll spoon into a bowl for him.
They have their quirks: They both love rice, hate mashed potatoes and love pizza. They won’t eat salad. Viv loves apples, Jack loves oranges. And everyone loves chocolate milk, graham crackers with frosting and any kind of cookie, particularly “sprinkle cookies,” as Viv calls them.
We don’t exactly cater to them when it comes to meal planning, but I try to have something they’ll like, and we make them at least try everything. Lately it seems like they’re getting more adventurous with food, which makes me happy.
So this weekend, when I did most of my cooking for the week, I made a lentil soup. It was our meal plan for Tuesday — I plan all my meals every week, write the menu down and post it, so there is no confusion and we don’t waste food. I sat at work that day and debated making them something else — maybe a grilled cheese with the soup as a side dish. But then I decided, no, they’ll eat the soup.
They were starving after school, and I was more than a little cranky after work. I also had some French bread and butter to go with the soup ,but I knew if I pulled that out, that’s all they would eat.
So I waited, and did what any parent does: I bribed them with it.
“Eat your lentil soup, and you can have some bread,” I told them.
“How many bites?” Jack negotiated.
Viv picked all her carrots out, and ate those. Then cried for blueberries.
Jack ate the ham in the soup, and then cried until I picked out all the carrots and onions. Then he ate tiny bites, with just a few lentils on each spoonful.
Then they both cried for bread and butter.
I confess that by the time Philip got home, I was just DONE with dinner and done with parenting. I grabbed Harley’s leash and took him for a walk.
It’s tough to fight the good fight when it comes to dinner — to not cave and become a short-order cook. To realize they aren’t starving, and if they were, they would be grateful for some lentil soup. I’ve seen them both super hungry and gobbling whatever I put in front of them — including food they’d previously refused to eat.
One night Philip, Viv and I sat and ate bowls of ice cream for dessert while Jack cried. He eventually ate the ONE piece of broccoli on his plate and got his ice cream.
I know it’s worth it — to teach them that the world won’t cater to them, that they should be grateful for a nice meal, and that they should be polite when someone cooks for them.
But man. It’s lentil soup, you guys. Not poison.