How many times have you heard this? Unless you’re one of those [insert your own adjective] mothers who didn’t ever introduce refined sugar into your child’s diet, it’s usually followed by a request for a packet of crisps/sweets/chocolate/ice-cream/biscuits i.e. anything apart from fruit, veg or water. Speaking for myself, this happens daily. For example, as soon as the girls clock me in the school playground at pick up, they’re on my case – “what have you got in your bag, mummy?”, “did you bring treats, mummy?”, “AWWWW! WHY NOT?! I’M HUNGRY!” Meanwhile, I’m nervous-laughing and trying to shush them until we get out of ear and eyeshot of the judging mothers who have come armed with wholegrain bread and cucumber sandwiches (no butter). At which point I reprimand them harshly for exposing me.
Don’t get me wrong, I do give my kids fruit, veg and water. In fact, kid 1+1 is a little bit obsessed with water. Anyhow, I digress.
And, how many times have you researched a family-friendly menu, slaved over a hot stove to recreate said menu for the family, then dished it out, only to be met with shouts of “but I don’t like spaghetti!” or “I can see peppers in this, mummy” or “I wanted plain rice/pasta/toast!”? And then an hour later, while the bowls of cold food are still sitting uneaten on the table, and the kids are being forced up the stairs to get ready for bed, they wail in unison “BUT I’M STILL HUNGRY!” Ungrateful spawn.
Luckily, despite their protestations, my kids haven’t ever experienced real hunger. We recently went on a family holiday where we met the most amazing kids who typically survive on one meal a day. Kids who aren’t fussed one way or another whether there are spring onions or peas in their egg fried rice. Kids for whom sweets are a luxury and not a daily treat. Now let me add some context. They weren’t drinking water out of muddy, typhoid-infected puddles. They weren’t making clothes for high street retailers in sweatshops from 6am to 10pm. They were just normal kids and that was their life. It’s ridiculous that I can actually say this, but, according to Save the Children statistics, hunger still kills almost 3 million children every year and leaves hundreds of millions of them starving and malnourished. And let’s not forget the UK’s own poverty problem and the fact that the government is still not on track to end childhood poverty, which is apparently in the millions, before 2020. It’s all made me think about how much my kids take food for granted, how I created such fussy-eating monsters and how much food is wasted in our house.
Believe me, it goes against everything that was instilled into me as a child, but, I’m forever cutting crusts off toast and the ‘hard’ ends off croissants and chucking them in the bin, rather than eating them myself. Mainly becasue I don’t want to add weight to my already burgeoning waistline. But, nevertheless, it’s still wastage and I still feel the guilt. I find myself scraping almost a quarter of the food that I initially dished out off the plate and into the bin before loading it into the dishwasher, rather than fighting the good fight of getting the kids to just finish what’s on their plates. I am filled to the brim with self-loathing everytime I make a seperate meal for each of the kids because they won’t eat what The Photographer and I eat or even sometimes what each other eats. Despite this, I still enable them. I still allow them to get away with it. What’s that all about? Love or laziness? Or a bit of both? I’m not quite sure yet. But, I’m not alone. Just take a look at the contributions of some of the 147,000 followers on @mykidcanteatthis… This page makes me feel so much better about myself. So when faced with food refusal and defiance, I whip out my phone, click on the Instagram icon, cheer myself with another parent’s misery and carry on with my day.
So I often find myself coming back to the food waste/poverty problem that I am struggling with. I’m not necessarily saying that I/you/we should be donating to an international child poverty charity, or dropping a (5p) bag of our weekly shop into a food bank, although that would be a lovely thing to do. I’m just saying that I/you/we could think about what we can actually control and some ways to tackle the unnecessary waste.
Now, at this point, some of you may be thinking that perhaps I should stop trying to forcefeed my kids when they are obviously not very hungry. Or perhaps I should make a bit more of an effort with what I make so that it is appealing to them. Or perhaps I should just go all militant and insist that they eat or face the sanctions that will be applied. I think I have tried that and I think that it didn’t work.
Anyway, I took the time to explain the whole child poverty situation to my kids and suggested that, accordingly, they may want to actually finish all of their dinner while it was still hot. Their rebuttal was an offer to post the food to the starving children, because “they might like onions and brocolli”. *reluctant side eyes*
What do you do when your kids refuse to eat what you give them?