I told the story I write about in this post as part of a talk I delivered to a group of pre-school parents last night. It’s a good reminder of how to avoid undermining our children’s potential for trying new foods. Since I wrote this piece ages ago, I thought I’d put it out there again for those of you who may have missed it the first time around.
An ongoing reel of memories seems to be part and parcel to raising kids. It’s kind of like living with little ghosts. I see their taut limbs draped across bedclothes while they sleep and flash back to a pair of chunky thighs curled up in a bassinet. I hear heavy footsteps coming down the hall, and recall the tiny patter of a toddler’s feet, along with the distinct sound of a diaper in motion. It was only yesterday, really.
For me, food memories are the most predominant of all. Like the time I took my daughter, Isabelle to brunch at friend’s house. Barely old enough to stand upright, she ambled over to a low table and snatched a blini with smoked salmon and crème fraiche from a serving platter. My first inclination was to bend down and say, “Oh honey, you’re probably not going to like that.” But a light bulb went off, and I realized I shouldn’t make any assumptions with regards to my kids’ food preferences.
Since then, I’m forever marveling over what they’ll eat without out blinking an eye: squid ink pasta, stinky cheese, seaweed salad. I wonder what would have happened if I had hesitated every time one of them wanted to try something unusual, or if I had refrained from cooking foods not considered “kid friendly.”
As parents, we have enormous influence over how our children perceive the world. Tell them they won’t like grilled eggplant, and they just might not. Let them overhear you groan about how they “don’t like the food I cook” or “never eat green vegetables” and perhaps they’ll live up to their reputation. I’m no psychologist, but consider the possibility that saying, “you are picky” or “you don’t eat that” may only bolster a behavior or pattern you may not want to reinforce.
The fact that my daughters’ muscled thighs will give way to girlish curves at some point is inevitable. But the potential for what my children, or yours, will choose in the world is open. Give them a little room, and maybe they’ll surprise you by reaching for that smoked salmon-crowned canapé after all.