I have been parenting for over 16 years. Raising kids who eat a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables is insanely important to me.
My older boys are incredible eaters. My 16 year old loves all vegetables. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, you name it. He loves it. My 14 year old son loves any fruit you put in front of him. Mangoes, peaches, grapes, apples.
I proudly told anyone who would listen that my parenting skills had led to their love of fruits and veggies. When other moms said their kids wouldn’t eat healthy, I would respond with some pompous comment like, “They will eat it if it’s all you offer them.”
Nine years later I had another little boy and learned to enjoy the taste of humble pie.
Colt ate his baby cereal with a gusto and I couldn’t wait to introduce him to the world of fruits and vegetables. I was sure he would love healthy food. You know, I had this thing nailed.
I will never forget the moment I sat in front of him with a a jar of baby apples. I spooned them into his mouth with a smile and was stunned to see the twisted look that came over his face. I giggled as he choked down the first bite and spooned up another expecting that this time it would go down a little smoother. I put the tiny rubber tipped spoon of apple yummieness in his mouth. “Mmmmm,” I said. His face got all twisty again and then he spit that very yumminess all over my face like a volcanic eruption.
It was the same with every fruit and vegetable I tried. I read book after book, article after article and did exactly as I was instructed to do with a crappy little defiant eater. Nothing worked. NOTHING. Meanwhile my friends’ kids all shoved down fruits and vegetables like they were Christmas cookies. It was easy to recognize the look of judgment on their faces as I fed my kid grilled cheese and chicken nuggets. I had seen it so often on my own.
At home, I was desperate to get back to being the perfect parent. I would give Colt cereal at every meal with a tiny bit of masked pureed fruit or vegetable to ease him into being a healthy eater. As long as I did the exact 9/10 ratio of cereal to fruit or veggie, he would eat it.
As he got older, I continued the process. I would chop up spinach until it was so minuscule you needed a microscope to find it and slip it into his quesadilla along with a small dollop of sweet potato. Then in preschool he learned that vegetables were green and even those minuscule pieces of spinach were no match for my picky eater. Since he knew I had pulled one over on him, he inspected each piece of food I put in front of him like a CSI agent. No longer could I trick him.
Around that same time my mother-in-law came to visit. I equated being a good mom to feeding my kids healthy foods and I’ll be darned if this kid was going to make me look bad in front of this amazing woman who had raised ten healthy children. So the first night of her stay I whipped up a fabulous meal of tri-tip, potatoes, salad and steamed broccoli. I put the standard pile of chicken nuggets on Colt’s plate, added a piece of string cheese and because I needed to show my mother-in-law what a good mom I was, I added one piece of steamed broccoli.
“I don’t like green,” Colt said.
“Well, you don’t have to eat the whole thing,” I said in my best June Cleaver voice, ” But you do have to try it.”
He started to cry. At the urging of his older brothers, his Oma and the rest of us at the table, he pulled it together and agreed to take one tiny bite of the broccoli. YES, I thought, finally I have won.
He picked up the broccoli, inspected it, squared his shoulders, took a deep breath and then took one tiny bite. As he chewed, that twisty look came across his face again. Oh dear, I thought, just swallow it. SWALLOW IT.
I watched in horror as he tried to swallow and then started gagging. SWEET BABY CARROTS, I thought, this isn’t going to end well. At that exact moment he puked all over the table. And by all over? I mean all over. As in, DINNER OVER because no one wants to eat trip-tip covered in vomit.
My wise mother-in-law said to me that night as I humbly cleaned puke off of the dinner plates, “He will eat it all someday. Just keep trying slowly, you’ll see.” I felt like a failure.
He will be six on Christmas Eve and things have improved. He now eats apples and the grilled tips of asparagus. That is something, right? My mother-in-law was right as she always is and that night taught me a valuable lesson about judging other mothers. Don’t. That which you judge will be your challenge.
Children’s health is at the top of every mother’s mind. What’s your favorite tip for raising a healthy baby? By replying, you will be entered to win an exclusive Million Moms Challenge Gift Pack, which includes an iPad2, a custom-made Million Moms Challenge pendant and a $50 donation in your name to Global Giving.
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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Million Moms Challenge. The opinions and text are all mine. Contest runs November 14 to December 18, 2011. A random winner will be announced by December 20, 2011.