Hey there Lovely Ladies!
There's been a lovely mix of stuff going on this week - new artwork revealing itself to the world (update soon), photography, the usual juggle of house/home and cooking.
Today, I am wanting to share a problem that is common for so many families/children - fussy eating! I'm also sharing lots of photos (further down) of what I have cooked this week and why I love to cook.
So, what do you do with your children when they exhibit fussy/faddy behaviour at mealtimes?
Good question. I have been dealing with this very problem for seven long years now and at times it has been hell.
Joseph, my eight year-old, started to have issues with food when he was about one year old. Up to then, he had been a really good 'tucker'. Looking back, I think he was just exerting a newfound streak of independence that got way out of control!
Long story short, over time it became a lot worse until he was refusing lots of food. Of course, as parents you become desperate and willing to do anything to get your child to eat. So, bit by bit, he ate less and less foods that we were eating and more a more meals that were just catered for him. Not to mention that mealtimes were a thing to dread. All the while, we got increasingly worried, frustrated and eventually scared.
We had asked for help numerous times and I had been treated as if I was over anxious or worrying too much. After numerous visits to the doctor and health visitor, we were eventually advised to take uneaten food away and not to provide any other alternative until the next meal time. To not give snacks so as to ensure he was optimally hungry at each meal time. They maintained that 'he would not starve himself' and that after a few days he would see the 'big picture' and realise his folly and then miracuously start eating 'normal' again.
No. He did lose weight and the situation became worse. (I was heavily pregnant with Benjamin at this point and emotionally raw!). I just knew that something had to be done and things were not going to just turn around on their own. Eventually, after having done some of my own research, I made an appointment with a food clinic and slowly but surely started the journey towards food 'normality'. Thank goodness I took the initiative and got help independently.
That was six years ago and we still are on that journey to a degree but nothing like before. We only needed to visit the food clinic a few times and then we were signed off. However, we still have regular minor blips and hurdles but for the most part its workable. Our youngest son, Benjamin is six and he knows his own mind too but we have been down that road once before! Things are thankfully less complicated with him and if he likes something he will eat it with relish. If he doesn't like something, he will at least try it without much hassle (usually).
Things don't always go swimmingly though and here is what happened a few days ago in our home.
This week we had a blip (or I did)...
I had purchased some lovely pork chops (Guitar Man - aka my husband, Robert loves meat). I decided to put them in the crockpot (slow cooker) with some thinly sliced potatoes, onion, fresh thyme, stock, seasonings, dijon mustard, wine, etc. I browned the meat, onions and mushrooms first and then put everything on to cook for the day. Wow, I felt serene in the knowledge that I had created a lovely meal for my family that evening. I imagined that the boys would come home from school, smell the meal, we would eat together as a family and they would be asking for seconds, raving over my amazing cooking abilities.
When I presented my creation, it was met with:
'yuk, don't like the look of that'.
'Oh no, that's not for me is it?'
'Can I have some cereal?'
My husband, bless him - positively noshed it down - (just as well!) Mia Diva Dog was bouncing around doing cartwheels to get her 'laughing tackle' around the meal (see below as an example). By this point, she had jumped up next to Robert at the table peering most intently at his plate (Joseph and Robert sit on a cusioned bench).
What was I doing?
I was finding it difficult to eat mine... All the serenity I had felt that morning was ebbing away into the ether. I knew (in a logical way) that the meal was cooked well - you could have offered it in a restaurant and it wouldn't have been out of place. However, my children's response was utterly damning and my dreams, visions of 'eating bliss' went out of the window.
Old feelings returned with great impact!
I tried to track my feelings and put a name to them but all that came was sadness, anger, resentment, bitterness and a deep down ache that I couldn't 'provide' for my family. All these irrational thoughts were whizzing around in my head. It's amazing what rubbish your mind comes up with sometimes.
Of course the boys were oblivious to all of my 'stuff' and I tried my best to hide my thoughts. They still hadn't really touched their meal when Robert finished his (with second helpings).
I left quite a bit of mine and started to clear the table. I felt like an angry child and wanted to stamp my feet, kick the cooker and say 'its just not fair'. I've put my time/energy/love into cooking this food. Can't you see that cooking for me is all a part and parcel of my love for you all? If you reject my food, you reject me. Wow.
At this point, I decided to head upstairs and lick my wounds in privacy. My Beloved stayed with the boys to 'encourage' them to at least try the meat, potatoes etc. I gazed outside the window whilst lying on the couch trying to find some inner wisdom.
I returned downstairs about five minutes later and both of them had just about finished their meat, tried the potatoes and eaten their vegetables. They didn't LOVE it but they did pretty good.
Anyway, I wrote in my journal that night. I still needed time to 'digest' what happened and my reaction to it. I closed my eyes and felt/saw the familiar glowing white light around me (when I meditate) and knew that it was okay. It was okay to be hurt. Okay to be angry and upset. I had faced and acknowledged my feelings and now needed to put things in perspective. The result?
This piece in my journal:
I needed to open my heart to other possibilities. Other ways of thinking, loving and being.
So, what did I learn this time around?
What can I share from this experience with other mums going through a similar experience?
- That there will probably be many times that I cook a meal and meet with the same reaction in the future and that that is okay. Its up to me how I respond and not to RE-act. There does need to be some ground rules set though.
Some ground rules and basic tips:
- Be flexible - situations are changing all the time.
- We were advised from the food clinic to offer healthy snacks and NOT to stop them. By stopping them, you are in fact encouraging your child's appetite to shrink. We were also advised to add an extra snack after dinner if he hadn't had very much to eat. Also, not to give low fat milk.
- Be patient - expect your child to try something many, many times before they may like it.
- For Joseph, it was a 'success', just touching a particular food. Then came putting it to his lips (not eating) and lastly trying a tiny bit. All of this of course took time and was built upon with lots of foods.
- Just because you might not like a particular food, don't assume your child won't as well.
- Be kind to yourself.
- Get help. If the help is not positive, look somewhere else.
- Be respective of your children but explain your position clearly and carefully.
- Let them help themselves to their food direct to their plate.
- Try not to show you are upset, angry etc. (Easier said than done but is really critical).
- Keep a healthy perspective on things. If your children are growing, healthy, lots of energy and good immune systems, then you must be doing something right!
- I have principles about food and they are important to me but they can't always be met how and when I want them to be. However, it doesn't mean to say that you compromise yourself and go against healthy eating recommendations just to get them to eat.
- That life goes on and that I will continue to make food for our family with great love and joy.
- We are all responsible for our own bodies and appetite.
- No alternatives on offer if a food/meal is not tried - (taking responsibility).
- Swapping sitting places at the table - (shakes things up a bit).
- Let them make decisions about food where possible ie. what veg to serve, bowls/servers to use etc.
- Get them to help in food prep., setting the table.
- If the child is old enough, let them know what various foods give our bodies as far as health giving benefits.
- Try to have at least one food item on the plate that you know they like.
- No leaving the table or other distraction methods if possible.
- Invite a child with a good, healthy eating habits to have dinner with you.
- Have ten mins or so, to finish after mum and dad leave the table, then its clearing up time.
- Never force a child to eat.
- Don't give up - its too important!
So, it's a powerful, magical, all encompassing journey this nurturing thing. Phew!
Now for a cup of tea....
PS. Today we had home-made lasagne and vegetables for lunch. Joseph ate it all!
In the meantime, here are some other things I have made this week. All worked out well and were mostly a 'success' with the boys.
Janey's Kitchen Conncoctions (this week):
* Baked plums (from my father in law's garden) with orange juice/zest, cinnamon stick etc. Gorgeous!
I froze little batches and get very excited when having this is for breakfast in the morning with porridge.
* Wheat-free peanut butter biscuits.
* Beetroot and vegetable soup.
* White spelt loaf from my breadmaker (hubby doesn't call me 'Appliance Queen' for nothing you know).
* Wheat free banana and chocolate chip muffins (below).
* Beef meatballs with spices (below). Froze these and had mid-week with a tasty home-made sauce.
* Various smoothies.
* Chia seed recipes.
* Orange and courgette cake (below). Yums! Made two and froze one.
* Brown rice salad with roasted aubergine and tomato.
* Cashew nut butter (below). Lovely to add to smoothies.
* Wheat free chocolate muffins.
* Baked nectarines.
I love to mess around with serving my 'offerings' in different bowls, using vintage silverware and odd bits of old china that I have. Basically anything that 'calls' me to use it.
I get so excited with this process and must have my camera to hand and sometimes human props too! I usually have willing participants in my boys - they just love having their photos taken and seeing themselves on screen!
I have oodles of cookbooks and love to dip in and out of them all. Mostly with success but sometimes not. My boys recently asked why I don't make the same meals more frequently. Thinking about this, I suppose I would get bored making the same thing over and over. I do have a few 'foundation' recipes though that get used regularly.
I've come to the conclusion that the making/creating of food is very important to me. It is only since I once again started my love affair with painting, that now with cooking, I have discovered it is actually an extension of my artwork/creativity - in other words its all moi!
When we cook we can't help but notice colour, taste, texture, smell. It's just like painting a picture, writing, making a piece of music - it all comes from the same place. For me its the equivalent of caressing the paint over the canvas and in turn the magic is weaved through the brush - so it is with the wooden spoon!
I love seeing the food in its various stages of cooking too. Too often you can dismiss the tomato, carrot or smooth contours of a plum but if you really look they are such things of beauty. The colours, smell, texture and then ultimately taste is intoxicating after having lovingly tended to them.
Cooking not only feeds us physically, it feeds us emotionally and this in turn feeds our very being - our soul, spirit - our very essence. Of course, cooking for your family, friends and ourselves is always a potential spiritual act of love. This is what I am going to focus on...
Love and happy eating to you all!
If you are interested in living your life with purpose, joy and love, contact Jane for Self-Discovery Coaching.