|Liam having fun with the salad spinner. And yes, at lunchtime he was still in his PJs. So was I.|
It took me a while, since every few minutes I stopped reading to jot down notes (I could have noted every word, really), but I finally finished French Kids Eat Everything. I have to admit, I'm feeling a lot more hopeful about our food éducation now than I did when I started reading.
I'm a rule follower. For a right-brained creative type, I like hard and fast, tried and true formulas. I take great comfort in knowing that X plus Y equals Z every time. So I began this journey expecting to find 10 rules that, when applied, would absolutely change our son's eating habits for the better. What actually happened was a renewal of my feelings about food. I have had food issues for as long as I can remember. I have a vivid memory from when I was seven, riding past a restaurant called Fat Tuesday, and getting a sinking feeling that I was, indeed, overweight. (Isn't that silly?) Later that afternoon, I remember being at my cousin's house, asking for carrots because I felt I needed to diet. At seven years old! Food has never been pleasurable for me; every bite is obligatory and guilt-ridden.
But there's nothing like having children to motivate us to change, because the last thing we want is for our children to pick up our bad habits, right? I started parenthood resolved to keep my children from having food or weight issues: we would eat only the healthiest choices and learn to despise junk food. But what have created is an anxious environment about food, where eating vegetables is a chore, and treats are forbidden fruit. And if I indulge in a sweet treat, it's done after Liam is in bed so he doesn't ask me for any and, I'm afraid, catapult him into a lifelong struggle with obesity.
I identify so strongly with the French way of eating, and parenting, because it's like a breath of fresh air in an atmosphere where I, and undoubtedly my whole family, have been suffocating.
So, these are the rules. And when articulated, they have the ability to prevent power struggles and arguments between parent and child, simplify life, and create structure and boundaries, which the whole family will find security in. As Le Billon puts it, food rules are the basis for good habits and routines.
But the key is moderation. And if I could only pick one rule to follow, it would be the last, and perhaps most important, rule: Mealtimes should be joyful, so for the love of God, relax. Listen to music and dance in the kitchen together while you cook. Create beautiful table settings together. Sing silly songs about food, decorate foods together, and ENJOY the community of mealtimes together. Children will be much more likely to eat if it's fun.
You haven't heard the last of our food renaissance. Even though I'm finished with the book (which you just absolutely HAVE to read, seriously), our food adventures are just beginning!