Because French kids eat everything...

Welp, tonight’s dinner didn’t go so well.

We’ve taken on the task of teaching Liam to eat well (at least, better) because of this book I’m reading, French Kids Eat Everything. This is how dinner went:

I set three place settings at the table. Liam’s plate had exactly what ours had on it: Mexican beef stroganoff and salad. We all sat down to eat, and Liam picks up his fork before making a face at what he sees on his plate. Bypassing the casserole, he stabs some lettuce leaves and takes a bite. I smile to myself, thinking, “Wow! This is going to be easy. My boy’s eating salad!” He then takes two more bites. Then he spits out the third bite. Uh-oh. We don’t let him spit out food (and he knows this), so I correct him (we’ll leave it at that). He takes one more bite of salad and actually swallows it. But he refuses to touch the stroganoff.

Well, mimicking the French way of eating, I decide that Liam is required to taste everything on his plate. He doesn’t have to like it or finish it, but he does have to at least taste it. But how do you convince a child to try a bite without forcing it down his throat, using threats or bribes, or smothering it in ketchup (all of which I’m vehemently against, thanks to those darned French people…They’ve completely ruined me!)? Kelley and I actually begin to discuss this under our breath, so Liam can’t hear us trying to decide his fate. Of course, he knows we’re making all of this up as we go along, and he begins to play to our weaknesses. (By the way, at this point, we’ve explained that he has to try his food, and dinner isn’t over until he does. He’s had three meltdowns already.) So, he looks at Kelley with tears in his eyes and says, “Daddy?” in this soft, pitiful voice as he lifts his arms up for Kelley to hold him.

“Stand strong,” I mutter under my breath. Kelley, who’d already slumped over to hug Liam, stiffens up a little and tells Liam he loves him, and he has to taste his food. The struggle continues. We’re losing. It kind of goes downhill from here, and I’m ashamed to say we tried putting the fork in his mouth through his tightly pursed lips, threatening and bribing. (Way to stick to our guns, right?) Not our finest moment. Kelley has his head resting on his folded arms on the table, wishing this could be over. “You’re not the only one who feels like crying,” he tells Liam. Liam looks at him, then clutches his bear and sucks on his fingers, staring straight ahead.

Then Kelley and I simultaneously get the giggles. Something about seeing Liam just sitting there calmly like that sets us off. We can’t stop laughing. Liam starts laughing, too, just to be included. I think it’s nervous laughter. We just needed a way out, so I finally tell Liam that if he takes a bite, he can have a cookie. Just one bite. Liam brightens and says, “OK!” I put the bite in his mouth, and he cringes and spits it back out. Dinner over. At least he tasted it, right? But since he spit the bite out, no cookie. Sort of defeated and really exhausted, we put him to bed.

The thing is, he did so good yesterday! He ate most of his stroganoff the night before and loved it. So I wasn’t being unreasonable. I’m not being unreasonable, people! I just want to teach my child to eat well.

It can be done. I’m convinced, and no one can convince me otherwise. Because French kids, they eat everything. EVERYTHING. There are no short-order meals or ketchup-doused anything. The French believe that picky eaters are made, not born; that a child only dislikes a food that he hasn’t been exposed to enough; that eating well is a skill that must be taught, and it’s the parents’ responsibility to teach them. They take food education VERY seriously over there.

This book is changing my life. Seriously. It’s completely changing the way I think about meals, about food, and about my precious picky eater. So, I’m on a journey to revolutionize mealtimes in our household. Stay tuned to see how this turns out!