Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Picky Eaters part 2-- Children Are People Too

Yes, yes, yes! A good friend of mine responded to my last blog post and gave me permission to share it anonymously here.  This is what I love, this interaction, this exchange of ideas.  This is what we can do for each other, folks!

Ok, so first, I've been following a family on Facebook called The Libertarian Homeschooler. She is the one that got me thinking. Then, in light of leaving the Bible and God's authority, it has made me come up with better reasons than, "God said so, so I said so," to say to my kids. Which then begs the question, why do I say so and why should they listen to me? So, then I have to ask myself, what authority do I really have over my kids, except that they live in the house that I provide for them, but does that mean they aren't still their own people, with their own desires, needs and ways of expressing themselves? 
In the Biblical model we are taught to believe "because the Bible says so" and "because the parent says to." But don't we want to raise kids who are able to think completely on their own without influence from us or the Bible or anyone else? Clearly, there will be some influence, but we want to raise independent thinkers. That is impossible to do in a biblical model, I think, so it's hard to let go of this idea that I have complete authority over my kids. I mean, they aren't really "mine" are they? They are only in my care because I birthed them and they are somewhat helpless until such a time as they can fend for themselves. My job is to provide food/shelter/protection/support until such a time as they are ready to be on their own.

Which brings us to your issue of food. And everything I'm saying, I'm saying just as much to myself as I re-think my role as parent in my world, so don't feel like I'm picking on you. 
What does it really matter if they turn up their nose at a certain dish? If it were a table full of adults in your dining room instead of a table full of kids, would we even for a second stop to question their reason for passing on a certain dish, or making them defend their reasons for wanting a piece of fruit instead of a pasta dish? Do I ever for a second consider myself ungrateful if I don't want to eat liver when it is served to me, or do I just know I don't like liver? Or pasta. Or whatever it is that I think my kids should eat, but won't. Why is it so bad for our kids to decide they would rather go hungry or to comment that they don't care for something and would rather not partake of it? I mean, if they are forgoing dinner because they are looking forward to ice cream, then maybe we need to help them see how those are bad choices for their health, but if they are choosing a piece of fruit instead, what is really so bad about that? I don't know... I want to raise autonomous kids who know their own mind, and that means they need to be able to make decisions for themselves, even the foods they eat, but that also means I have to allow them to make decisions, even ones that I don't like or agree with! Eeeek! Now, I think there is a way to teach being gracious and polite and such, but to make them eat something that they don't like just because we think it's the way to do things, isn't really respecting them as people is it?

One thing that has really made me go huh? is to ask myself if I would do the same thing to either me or another adult. So, if I were made to finish a meal I didn't like, how would that make me feel? Would I appreciate it? Would I learn a lesson or would I just be pissed that I was made to do something that I didn't want to do? Especially something as benign as eating something that was gross to me. In the whole scheme of things, taste is so individual and also so not a big deal, right? I think part of my thinking that it is a big deal is because mealtime is so much about authority/control in the biblical model that is still seeping through in my parenting without me even realizing it. So much stuff to get rid of, but man, it's hard!

Holy pasta, I love this woman!  It's such a pleasure to parent alongside her.  My response:
Thank you sooooo much! You've hit the nail on the head, methinks. Denny and I go back and forth with these conversations. What's funny is that I struggled with that whole, "God said so, I said so" authority thing early on, as I wrote about in my first book, and backed off on some of my former child-training methods. Denny, a long-time anarchist, oddly leaned more at first toward reigning the kids in a bit.  But we end up talking about these things at least once a week. 
 It's tricky, isn't it? Humans having such a long developmental stage is interesting.

We probably went too far with the food thing, too authoritative, but the thrust of our overall approach was one of attempting to help the children with some perspective. This is a way I think we can and should be helping our children. Not "Eat this because I said," but "Here are some reasons you might consider eating this without complaining." I realize I didn't wrap up the blog by saying what approach we would take from here on out. I’m actually not sure we decided on anything, we were just desperate to help them see some reasons their complaining is unpleasant.  I'm not inclined to force them to eat food they don't like, never have been.  I had a long talk with one of them, asked him to write up a list of foods he likes, and I'll do so with the other children, too.  We'll see if we can come up with some nutritious meals everyone enjoys. And I will invite them to help create them.  I said, "I'm a busy momma and I have nine people to feed, three times a day, every single day.   It's not always going to be food everyone likes.  But I'm more than willing to accept help in this area.  I want input, but I want it polite.  And I don't appreciate complaints from people who aren't willing to help."

You're so right; contrary to what we believed before, these children are not ours. You couldn't have explained it better.  I feel my oldest testing me from time to time, and stories of wild and "rebellious" teenagers have been coming our way. I told her, "If you want to do those things, you're absolutely free to.   You're your own person with your own choices to make, I'm just here to support you.  There may be limits to what Denny and I allow in our presence and under our roof, but we can talk about those things when you’re ready.” She appreciates it. I feel like she is growing tremendously and expects to crash into my boundaries any moment, but when we talk like this she relaxes. By giving her the freedom to be who she is, who she wants to be, I feel like I am giving her the freedom to make better choices for better reasons. I want her to have no one to rebel against and focus instead on being who she wants to be. Are their going to be bumps? Hell yeah. But I think this is the best way, and I think that as a result there will be fewer bumps than if I try to shape her into what I think she should be.

Anyone else?  Feel free to chime in in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. Well, I had a response via email but was denied permission to share it here when I requested it. But I'd like to give you the gist of it and share part of my response, in case anyone else came away with a similar impression after reading my posts.

    This reader thinks I'm making a mountain out of a molehill with the food thing. She thinks we are guilt-tripping the children and should just let them eat or not eat and that there wouldn't be an issue if Denny and I would stop making it one. There were some hard words for me about my recent freedoms as well as attacks on Denny which were uncalled for, all of which I chose to ignore. (Some people can't accept the notion I could go from a man like Bobby to a truly kind and considerate man like Denny. And living free equals living in sin in the minds of some.) My response:

    The impression I get from your email is that you seemed so eager
    to correct me and point out my "hypocrisy" that you overlooked the
    point of the posts. Maybe the mistake was in my writing; it wouldn't
    be the first time. I hoped the second blog post with my friend's
    letter would amplify and clarify the first. The point was not so much
    about getting the children to eat as it was about the role of parents
    in educating their children, reasoning with them, helping them gain
    perspective. I see where you're coming from and respect that.
    Whatever works and choose your battles. But we can force them to eat
    or we can let them eat whatever they want and if that's the end of it
    then we will still fall short as parents because we're dictating and
    expecting them to "just accept this" instead of taking the opportunity
    to educate them, to openly discuss something with them. It can be
    "just food," but it can also be a teachable moment, a moment for all
    of us to grow.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.