Monday, March 01, 2010

Veggie Bombs (or how parenting makes you a big fat liar)

All right. I fold.

When I first heard about Jessica Seinfeld's "Deceptively Delicious" method several years ago (pre-kids), I smugly thought, "What the hell? Why doesn't she just teach her kids to eat veggies the old-fashioned way?"

Chalk this up to the many other preconceptions I had about parenting. SO much easier said than done.

We started out right with the Teege. Strictly breast milk for the first four months, slowly introduced (organic) formula, offered him every baby veggie food imaginable (which he happily accepted). Once he started eating "big people" food, we found that he loved fruit--esp. bananas, berries, and apples. "Ah," we thought, "what healthy eating habits we've instilled in our brilliant offspring!"

Then His Highness started developing PREFERENCES. No matter how many times we offered veggies with dinner, they were roundly refused. For a time we would just give him something else for dinner, but quickly realized that was going to be a slippery slope (and NR kept having flashbacks of his own mother bellowing to her picky charges, "I AM NOT A SHORT-ORDER COOK!"). So we continued to offer whatever we were eating, but started working out a bartering system ("If you eat one more piece of chicken/strawberry/please God anything besides macaroni, then you can have another biscuit.")

Well, when we met with our pediatrician last week, she set us straight--that while we thought we were calling the shots, clearly it was the other way around. Just keep offering "your" food, she encouraged--don't force him to clean his plate, but make it clear that there are no other options. She also suggested the Jessie Seinfeld method--pureeing veggies into sauces, just to allay our fears that the child was turning into a giant chicken nugget.

So I come downstairs the other night to find NR commandeering the Cuisinart, blending up a steamed veggie medley, which he then froze into "veggie bombs." He mixed some in with our spaghetti sauce the other day, and darnit if Teege didn't gobble it right up.

Is this teaching him how to eat veggies? Absolutely not. I get it. And we'll continue to offer real veggies with dinner (which will continue to be ignored until one magical day when our backs are turned.) But in the meantime, I know that he's getting some of the nutritional benefits.

This is just one example of many parenting philosophies we formally dissed and now embrace. I used to roll my eyes at the wild child lashing out at a harried mom in the supermarket ("Ha! Clearly she has zero control over this miscreant! I, however, will be a beacon of calm with my future angel.") Riiiight.

I certainly still judge parents--who doesn't? And as a teacher, it's almost impossible not to (although not necessarily right.)

It goes both ways. For example, there are those who think NR and I are nuts for our anti-spanking policy. We certainly weren't raised in hippy-dippy families where discipline didn't exist. We both got spanked; we both survived. We just don't want to hit our own kids. We're not expecting medals for it.

So what does that mean? It means a LOT of continual communication/agreement between the two of us as partners. A lot of research into which methods we think will work, and which won't. A lot of creativity (if I start the "1, 2, 3" warning, I'd better have an actual consequence--and firmness to follow through--by the time I get to 3.) The knowledge that although he's not yet 3, Teege certainly understands a lot more than he lets on (including how to charm the paint off the walls.) A lot of patience when dealing with the supertantrums and requisite time-out chair (thank God for yoga--seriously!)

And a LOT of humility in knowing that we'll screw up--a lot. So in the meantime, it's veggie bombs and time-out chairs. :)