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The ‘joys’ of feeding children

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I’m a nutritionist by profession. In every other waking moment of my life, I’m a mother.

And by golly! Some days it’s literally the most difficult aspect of my life.

I remember when my daughter first said the word ‘mum’. It was in context, as opposed to just babbling something that just sounded like ‘mum’. And it was so magical! I wanted her to say my name all the time. “Do it again,” I’d chime in a whimsical voice as I peered into her little one-year-old eyes. “What’s my name?”

Now? Some days I’m so switched off from the constant bellowing of my maternal label that my son resorts to holding my face in his little palms and yelling! I’m shocked back into reality (away from my secret island getaway, where my bronzed skin ripples over my six-pack) and reply, “Yes my darling, how may I serve your every need this time?”

You know what? Some days, I just feel that they only want me around because I feed them. First, it was my breasts. And now? When I pick them up from school, as we play at the local park, as we clean up from one meal and sometimes even as we’re starting another meal, they’re asking about what I’m serving at the next one. “Mum! What’s for lunch?” “Mum! What are we having for dinner?” “Mum! I’m hungry!” “Mum! When is it afternoon tea time?”

Good lord! Seriously! Do I have to feed you people again?

So, not only do I find that my entire life as a caregiver, in its simplicity, revolves around not letting my offspring die of starvation, it’s also a noble quest that will ‘build character’ (what a teacher used to tell me when I went through hard times).

Oh, the joys of feeding children.

Here are a few treasured moments that feeding your kids will create for you. Can you relate?

1. Making them breakfast only to find they don’t want their breakfast, they want your breakfast. No breakfast for you.

2. Yesterday they devoured spaghetti Bolognese. Now completely out of the blue: “Me not like that.”

3. Child will only eat cooked carrots. Cut in the shape of Mickey Mouse ears.

4. Child does not like broccoli. Not on the dinner plate. Not on the table. Not even being in the same room as broccoli is acceptable.

5. Child goes all day refusing to drink water. Goes to Grandma’s. Guzzles entire glass of cordial. Asks for more.

6. Toddler won’t eat anything fancy at home. Will only eat plain crackers, white bread and plain pasta. Refuses all other meals. Eats everything at childcare. Curry, Mexican, chilli concarne, lasagne, vegetables and anything else on offer.

7. If you asked a three-year-old to create their ultimate diet, it would be yoghurt, fruit and crackers.

8. Child has dissolved into tears at the dinner table. Why? Because the spinach touched the mashed potato. How dare it.

9. Child refuses to try anything new when offered/coaxed/begged by parent. Person they have never met before at random family outing invites them to try the same thing and they eat it without complaint (even worse if they LIKE it!)

10. You spend hours in the kitchen, slaving over a hot stove creating these special ‘child-friendly’ rissoles which hide vegetables, but are ‘sure to be a hit with the little people’ only to have your child throw them across the room. Tomorrow night they can bloody well have toast.

11. You explain to child that they need to eat something 20 times before they’ll like it. They use this reason back at you as to why they should have ice cream after dinner.

12. Your child comes into the kitchen while you’re cooking dinner. “Oh mum, can we please not have this brand of wraps? I feel like they’re a little rough on my tongue.” “Oh really?” you think to yourself. “I’m pretty sure the starving kids in Africa would be happy to trade places. You ungrateful little…”

13. No need to feed the dog. Just let it live under the table. There’s more food down there than in your child’s stomach.

14. When your kids start making their own breakfast, vegemite, peanut butter, jam and margarine may as well be in the same jar.

15. Teenager open the fridge full of fruit, vegetables and other foods that require some preparation: “There’s no food in this house.”

16. Teenager asks if it’s ‘safe’ to eat the days old takeaway despite it smelling weird and there being multiple other choices in the fridge.

17. Weetbix is actually a lot like concrete and needs to be wiped up immediately. There also needs to be a warning on the packaging. DO NOT ALLOW TO DRY.

18. The first time your children drink soft drink they will think they’ve died and gone to heaven. You will die on the inside. And then you’ll get over it.

19. Teenager will not eat for the entire day. They will then eat you out of house and home from 3 pm till midnight.

20. Going out to restaurants with your kids is like paying lots of money to parent your children in public.

In all seriousness, I know that despite the challenges of feeding kids, sticking to some clear household rules, building positive relationships with food and making healthy eating ‘normal’ pays dividends in the long run. For their health and your sanity.

Children are a complex mixture of their genetics and their environment. And how you create the home environment actually has a profound effect on their eating habits that will most likely stay with them for most of their life.

If you’re struggling with a fussy child and it’s getting ‘beyond a joke’, my team at The Healthy Eating Hub can help.

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