Parenting Tip: Keep Them In the Dark

Have I mentioned that Alden refuses many foods? A million times? Is this secretly a blog about a kid who won’t eat? Is there anything more boring?

It’s not as bad as it seems, considering how much attention I give it here. My big concern is his health, of course. But it also touches on my ego, though, and the hubris of assuming I could make my kid into a “good” eater by “doing it right.”

Ruth Riechl (love!) wrote an essay (I think in Gourmet — I can’t find it) calling for the end of children’s menus in restaurants. Amen!, said I. (Except for the part where no mention was made of server smaller, less costly version of regular menu items for the kids. Not everyone eats for free, dear Ruth.) The idea was that kids live on chicken nuggets and grilled cheese because we don’t challenge their palates, we don’t do the work to introduce new things. Ha!, say I.

I want my kids to be adventurous eaters. I want them to love food and all its implications like I do. I really felt like I could make that happen. Except I couldn’t with Alden. Turns out my kids are who they are, rather than raw clay for me to mold as I please.

All of this is preamble to a flash of inspiration that helped.

Alden will eat chicken salad. Meaning, chopped chicken in mayonnaise. Last week, facing down two hungry kids and a looming bedtime, I grabbed a fresh container of chicken salad as an easy means to get dinner done. My heart sank when I opened it and saw tiny flecks of carrots. I would very much like Alden to eat any carrots, including tiny flecks, but I knew we were in for a  total refusal. So I flipped off the lights. I told him that they were hurting my eyes, so we were going to eat dinner with just the lights from the adjascent kitchen. He could see his food. But he couldn’t SEE his food. Ten minutes later his plate was clean. I can’t get a bowl of broccoli in him that way, but we have successful gotten small, soft vegetables into pasta sauce and chicken salad, passed off tuna salad as chicken salad, and hidden cheese under the sauce on his pizza.

My favorite part of this tip is that the only effort it demands is the energy to flip a light switch.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Brilliant. Gets him to eat veggies and saves on the electricity bill. I’m stealing this.


  2. Posted by Jeannie on September 7, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    Love it. I hate the way some people brag about their kids’ adventurous palates, as if it’s all due to their personal merit. I really don’t know anyone who offered their child exclusively french fries once solids started.


  3. My friend Chip wouldn’t eat anything. And he had to have one fork for his meat and another for everything else. Then he went to college and suddenly he eats mussels and sushi and vegetables.

    His sister, her whole life, won’t eat anything her parents ask her to try, but if I ask her to try it, she always does, because she figures I don’t care if she ever eats it again, and because she knows I know SAS about food.

    His brother has always been so open to any food at all that from the time he was two his parents have had to fix him his own artichoke.

    All of this was to say kids are weird. And so am I: carrots in chicken salad are weird.


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