Friday, March 19, 2010

An interesting breakfast

Cameron and Ethan ate Chicken Cordon Bleu and broccoli for breakfast this morning.

I served it for dinner last night. It was, by all accounts, very delish. Shane and Colin and I all loved it.

But it 'looked weird'.

Ethan is not a great eater to begin with and has had his issues with eating, so I have always given him a pass when he doesn't want to eat something I serve for dinner. He is excused from the table and doesn't get any food for the rest of the night.

Cameron, on the other hand, is normally a great eater, and usually doesn't give me any trouble at mealtime. And I serve a lot of different foods--we eat a large variety of things. We are not your meat and potatoes, meat and potatoes, meat and potatoes family.

Most of the time, the boys all eat very well. And, on the times that they don't, I have always chalked it up to the fact that not every body likes every thing.

But lately, I've had some trouble with feelings of ungratefulness around here. And it is really bothering me.

  • Having a million toys (waaaaaaaaaaay too many, in my opinion) and "nothing to do."
  • Being able to go outside for the first time in months, yet being 'bored' after only a few minutes.
  • Me suggesting something to eat or do, only to have it met in return with a "but I want...." fill-in-the-blank with something other than what I have suggested.
  • Getting to do something they've been wanting or begging to do, and then wanting to do something else after only a few minutes.

I think that's why I blew last night when the boys didn't want to eat their dinner, simply because it 'seemed' yucky.

Only in America do we have the abundance to be able to pass over foods simply because they are not pleasing to our eyes or our taste buds.

We have so much, when others have so little.

And most of the time, we don't even realize it.

Even with my adult understanding, I'm sure I don't even fully grasp it. I don't realize how good I actually have it.

And now, I am paying the price of that callousness: my boys don't "get" gratefulness, in part, because I have not modeled grateful behavior.

I remember a time, not so very many months ago, when we didn't have a lot of income coming in. We were eating very, very simple meals for dinner....eggs, bean quesadillas, grilled cheeses.

And yet, I can't remember a time when I have ever been so grateful just to have enough money for that week to be able to grocery shop and put any kind of food on the table at all. We would spend several minutes in prayer before eating, thanking God for providing for us for this meal, and asking Him to continue to provide for us for the next one.

And now? We may have two or even three different choices on our plates. Elaborate and delicious meals, sometimes requiring lots of ingredients. Many nights, we have dessert.

And we don't even think twice about how good we now have it.

We still pray and thank God for our food. But it doesn't come from the same place of deep gratitude as those prayers once did, when we had so much less.

Why are we like that?

Easy. Human nature. Sin. I understand that. But I don't like it when it rears it's ugly head in my children, much less in me.

I feel lately like I want to send every bit of food we have over to hungry children, and then feed my children what they would eat in a third world country. I don't even think it would take a week for them to really see how good they have it. Maybe one or two meals of next to nothing, at the most.

By the way--you don't even have to go very far to find hungry children. We have them right here in America.

They are here. They are everywhere.

And, yet, we are unsatisfied.

It came to me last night.

"We are not wasting food any more. Not a bit of it. If you boys don't eat this food for dinner tonight, I am serving it to you for breakfast. I am going to serve it to you until you eat it."

They looked at me like I was crazy. They were astonished.

I meant what I said. Every word of it.

Let me be clear here. This food was not sitting on their plates because they had eaten and were full. It was sitting on their plates simply because it was not what they wanted. Had I served them pizza or chicken nuggets or dessert--all basically junk, mind you--they would have scarfed it down.

But they didn't care for the looks of this dinner.

So, so sad. It makes me ashamed.

And, yet, I know for certain that I am not the only mother who deals with this. There was just a great discussion on Facebook about this very subject the other day. It is, in fact, where I got the idea to serve them the food they refused at dinner for breakfast the next morning.

So, I did it.

It was hard. I felt really, really terrible. I almost caved--I thought about just letting them eat it for lunch, instead. I mean, really: broccoli for breakfast?


But I knew that that would have less of an impact. I knew they would wake up hungry--and they would want my zucchini bread or a bowl or two of yummy (read: sugary--and I buy the good-for-you stuff. It's still full of sugar.) cereal.

Instead they got broccoli. And chicken.

They were not pleased. There were tears involved.

And I felt like a jerk. The world's meanest, most terrible mother.

But, sometimes, as a parent, you have to be the bad guy, and I believe that that is what many of today's parents miss--they are trying to be their children's friend rather than their parent. Being a parent means sometimes being unpopular with your children....and boy, was I unpopular this morning. But I wanted desperately to show them the importance of being thankful for what you have, rather than always being consumed with what you want. Despite how difficult it was to actually go through with the actual 'lesson', I made it.

And you know what?

They sure raved tonight over how good dinner was. Cameron complimented me several times, even going as far as saying that "This is the best meal, Mommy, the best!" *grin* They actually thanked me for making it. And they cleaned their plates. All three of them. We had a near episode with Ethan--he got down from the table after eating only a few bites--but when I showed him how I was preparing his plate to be able to reheat it in the morning for him to have for breakfast, he had a change of heart and climbed back up in his chair to finish.

Am I being too harsh?

I really don't think so. How many times have I scraped food off of plates and into the garbage? How much money is going down the drain? How much effort is being wasted on my part, trying to come up with, shop for, and prepare nutritious and flavorful meals--only to be rejected on sight alone? Shane works very hard for our money, and I, in turn, work hard, trying to find every way possible to stretch his dollars as far as they can go.

Food isn't cheap. And I'm sick of wasting it.

Especially when there are so many people who are going without it entirely.

So, we have a new 'rule' around here. I believe I will only have to enforce it every once in a while--this first time seemed to have a real impact.

Even on Colin--who only had to watch his brothers consume plates of broccoli and chicken--over his bowl of much coveted cold cereal.


Erica Miller said...

I think that is a very good idea. And I think that although it must have been hard to inforce that rule, feeling like the bad guy, but you are doing the right thing! And they're learning :)

Anonymous said...

You are a very wise mother doing this! Good on you. xo

Julie said...

AMEN SISTER!! I really need to do this with Puckey and Jib. They are terrible about not finishing their meals a lot of the time.

You are so right in remembering that we (in America) generally DO have so much more than other places in the world. It's easy to forget that, until we can't afford to put much on our plates. Thanks for the reminder!

You are my hero! (For a LOT of reasons, this is just one)

Kara said...

Good for you...we have been known to do that here on occasion!

Brittany said...

The best part of this is that they had to see Colin eating his bowl of cereal. That had to be painful for them! But, what a wonderful lesson for them!

Kathy said...

Good for you! We've done the same thing here. A couple of weeks ago Sam said, 'I actually like beans for breakfast.' {He was trying to display a better attitude, not actual truth :-)}
You're not alone friend! Endure well!

Theresa said...

I had to do the very same thing with Kaitlyn last year Devin! She (sometimes unfortunately) is VERY strong willed and ended up being served the same meal for two days! I too felt like such a jerk for doing that but you're right it's horrible that even our young ones have a hard time being content with what they have. Good job for sticking it out...I remember how awful it felt to be the bad guy but it absolutely is our job to be parents, not friends, no matter how unpopular that makes us! They'll thank us for not letting them be spoiled brats when they're older!

Kate @ When Hello Means Goodbye said...

i think that was a great lesson! i'm proud of you for sticking to it. I seriously look at you as a role model of the mom I want to be. well done!

Becky said...

Ahhhhh.....the dinner dilemma.....My 2 year old usually eats bigger during the day and grazes so he generally doesn't eat a very big dinner. So I just put a little big on his plate. When my 7 says he is done I make him get one bite for every year old he is. I also put a smaller portion size on his plate so that after those 7 bites there is little to no food left on his plate and we aren't wasting as much. I don't push for "clean plates" because I'd rather them learn to know what it feels like to be full and not exceed that feeling like their mommy so often does (UGH!!!), so if they've eaten adequately and say they are done I ask if their tummies are happy. And again, since I put smaller portions on their plates there is little to no waste. I figure if they are really hungry they can always ask for more. The 13-year old boy on the other hand....well, that's another story! EEK!!!!

Amber E. Berkoski said...

We have had these same rules from day one with our kids. It's not always easy but whenever we are with other people's kids who are wasteful and downright ungrateful it makes me proud we stand our ground.

Good on you for taking this step, it is hard but SO SO worth it in the long run.

momma23 said...

We've done this same thing at our house...we normally don't make it to breakfast; instead, if they don't eat it for dinner, it's their snack before bed. But I'm right there with you; I feel like the world's meanest mom, since they're both skinny little things anyway, but I'm (nearly) done being a short-order cook.