About two months ago my son told me he wished he could have just one day when he could eat whatever he liked, whenever he wanted. ”I mean” he explained, “if I just want to make a sandwich instead of having dinner, I can just make a sandwich. That would be awesome.”
I totally get that.
I have never been a short order cook to my kids and we almost always have dinner together. My husband and I both love to cook and preparing the family meal, for us, is actually fun. As I type this, I can smell the Texas-style brisket he prepared this morning as it slow roasts in the oven. Later I’ll make a side of sautéed spinach and sweet potatoes. Good food is both important and entertaining in our house. I know I sound like a gooby perfectionist when I write that. I know it.
But it is not just with a child’s eyes that I see the joy in throwing all of that out the window and soaking up a day of dietary debauchery.
One of the best books I have read on the subject of kids and food is Child of Mine: Feeding With Love and Good Sense by Ellyn Satter. Don’t be put off by the baby on the cover. It works for all ages. In a nutshell, Satter relieves parents of food battles and helps them raise confident, healthy eaters by providing a clear division of responsibility between parent and child.
“Parents are responsible for the what, when, and where of feeding. Children are responsible for the how much and whether of eating.”
This has guided my approach to food and family for the past 11 years, but so has another of Satter’s lines that I cherish:
“For the occasional snack, put a plate of Oreo cookies on the table along with a glass of milk and let your child eat as many as he is hungry for.”
I don’t know if Satter would approve of me taking that line to this extreme, but here goes. Yesterday, on a rainy teacher workday, my kids and I declared it Eat-a-Thon 2012. They had free access to the pantry all day and were not obligated to eat what I made for meals. In fact, I did not make meals. I was both excited and anxious to see what weird choices they would make.
The biggest surprise of the day came around 11:00 am, when my son sauntered over to the couch to play video games and have a snack with you will never guess what in his hand: a banana. WTF? Reverse psychology? Forbidden fruit? I wouldn’t have guessed it in a thousand years.
The rest of the day’s choices are here for your reading pleasure.
Breakfast: biscuits and sweet tea
Snacks throughout morning: flavor blasted Goldfish, chips and salsa, a random chocolate santa, that banana, chocolate chip cookies
Lunch: chicken and cheese quesadilla (for the girl) and McDonald’s generously contributed by a friend (for the boy)
Snacks throughout afternoon: Klondike bar, another biscuit, more flavor blasted Goldfish, marshmallows (just 3?), yogurt
Dinner: DiGiorno pizza (boy), baked beans on toast (girl). Too full for anything else.
Carbs anyone? OK, not a healthy daily summary by ANY means, but given that I was expecting much, MUCH worse, I was quite pleased with the experiment. In a way, I’m sorry I don’t have a funnier tale to tell about kids passing out in weird places covered in bags of chips or crazy concoctions made with pixie sticks and syrup. I could have endured a little more Lord of the Flies for the sake of a funny story. Alas, things were fairly tame here on the day my son’s dream came true.
I think it’s important to be healthy. I also think it’s important to break the rules. Yesterday was fun for us all.
Michelle is our resident middle school expert and creator of the website Michelle in the Middle. Along with reading her blogs here every Friday, you can hang out with Michelle on Facebook and on her website, Michelle in the Middle.