|Photo Credit: Aaron Flores, RD|
Even though I see little things that reinforce their food and body trust each day, occasionally there are things I see that truly amaze me and make me so proud. One of those moments happened last week as both of my kids asked my wife if they could make their own lunches for school.
Let me give you some back story before we go any further; we go to a Jewish day school which means we need to bring a Kosher-dairy lunch. No meat of any kind. Eggs and tuna are ok but no turkey, roast beef, hot dogs or chicken. We are also a nut-free school so, we can't send peanut butter either. This means we are just a tad limited as to what we can pack in their lunches. Now, for the most part, most things we pack are a success but we do sometimes find that our kids get into a bit of a rut after so many years of dealing with these limitations. It's actually the chore that my wife and I enjoy least because we feel we've run out of creative lunch options so, when our kids said, "We want to make our own lunch," we more than gladly agreed.
Because of how we have our house set up with regards to food, if a child wants to be responsible for making it, they can choose what is in the meal. That means my wife, who usually makes the lunches, did not tell the kids WHAT to pack, she was just the sous chef. She provided them with the ingredients they wanted and supervised them as they used a knife. That's it. I'm sure you probably want to know what the kids packed themselves for lunch, right? I mean c'mon, what would you pack if you had no limitations in place(except those already described above)? Well, that's not the point of the post and to be honest, it doesn't matter one little bit! For me that's not "where the magic happened."
The magic is that without pressure from my wife and I, my kids are interested in food. They want to be a part of meals. They choose to be involved in meal preparation because they enjoy it. In our house, food is fun. It's not punishment, a way to reward good behavior or achievement. It's not something that is held over them like a carrot on a stick (i.e.: "just eat five more bites of protein and then you're done").
A healthy relationship with food is not just about tuning in to what our bodies tell us about the food we've eaten. It is also about being a part of the process of how food is made, where it comes from and how it impacts our environment.
My kids understand their role in our house when it comes to food. They trust that we will provide them with all different kinds of food. They trust that we will sit as a family every night for dinner. They trust their body to stop eating whenever they are done. They trust that food will not be taken or hidden from them for any reason. As parents, we trust that our kids will not abuse this privilege with food. We trust that they will eat what is served and they will not ask for separate meals. We trust that they will stop eating when they are full, no matter how little or much is still left on their plate.
I believe this family trust is where our kids' positive relationship with food and their bodies comes from and I'm so grateful that my wife and I have found something that has worked for all us.
Our kids continue to make their own lunch. They are enjoying it and my wife and I are proud to watch their creativity with each new day. I'm sure one day, the novelty will wear off and they'll give up this chore but that will be ok. Until that day comes, though, my wife and I will gladly take a step back and marvel at the simple pleasure of watching our kids explore their food environment.