Last night for dinner we all ate a big plate of bok-choy and chickpeas with a side of eggplant, no one complained.
Our CSA season has begun, and I am preparing new recipes filled with wonderful veggies. Thankfully, my kids are good eaters. It is very rare that any of them complain about their food.
How did we raise good eaters? We like to eat. And I like to experiment. I hardly ever make the same recipe twice. They have probably been conditioned from the womb to enjoy a variety of spices, seasonings, and strange new foods.
Please indulge me in this one small victory. It came as such a revelation to me last night, as we sat eating our funky dinner .. . My kids are good eaters! Exceptional eaters! I could write a book .. . it would be the Babywise of how to get your child to eat her vegetables! If eating a variety of foods were a badge of parenting success, we have nailed it! We are pretty much rock-star parents!
For one small moment I felt like one of those parents who talks breezily of how her children have slept through the night since they were three days old, and sleep until seven and take two naps a day.
Maybe I needed to pat myself on the back just once, because I do plenty of self-criticism. We all do. And we feel it, too. There is no broader target for being criticized than parenting. And it is such a cheap target. They're kids! Most adults haven't figured out our own quirks and issues yet, but we freely heap judgment on children for their obvious imperfections . . . and of course the child's parents.
This during a season of fretting and doubting and feeling a bit inadequate . .. every parent has their own challenges, we have ours.
Our kids didn't sleep at night. I mean . .. really. With the occasional exception, I rarely slept for more than two or three hours at a time until they were each three years old. And telling me about Babywise was as effective as me telling the parent of a picky eater that her child needs to eat more vegetables. We know.
And some things get easier and some things get harder as they get older. Our kids are strong willed, just like their parents, and sensitive just like their parents, and they have awesome senses of humor and love to learn and explore things and they have kind hearts and wild imaginations and I do hope that is a little bit like their parents.
This is what finally occurred to me last night . .. our kids are going to learn our values, no matter what. I value food, and our kids have learned to value it as well. I want them to be able to travel and not be picky, to eat healthy foods, and most of all I want them to enjoy food because it is good, and good for them.
I don't know why this came as such a revelation to me, but it was profoundly encouraging.
Doesn't it seem that kids who fall easily into a sleep routine, often have parents who are naturally more structured? And kids who are quiet and easy going often have quieter parents. They learn the habits we live by, more than the habits we try to enforce.
I laughed when I mentioned this to Jim and I said, don't you wish that I valued things like quiet and routine? And my engineer husband rolled his eyes and said, YES.
I really loved this article (Huff Post: The parenting milestones that matter most) because I find it fascinating to learn how different cultures raise their children, and they way they value completely different things. There are a few values that really matter, and a lot that are simply cultural, or a matter of preference.
I keep thinking about this post I wrote a few years ago, Just what the world needs now, more parenting advice, and this is my parenting advice for the preschool age, and it is a lot the same: your baby is all yours, you get to decide now. And, I would add this: examine your own values. Values are so subjective, and every family is so different. Maybe a child's misbehavior is an indication of your own value needing corrected ... or maybe it is an affirmation of your values!
Unquestioning obedience is a nice thought, but do I want my teenage and adult daughters to possess that value? Nope. And so I will tolerate their debating and questioning.
Quiet and easy going would work out well for me, but it is their strong will and determination that we hope to encourage, and so I must lean in and work with it and bear it gladly. Their sensitivity can be maddening and exhausting, but it is where they will find compassion and love for the world.
And this is the most important advice I would give . . . you are doing something right! It may not look like everybody else, and your kids won't act like every other kid, but every parent can point to some value that they do really well. Every kid is awesome.
And those parents who are doing something completely different, but doing it really well . . . we can learn from them! Wouldn't it be great if we all decided to learn from each other rather than judge one another?