I'm not kidding. If it weren't for the bits and pieces of nutrient-laden bacteria and other goodies in the atmosphere, they'd probably starve.
I'm obviously not bringing them up as legacy members of the Clean Plate Club. When I was growing up, we ate what was served. Now my mom will probably dispute this, saying she would not make us clean our plates but would withhold dessert if we didn't finish, but I only remember having to eat what was put in front of me. Then again, I don't remember downing too many desserts, either, so I could be wrong. (However, I did manage a sneaky breakfast trick. Every Sunday morning, Mom would cook up scrambled eggs, French toast or pancakes, all items that literally make me gag. When she wasn't looking, I'd stuff them up the sleeve of my robe and flush them down the toilet later. I'm sure she wondered why I always kind of smelled like syrup.)
Anyway, we ate at the same time every night. As I got older, I recall thinking, "Gee. It's 5:30 but I'm really not hungry." No matter. It was dinner, dammit, and we were going to eat it. Like Pavlov's dogs we'd eat it.
Fast forward 20 some-odd years or so to tonight. At about 8:25 pm the frozen pizza was just coming out of the oven. Gimme a break - we had tumbling class. I paired the Digourno delicacy with carrots and sugar snap peas, pineapple and kiwi. Oh, and milk. White for one, chocolate for another. White milk gets a straw. (Am I an enabler?)
My oldest ate one slice of pizza, four sugar snap peas and the pineapple. This was after he "forgot" to eat his lunch and consumed three bites of oatmeal for breakfast. My other son, who requests the "cheese stuffed crust", ate all but the crust of the pizza, the kiwi, and only the peas inside the sugar snap pea pods.
Here's the thing, though. Both of them LEAVE FOOD ON THEIR PLATE. *GASP* I know! That's exactly what I said! I was raised to CLEAN MY PLATE! ONE MORE BITE! Now THIS? This is unacceptable! So what do I do? Well, I eat whatever they leave behind. Breakfast for me is usually the remnants of a cold bowl of oatmeal and the crusts off a piece of jelly toast. Dinner? Pizza crusts, since my youngest apparently doesn't like them, and my veggie for tonight, the hulls of some sugar snap peas. Why even dirty a plate for me when I can clean theirs?
I KNOW it's healthier to leave food on the plate. I'm just so damn confused as to where they learned it. And if I didn't teach it to them and they picked it up, why is it that they won't eat anything I make no matter how I dress it up?
I've tried everything short of wearing a Ronald McDonald suit and painting the golden arches in the air with my magic finger. I've pounded chicken breasts flat, breaded them and presented them as the World's Largest Chicken Nuggets. I've pureed spinach and zucchini and blended them in spaghetti sauce. When they aren't looking I dump whey protein and wheat germ in their smoothies and shakes. But a CASSEROLE? You HAVE to be kidding. FIRST of all, THAT ingredient is GROSS, and THAT thing is touching THAT thing, and EEEWWWWWWW - what's that SAUCE???
And forget the "one more BIG Boy Scout bite" motto. Apparently my sons were members of Hobbit Troop #347, because the minuscule morsel that makes it past their lips is hardly enough to constitute sustenance fit for a hummingbird.
What I don't get is that they love to go to the Chinese buffet. For me, I may as well throw $35 out the car window. Very nice Chinese waitress: "How old your son?" Me: "Does it matter? REALLY? He ate a plate of Jell-O squares and sucked the cheese out of five mozzarella sticks. DOES IT REALLY MATTER HOW OLD HE IS?????"
These kids are the products of a mom who made their baby food, introduced vegetables first so they wouldn't reject them after the fruit, always had 100% juice boxes and whole wheat bread and kept track of how many servings they ate from the food pyramid per day.
And it's completely backfired in my face.
"Eat it or there's nothing else for the rest of the night" is a farce. They'd rather STARVE than eat what I'm serving. So fine. I let them. Then, as I watch their rib-exposed, emaciated little bodies running around outside, I picture their insides just eating themselves out because there's no food in their little tummies.
OK. Have some cereal. But just this once.
Their pediatrician says to keep doing what I'm doing; they'll catch up. So I've been trying a little harder to get them to eat. Having some fruit out while I'm heating up their fast food or pre-made whatever-in-a-box at least lets me know they're getting some nutrition. Every time they go for some random snack or treat, I make them pair it with something healthy first. And I wonder where and how they got this ability to simply eat what they want, when they want, then step away and be done.
And as soon as I clean the orange cheese puff residue off my keyboard, I'm going to go find out.