Monday, April 23, 2012

Cream of Wheat

I was involved recently in a conversation about whether picky eater visiting children in your home annoy you by refusing to eat or wasting food. The repetitive theme was that it ticks parents off to see the food wasted, even if they attempt to say nothing and simply think it.

I have a different perspective on children and food issues. I let my children waste food. I did have to a point where I required children to finish any snack they took rather than wasting it to take soemthing else. I do ask my children to attempt a taste of the food I serve them at meals. If they don't like it, they are free to make themselves a different meal, even though I won't make a second dinner for them.

I cannot bring myself to add guilt and force into feeding my children. I lived too long on the other end of that requirement, and I continue to suffer the shame, guilt, and pain from that experience.

I have taught myself to leave food on my plate when I am full. It took many, many years to be able to leave food on my plate and not clean it entirely. Even now, I can do it but often will fall back into cleaning it instead. What I have not taught myself is to not assume the guilt for leaving a plate unclean.

I'm not sure parents understand how intimate food is for a child. Food is not simply energy for the body. Food is nourishment for the soul. When you attach guilt and external requirements for that nourishment, you add to something that shouldn't happen. It causes children to not listen to their own hunger cues. It also perverts the emotional nourishment that food is supposed to be for children. It creates eating disorders, obesity, girls who hate their bodies and children who binge to feed emotional needs that food cannot fill alone.

I am perhaps more sensitive to feeding issues than most parents. My upbringing was anything but normal on this topic. My legal maternal entity launched a nasty campaign against my persondhood in regards to food.

I was required to always eat what was served to me at meals. I was required to clean my plate. My own preferences were never considered in what was served at meals, and the serving sizes had no relation to my hunger. I was never, ever permitted to snack between meals except for one piece of fruit per day. Again, my hunger had no relation to whether I was permitted to eat or not. I was lectured and berated about how selfish I was for being resistive to the food I was served. Then, to be absolutely certain that my destruction was complete, I was then belittled on a daily basis for being "fat."

None of that compares to the most egregious part of my 'training' though. My legal material entity was well known for serving some of the most disgusting concepts known to mankind. She was especially proud of her 'leftover soup' which literally consisted of her opening the fridge and dumping all of the left overs into a stock pot, add water and heat to make "soup." If I did not eat these delicacies, I ate nothing else until I gave in. So, dinner's left-over soup would be served....cold...every meal until I complied and ate it. There were no snacks between torture sessions, and no relief from the torture sessions once I dug my heels in and refused to eat something.

There were several food items I hated, not merely the 'left-over soup.' I hated liver with a passion. I hated most of her so-called vegetables. Yet, there was only one item so horrendous that I would brave her rules and refuse to eat it every single time. It was cream of wheat. I have no idea what that stuff is supposed to be. I know it looked like snot, tasted like sweet boogers, and nothing helped the taste.

If I was lucky, the cream of wheat would get spilled sometime after the second or third serving. If I was even luckier, my father would notice what was going on and force her to throw the nastiness out. Usually, serving cream of wheat meant that I would go several days without eating anything except my school lunches.

Two of my children are picky eaters. One of my children came to me with food ruined by previous experiences and is fully dependent on medical equipment to supply the life giving calories his body requires. Of all eight of my children, all but those three will at least taste what is served to them. They will politely decline what they do not like. One with mental health struggles had appetite triggered with the medication necessary for that child's mental struggles. Other than that child, not one of them have weight issues, no obesity, no guilt and shame associated with food. These children know that food is nourishment for body and soul, and that while mom doesn't want them to frivilously waste what they voluntarily take, if they truly cannot eat it all then mom will leave them alone.

I can't bring myself to get worked up over visiting children and their eating, or lack thereof. I have worked so hard to never pass the legacy of my past onto my own children that I simply prefer to let children lead the way on how to manage food issues. I made a promise to myself once upon a time as I stared into yet another bowl of torture. I promised I wouldn't do this to my children as it was done to me. It was a theme of my childhood, probably the one thing that helped me survive was that constant list of promises of what I would not pass onto my children. I have worked hard to make something better with my children and food.

I like to think I'm winning this battle. Certainly, I'm far enough past that memory that I don't even pause to notice whether little guests eat. I just try to offer them options they will like, and let their parents know if they didn't eat so they won't have to be hungry.

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