Food fights are only part of parenting
January 22, 2004
I remember sitting at a middle school parent night about four years ago, listening to the guidance counselor read a description of a 2-year-old. I don’t remember the specifics, but the discussion probably advised parents to get down to the child’s level and talk directly to the toddler’s face in order to make sure you’re being clearly understood. We all nodded our heads, remembering what it was like to parent a 2-year-old. When the description concluded, we were told that it was not about a 2-year-old but a seventh grader.
It’s becoming apparent in my life right now that struggles with parenting can repeat themselves. I have a child who will soon become a teen-ager, yet she and I still engage in food battles.
My issue with her eating habits revolves around A1 Steak Sauce.
Addie loves A1.
She puts it on just about everything, except salad.
Looking back, I think she started using A1 because she claimed she didn’t like meat. I’m sure vegetarian readers may be thinking, why didn’t you just let her continue to be a non-meat-eating person? Instead, I had to go and thrust meat eating on a child who really had no interest.
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This is true, but in my defense, while the rest of her family was eating steak, she would have macaroni and cheese. She is the reason that I took on the role of short-order cook. I would see other children eating “grown up” dishes, such as ham or beef stroganoff, and I would wonder where I had gone wrong. Sometimes moms make a quick decision to avoid a problem, and it turns into years of slavery. My mistake occurred when I made Addie her own dinner one time, and then I fixed dinner for the rest of us. This became a way of life for a long time, and I had this spoiled child sitting at the dinner table, wondering where her special meal was.
Eventually, it dawned on me that I’d created a situation that did not make me happy. To change things, I began to gently urge her to try some meat.
During this period, my next door neighbor told me “Addie really liked the steak we barbecued the other night.”
The very next day, my gentle nurturing mom approach went out the window and instead I heard myself threatening her. “I know you ate steak over at Monika’s so don’t try to keep insisting that you won’t eat it here!”
So she agreed, but she needed some A1.
After steak was incorporated into her diet, she tried some chicken, smothered in A1.
My older daughter and I will exchange glances when Addie refers to fish or pork as “chicken,” which I also fix sometimes for dinner. We don’t tell her what it really is because we’re tired of the scenario of having her refuse to eat something that she thinks she doesn’t like. Besides, she drowns her “chicken” in A1, so what’s the difference?
“This is really good chicken, Mom,” she’ll tell me. It’s really just the A-1 flavor she likes anyway.
Being a major consumer of carbohydrates, she has always liked pasta, potatoes and rice, but now she also dumps A-1 on these, as well. Her plate is usually swimming in A1, with all flavor of her food drowned out by the steak sauce.
You would think we would have solved her refusal to eat meat with the discovery of A1, but this has led to another problem.
An A1 bottle is dark brown and hard to see through so entire bottles are emptied quickly before I have a chance to get to the store and buy some more. “But who put the nearly empty bottle back in the refrigerator?” I ask her, defending the fact that there’s not a drop of A1 left in the whole house. Clearing the table is, generally, her job, so I have some leverage with that question.
To avoid this unpleasant scene, however, I’ve learned to stock up on A1. I buy two of the super-sized bottles at a time, often at Costco. The bottle is so large it becomes a symbol, to me, of ridiculousness.
I thought we would have graduated to different struggles by now, but perhaps I didn’t learn my lesson when given the chance years ago. I know better than to make a comment, but sometimes I just can’t help myself when I see her ruining her food with huge amounts of A1. My husband thinks she pours on a little extra, just to bug me.
I suppose if I started letting go of the A1 issue, we could move on to a lesson that I didn’t learn when she was three.
Katie Shaffer is a Truckee resident. Her column, Life in our Mountain Town, appears every other week in the Sierra Sun.