"Mommy, I only want to eat cookies, chocolate and ice cream." Little bears hands are on his hips and his face is scrunched up in frown.
Believe me kid, I know how you feel. Your Mommy would love to eat cookies, chocolate and ice cream all day too.
Of course, I've heard little bear's sentiments before, but this time, a new thought popped into my head. Do I see food in the same way as my four year old son? Did I grow up in every way except when it comes to food and eating? All about taste and no substance? Seeking satisfying taste and nothing else with every bite?
Little bear and I seem to share a worrisome trait: we are both overly concerned with satisfying our taste buds. I can also tell that whenever he is told he can't eat, lets say a bowl of ice cream for breakfast, that he is frustrated and feels like he is missing out. Just as I did when I was a little girl. And from my own experience, I know that years of frustration will build into a full blown food anxiety.
To little bear I replied: "I know cookies, chocolate and ice cream taste good, but we only eat them once in a while. Most of the time we have to eat food that makes us strong." Knowing what I know now, when little bear is pining for junk food, I use words that I believe would have helped my four-year old self when I wanted to eat cookies, chocolate and ice cream instead of a regular meal.
But, when I think about it, there is a distinct difference between little bear and I when it comes to eating. When Little bear eats food that doesn't taste great, he won't finish his serving. In contrast, before therapy, when I ate food that didn't taste good enough, I'd eat the lackluster meal and then search and eat something else to eat in order to satisfy my insatiable need for taste.
With two kids of my own now, I understand the challenges that parents face at snack and meal times. First, parents need to get their kids to eat, and second need to get their kids to eat food their little bodies need to grow. But kids don't always want to eat, and they certainly don't always want to eat the nutritious food on their plate. So I understand why I heard "NO" so frequently as I child. Just as my Mom didn't let me eat cookies, chocolate and ice cream for breakfast, my children will not be allowed to eat every craving that pops into their head.
My little bears just won't necessarily know that I've said "no."