I’ve yet to meet a mom who is not monitoring her kid’s eating habits. Some might even be obsessed over it, others just make sure their kids eat enough or don’t overeat. Food can be filled with cultural, health or moral values and seems an important subject in most families I know.
Every single one of the moms I know, seems to have her personal truth about food, or is at least searching for it. I know quite a few moms who vouch for strict vegetarianism, sugar free, all organic, low-carb, macrobiotic, low-fat or a mix of those. Others cook without lactose, gluten, sugar, eggs, nuts, soy and other allergy or intolerance boosters, by necessity or by conviction. But there’s also quite a number who just like to stick to their grandmothers’ favourite mashed potatoes with pork chops and piccalilli, because that’s what they were raised with.
Myself, I mix quite a bit of the above. My life is all about compromises. As a student, I used to be vegetarian, but now we eat vegetarian for only about 3 days a week. I also restrict the amount of lactose, because of my daughter’s (mild) intolerance. I make sure they eat at least one piece of fruit per day, but most days it’s two or three. And because we are Belgian, we have our two-weekly take out of ‘French’ fries, which originally came from Belgium. Or maybe even from Flanders.
I would not call myself obsessed, but I do keep a detailed mental track of what my kids eat in a day, and try to compensate by the 80/20 rule I adopted from a fellow World Mom: if they eat healthy for 80% of the time, that will make up for the 20% they eat junk.
When a mom has found her personal truth about food, obviously she wishes for her kids to eat by it; which they aren’t likely to do without a struggle. Not after they’ve tasted the Belgian fries, they won’t.
When my oldest was younger, I used to think I had it all together though. He ate whatever vegetable I gave him and his favourite dish was Brussels’ sprouts. I even recall quite some occasions on which I, the former vegetarian, bribed him into eating his meat by promising him an extra stem of broccoli. After a while, even the meat didn’t pose a problem anymore. He would eat whatever I served him.
Those good old days are over now.
It all started when our daughter arrived, age 2.5. She came from Ethiopia and was not used to our diet, not mentally, but also not physically. The first time I served her something green, she just threw it on the floor. Not out of a whim, but because she was clearly convinced it was not edible. She even tried to take it out of my mouth. Having been fed mashed dishes all her life, she was also not used to chewing. She did like bread and she did her best chewing it, but we had to take her to a physiotherapist to sooth her jaw pains. So we customized our cooking to her and introduced new stuff every once in a while. The one dish that never posed a problem was, indeed, our Belgian fries.
Meanwhile, our son, then 5, seemed to finally grasp that there was such a thing as rejecting food. I don’t know whether it was his sister’s example, the TV shows he started watching, his classmates or just normal evolution, but he started getting more selective each month. He also ate with his hands more often, just like his sister was used to. I went from having one kid with excellent eating habits to two picky, messy eaters.
After two years of convincing myself it was just a phase, this year I started implementing some strategies to get them to eat more balanced. Ultimately, what they were eating wasn’t all that bad but I was getting tired of the drama and the struggle to get them to eat what I believed was good for them. And most of all, I wanted them to develop the discipline to choose healthy by themselves, and not just because I ordered or rewarded them.
First, I tried the Yucky List. A colleague of mine had it at home, and it worked perfectly for her family. The idea is that it is only natural to have different tastes and that you don’t need to like everything. The concept is that each family member can have three dishes they really don’t like, on that list. When it is served, they are allowed to refuse it and have bread instead. Or hope for a mom who cooks two different dishes in advance. Of course over time, you can change your preferences but when a fourth dish you don’t like is served to you, you have to eat it, before you can put it on the list (replacing another).
It seemed promising but after a few weeks, the kids started to change their list about every other day. Way too many family dinners were filled with ‘I will put this on my yucky list for sure!’ and a lot of moaning and struggling, which didn’t really lighten the mood as I had hoped it would. We might pick it up again when they are older but for now, it doesn’t work for us.
After that, I changed my strategy to handing out a Yucky Coupon, Bah Bon in Dutch. I borrowed the idea from a friend who used to do cooking for youth camps. At these camps, each of the kids was given one Bah Bon for the duration of the camp. They could hand it in if they didn’t want to eat one of the meals that was cooked for them. Of course, they only could do that once. And the ones who still had the Bah Bon at the last day of camp, could hand it in, in exchange for ice cream.
So that’s how we do it now and it works like a charm! The kids both have their weekly Bah Bon, which is very conveniently posted on the magnetic wall next to the dinner table. Whenever they complain about dinner (or lunch or breakfast), we just point to their Bah Bon and remind them they can hand it in if they wish. No strict words, just giving them a choice and a visual reminder. Our son hasn’t missed his Sunday ice cream once. Our daughter has, once, and she’s not likely to miss another.
Of course, this will only work if ice cream is really a treat for your kids. Mine don’t really get candy or other sweets that often, so for them this works perfectly.
And of course, it’s still kind of a bribe. But I like it much more than the daily ‘If you don’t eat it, you can’t have desert’ bribe. For one, because we don’t have desert every day. Second, because they have to manage the discipline to work all week for their ice cream, rather than getting an instant reward. Third, because I don’t exactly sell the ice cream as a bribe or reward but rather as an interpretation of the 80/20 rule: if they eat healthy and balanced all week, it is all right to have something unhealthy every once in a while.
Most importantly, I like this system because the kids themselves really like this system. They like being in control of what they (don’t) eat without any pressure from us, and most of all they absolutely love our weekly ceremony when they officially hand in the Bah Bon they saved in exchange for their well deserved treat.
Do you have a personal or cultural take on the food you serve your kids? And do you need similar strategies to convince them about it?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K from The Penguin and The Panther.
The picture in this post is credited to the author.
We have a cat. A lot of people have a cat. Ours is named Rino. As in rhinoceros, minus the “h” and the horn.
Looking back, I got him when he was still a little too small, so he definitely sees me as his cat-mom. He slept in the Big Bedroom during the first months of his life, with me stroking him upon every little yelp. When he wants to cuddle, he tucks his head in my armpit, as if he wants to get nursed. He’s the cuddliest cat I know. And the best frog catcher as well.
Rino is get-out-of-jail-free card. He radiates reassurance. Peace of mind. When I’m overwhelmed by motherhood, he can convince me to allow the children to come back downstairs after their time-out. He reminds me I prefer talking above time-outs.
When the kids are finally asleep, he crashes the couch with me. There’s nothing like the sound and feel of a purring cat to take the daily stress away. Did I mention he’s fat and orange? The perfect blanket. Matches most of my cloths too.
When our son is having a bad morning, he usually refuses to put on his cloths. He goes on strike on the couch, with his head beneath the cushions. We aren’t able to get through to him nor make eye contact. His sister will try, but she always manages to make things worse. Not her fault, and she earns her credits for trying the impossible.
And then Rino comes pawing in. Takes a few bites from his food and then goes straight for his ‘big brother’. The minute I tell my son who is coming for him, we see his face again. Eleven minutes, fifty three strokes and fourteen cuddles later, he will be dressed and heading for breakfast. The same goes for homework, violin practice and heart break: Rino will drag him through.
When our adopted daughter first met Rino, she nearly jumped to the ceiling. She only knew cats as thieves that should be chased from the orphanage’s kitchen, so she hissed and motioned to get him out, hiding behind my skirts. She didn’t develop a liking for stuffed animals either, with a brother sneaking up on her with those. He didn’t particularly like his new little sister those first months and couldn’t stop scaring her away, so we ended up hiding all the stuffed tigers and cats from them both.
Two years later, their bond has grown. They do continue teasing each other. They fight like little demons over who gets to open the curtains in the morning but an hour later in school the little one will call for her brother when she’s running from kissing boys. They always end up wanting to play with the exact same box of Legos that was untouched for weeks before, but just as frequently, they will team up against me, especially when candy is at stake. I was told that is universal proof they’ve developed a sibling bond.
The same goes for Rino. Our daughter considers him part of the family now. She demands we talk about him with first ànd last name, our family name, and she doesn’t believe it’s fair he’s not allowed to go to the zoo with us. He would love the big cats, you know. I’m glad Rino is visibly terrified inside moving vehicles so in the end our daughter’s more or less convinced he wouldn’t really like joining us.
A few weeks ago, my daughter asked how Rino came to our family. Did he come willing? Or was he taken from his mommy? After we hesitantly told her it was the latter, she immediately went to find him and whispered in his ear, “You’re just like me!” Ever since, she considers him her little brother even more.
He has become her mirror, in a way. Whenever she’s fantasizing about what she would like to tell her birth mother, he’s a major part of her story. She would like to send her birth mother pictures and drawings of Rino, but not of herself. Pictures of Rino sleeping in the bird house, of Rino coming from the woods when he hears our car approaching, of Rino sleeping with his paws in the air and head to the side, like a wrongly assembled toy. She wants to tell her all about him.
But most of all, she wants to tell her birth mother that we are such great and loving parents.
For Rino, of course.
Do you have pets that enrich your family? Do they help your children cope with life’s sharp edges? Feel free to share about their funny and serious contributions in your daily life!
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by K10K from The Penguin and The Panther.
The picture in this post is credited to the author.
I am the first person to admit that I had no clue about adoption before I adopted my son. I remember when I was growing up, I would tease my brothers that they “were adopted”. There was a girl in my first grade class who was adopted, but I was always told not to talk about it to her. I came to think that adoption was something that was a secret, and because it was a secret there might be something wrong with it. (more…)
Where in the world do you live? And, are you from there?
I was born, raised and proudly remain stuck in the Belgian mud. I would sometimes dream about moving abroad, but it turns out I’m quite happy staying right here. I do like to travel several times a year, mostly for work.
What language(s) do you speak?
My mother tongue is Flemish (which is basically the same as Dutch), but with Belgium being a trilingual country, I also speak French and I can understand German. Obviously, I also speak – and write – English. About ten years ago I also decided to learn Indonesian, but all I remember of it now are the words kamar kecil, which means I can actually ask where the bathroom is if I would make it to Indonesia one day.
In addition, I would love to learn how to read and write music, and to understand Amharic, the first language of our daughter.
When did you first become a mother?
This is a tricky one, because in my experience, I can call on two firsts. Two totally different ways of expecting a child, of becoming a mother, both wonderful and intense. In 2006, I first became a mother when our son was born, the one I love to call our cuddly Penguin. Five years later, in 2011, I first became an adoptive mother when we brought our two-year-old daughter home, our darling Panther.
Is your work, stay-at-home mom, other work at home or do you work outside the home?
Apart from being a full time mom, full time housekeeper and full time wannabe writer, I also have a full time job outside my home. Some might even say I’m building an exciting career as a geomicrobiologist, enabling me to go on missions abroad and to research amazing subjects, but they should know that my favorite moments are without doubt coming home, be it after a working day or a business trip.
Why do you blog/write?
I started blogging (in Flemish) during our adoption procedure, merely as a way to keep friends and relatives posted on any news we would get in those long years. Along the way, blogging became a kind of therapy, enabling me to vent frustrations and personal struggles, or to focus on optimism and fun facts. I also learned just how much I loved to write.
I kept on blogging until our daughter was home for two years. I recently decided to stop, mostly for the privacy of my children and because I felt like I was getting ‘addicted’ to blogging. It was a hard decision, disappointing to quite some readers who liked the plain honesty in my writing. But, as a go-between, I decided to start a low frequency, anonymous, English blog about life with my Penguin and Panther, and to contribute to WMB every once in a while. And in the extra spare time I have now, my newest endeavor is to write children’s books, which has long been a dream of mine.
How would you say that you are different from other mothers?
As a typically modest Belgian, I truly find it awkward to differentiate myself that way. I don’t believe I have something special about me as a mother, or a person for one. But since I have to, well, I guess I would be different from other mothers because my kids come in two opposite colors and with some extra needs. Our blond haired Penguin is an overly sensitive philosopher who understands more than is good for him, while our curly Ethiopian Panther deals with attachment, anxiety and health issues. They leave me both exhausted and enriched every single evening, but I guess that’s no difference to other mothers…
What do you view as the challenges of raising a child in today’s world?
I don’t even know where to begin! Every day is a challenge, when raising children, isn’t it? One of my major concerns though, is to let our children remain children as long as possible. I strive to keep a delicate balance between guarding my children innocence and purity, and still teaching them about the need for respect and care for the less fortunate or for our struggling environment. With today’s society going so fast, having everything within reach, leaving nothing to the imagination, I try to create an island of simplicity and ‘slowness’ for our children (and ourselves!) at home, where they can develop at their own pace. But when time comes, I still want them to be able to catch one of society’s speed boats that are racing by our island…
How did you find World Moms Blog?
I just bumped upon WMB through a cartoon someone shared. I think. My kids often beat me at ‘Memory’, so I can’t be sure about it. But I do remember I started reading and reading and couldn’t stop for another hour.
This is an original interview of our new writer in Belgium, K10K – pronounce it as Ka-ten-ka and you will come quite close to her real name – from The Penguin and The Panther
The image used in this post is credited to the author.
My husband and I have four boys – his, mine and ours. We have one child each with other partners and then the two younger ones we have together. They now range in age from 16 – 24 years of age.
This morning my son sent me a text message to say his girlfriend has begun having contractions – which have since stopped and started and stopped again – regardless the baby is coming (be it today, tomorrow or next week) and this has raised all sorts of emotion in me.
This new baby is not biologically my son’s yet he’s been with the baby’s mother for almost the entire pregnancy. The girlfriend treats my son’s little boy like her own and my son in turn has been there for her every step of her baby’s short life from the first movements, to birthing classes, to sticking by her side today as labour has stopped and started and stopped again.
Raising happy, healthy children is a massive undertaking. As is maintaining healthy, sound relationships with all of the involved parties when relationships break up and family dynamics change. Step families have a dynamic all of their own with all of the extra people involved; from different partners and new siblings, through to step parents and step siblings. Wrap this entire group up with lots of emotion, plenty of personality and opinion and you have a good idea of how challenging step families can be.
The early years of family life were challenging in my world – with my husband’s ex-partner, my ex-partner and then all of the grandparents and family members who didn’t suddenly stop loving the children or wanting to see them because their parents had split up.
Consider Christmas which is hard work at the best of times; it’s harder when you have to coordinate four immediate households, four children (plus their step / half siblings) and numerous aunties, uncles and grandparents. Christmas is exhausting to say the least.
You may wonder where I’m leading with this post…
I’m excited for my son and his girlfriend, but I’m also a little reserved because I’m not sure how I should act. Am I a proxy grandma, a step nanny – I’m not really sure where I fit into this picture. This baby already has two sets of grandparents and I don’t want to step on anyone else’s toes. Then I realise I’m probably being stupid about the whole thing and I don’t have to ‘fit’ anywhere. I realise no baby can have too much love or attention and that biology alone does not make a loving family member.
Regardless, I guess this newest member of the family, when he finally arrives (yes, they already know it’s another boy – why am I not surprised?), will no doubt enchant us and beguile us. He’ll add an extra element to Christmas Day and I will goo and gaa over him, hug him and cuddle him just as I do with my own biological grandson.
In the end – happy, healthy babies and loving families are all that matters – biology surely doesn’t count for as much as love and emotion does.
What’s your experience with step families? Do you have special ways of dealing with the ex-partners, extra siblings and family occasions?
This is an original World Moms Blog post by Fiona from Inspiration to Dream of Adelaide, South Australia.
Image credit courtesy of Vlado of Free Digital Photos
A few days after my firstborn son graced us with his presence, I sat in my living room cradling him while he slept. I was chatting with my parents, who had traveled from South Africa to herald the arrival of their first grandchild. I looked down at my sleeping baby and my heart filled with so much love that I thought I was going to burst. Softly, I said, “Giving away a baby must be the hardest decision in the world for a mom.”
As I uttered those words, I was thinking of the circumstances of my own birth.
Having a baby out of wedlock was considered to be a social disgrace 42 years ago – so much so that when my birth mother became pregnant, she left town in order to avoid telling her parents. Sometimes I try to put myself in the shoes of this woman who was young and frightened, living in a strange city far away from everyone she knew, and trying to decide on the fate of her unborn child. (more…)