One of the aspects of parenting I vacillate a lot on is how much to cater to my kids.
For example, my son will not eat this for breakfast:
But he will eat this:
It's the EXACT same food, but in one scenario it's offered in a plastic carton and in the other scenario it's put into a glass dish.
As a parent, I run into this sort of discerning taste all the time.
My son won't eat lunchmeat if the edges are still attached. Do you realize how tedious it is to cut off the edge of lunch meat?
My daughter won't eat anything that is sweet & salty, so any sort of fruit-inspired sauce to go over, say, a pork tenderloin is not just unappealing to her; it's offensive.
One child prefers a small, salad fork for his meals. The other child wants an entree sized fork. Don't get it wrong, or you'll suffer the indignity of a 12-year-old who gives you the stink eye and asks, hand literally on her hip, "What's this?"
I could go on. My children have strong preferences about what they eat, what they wear, which brand of shampoo we buy, how the furniture is placed, what kind of car we choose, etc.
Part of this is my fault. I often consult the children on decisions (like where to vacation, which restaurant to eat at, etc.). I wasn't consulted on much as a kid, and I always felt as if childhood was being dragged along at the whims of adults. I felt, often, like an afterthought rather than a star player.
But....is that bad?
I grew up to be a solvent, reliable, kind (mostly) person who takes good care of my kids and generally tries to do the right thing.
Do I owe some of my work ethic and desire to do well to the fact that I wasn't coddled as a child, asked which restaurant I preferred to eat at and served my breakfast in glass dishes lest I turn my nose up to a plastic carton?
Or, are some of the less-than-finer-points of my personality (penchant for complaint, sarcasm, unwillingness to take risks) a result of not getting all of my needs met as a kid, glass yogurt dishes and properly-sized utensils included?
Back in the 70s and 80s, when I was coming up, parents were considered killing it if their kids were alive, fed, attending school and not doing physical damage/harm to anyone. I don't remember my parents ever asking to see my homework. They just assumed I got it done, and I did. I was fed what was provided, and nobody ever asked me my preference except on my birthday. Oh, and birthdays? We got to choose the meal for dinner, got a cake and got a gift. A gift. One. Maybe two if a grandma sent a card with a $10 bill.
It's easy to look back on all of that with rose-colored glasses and think: those were the days - simple parenting, kids running amuck through the neighborhood, mom drinking Tab cola with the phone cord stretched across the kitchen while she caught up on gossip with her girlfriends. We'd all watch Little House on the Prairie before Solid Gold came on.
But there were some dodgy bits too.
I never participated in any athletic activities at all. Not one. I can't believe how much sitting around I did, watching He Man and She-Ra instead of studying ballet or playing volleyball or participating in the debate club.
Maybe that lackadaisical parenting, that take-it-or-leave-it style my parents found so endearing set me up for a kind of apathy I've found disturbing in myself and had to rally against for the better part of my adult life.
Either way, what the hell do I do as a parent now?
Do I cater to my kids' desires out of an appreciation for their individualism?
And who am I to judge? I require my coffee served to me in bed, with two ice cubes to cool it to a reasonable temperature, in a mug I like (there are many mugs I do not like and feel ruin the coffee experience entirely) and with sloshes of cream.
My husband has mastered my coffee inclinations like someone who attended West Point and can cut a dessert in odd-numbered portions to mathematical accuracy. (He did attend West Point and can totally cut dessert like that, even without his template)
So, if I'm allowed to be picky and to glean a lot of pleasure from having something exactly the way I like it, are my children not entitled to the same thing?
Or do I earn those little moments of discerning whim because I clean the toilets, hustle kids all afternoon and evening, cook the meals, do all the grocery shopping and manage to make sure everyone's laundry is done?
In short, do we have the right to be picky before we're contributing to the pot?
Is pickiness a human right?
I'm curious what other parents have to say. I'm curious what non-parents have to say because sometimes people without kids can look in on all of us struggling to raise 'em up right and see the bigger picture.
Where do you draw the line on giving in to a child's whims and putting your foot down on picky behavior?
Here are a few articles that touch on the issue:
Inside the Mind of a Picky Eater (The Atlantic)
Catering to Kids Ruins Them For Life (Chowhound)
7 Signs You're Over Parenting (Popsugar - this one hit home for me)
This woman has a trick for dealing with demanding kids, but from experience, I think this sort of thing works once or twice and then gets exhausting. Thoughts? (Snotty Noses)
Finally, this article isn't necessarily on-topic, but after reading it I question what is 'normal' at all. Why Can't Johnny Jump Tall Buildings? Parents Expect Way Too Much From Their Kids (Slate)
Those are my thoughts on a half-rainy hump day.