My son is in a phase where he wants to eat off his parents’ plates, no matter what we’re having (he also wants to use our utensils, which has forced me to switch to plastic forks and knives at times). This new-found curiosity in our food has made me realize how much crap my husband and I eat. At least once a day I find myself lunging across the kitchen to grab a piece of frozen pizza out of my toddler’s fist, or carefully placing my chocolate bar out of his sight and reach. Each time I try to protect my precious child from the chemicals, sugar, salt, and unknown hazards in the food that my husband and I are eating, I wonder, “If I wouldn’t want this to go into his body, why am I putting it in mine?”
Food is the ultimate double-standard in my house. Our son gets all organic, healthy, homemade, fresh, well-balanced meals crafted with great care and attention to ensure each is both nutritious and tasty. With so much of our family grocery budget and cooking time devoted to our toddler, however, that leaves less money and energy for food for my husband and me. Despite our valiant efforts to have family suppers at least twice a week, we often don’t get a chance to even think about our own dinner until our son is in bed, around 8:30pm. Tired and hungry, we scrounge through the fridge and pantry, often settling for omelets, canned soup, or mac n’ cheese from a box.
I’ve often wished we could afford to all eat as well as the youngest member of our family. The truth is, pretty soon we won’t be able to afford not to. If I want to eat while my son is awake, he’s going to want to taste, and sometimes share, my food. If I don’t want him eating processed or conventional things, I am going to have to make an effort to cook for myself as if I was cooking for him.
I tried that approach this past weekend, while my husband was out of town for a boys’ trip. I prepared wholesome meals (i.e. whole wheat waffles with homemade applesauce topping, brown rice with organic turkey and veggies, etc.) and ate them at the coffee table, where my son could come sit beside me on the couch. I gave him his own fork, and let him help himself from my plate. He loved eating together, and feeding me for a change. It was far less rushed than when I try to scarf down food in between diaper changes and story books, and my son ate more off my plate than he usually does when I feed him his own food. It was messier for all involved (including the couch), but I am slowly coming to terms with the reality of a toddler-run house, which includes applesauce stains on the furniture and bits of broccoli ground into the carpet. All in all, the experiment went well. I may be on to something …