Before I became a mom, I remember thinking, “What’s so hard? If you want your kids to eat healthy, feed them healthy. It’s not like they can go buy Twinkies for themselves, unwrap them and skip dinner.”
As with many “I’ll never [fill-in-the-blank] when I’m a mom” statements, I was humbled. Bam. I got It once I had kids. Getting the small people to eat healthy really can be challenging, at least for me
But, it’s not challenging, because my first statement isn’t true. It is. Up till a certain point in children’s lives, you really do have complete control over what passes through their lips.
The challenge for me has been the emotional part of being a mom, which includes my heart and my caveman momma ancestors. Let me explain.
First, my heart. It’s cliché, I apologize, but I could have never imagined how much I would love these kiddos. How my heart would grow 8 sizes, just like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas. But, this love comes with a sneaky side effect, and that is pain. It almost hurts me to watch my kids not like something or not be happy, and that includes food!
Then, add in all the caveman momma’s that came before us. Stay with me, here. I often tell my clients, while we have evolved from our cavemen ancestors, we are still related and connected in some ways. If we can look back, we can understand and have more compassion for ourselves.
If you think of our ancestors, one of a mother’s most important and primal roles was to provide nutrition for her child. That meant survival to many babies throughout the ages. Hunger equaled death, and still can in some countries and scenarios.
So, what could be scarier to a cave-man-mom than her child going on a hunger strike? Nothing. Perhaps other than a saber-tooth tiger.
For me, when I put something healthy in front of my kids and they turn their nose and go on hunger strike. There is a small (unconscious) part of my mind that panics at a survival level. Then there is my heart that is yearning to please my kids and see them happy.
Those two things are like a knock-out punch and are precisely what makes me vulnerable to whipping something together I know they’ll eat, just so they have something in their bellies.
Here’s the cool thing, one of the ways we are different from our ancient ancestors is our prefrontal lobe. The front part of your brain (under your forehead) that allows us to be conscious of these things and make decisions to counteract our primal urges.
Using my consciousness, I can tell myself. “Okay, Barrett & Vivienne don’t like baby carrots today. But I know research tells me that I have to try a bunch of times before ruling it out. If they don’t eat right now, there is plenty of food in our home and I know they’ll make it up in the next meal. And they’ll likely be more hungry and motivated to try something new! PHEW!!!”
Doing that takes work and challenge all within my own mind and willpower…but this mama is not perfect and is still learning. But that’s okay, it’s actually better than okay because it means I’m growing and stretching myself to be a better mom and woman.