Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Kids with No Kids Menu

I'm just back from a weekend away at the lovely Benn Conger Inn near Ithaca, New York where my family gathered to celebrate my brother's wedding. My kids had a wonderful time frolicking with their cousins, some whom they haven't seen in five years. The children in the group range from age 6 to 13 years. It was one of those great weekends where the kids go off and have their own little society without hassles from their parents about what to do or what to eat. In fact, they ate at their own table in a room separate from everyone else for the wedding dinner.

What struck me about their eating was that there was no complaining (at least that I heard!) and no special requests. There was no children's menu. They were left to their own devices to serve themselves from the buffet. The buffet was very nice, but it was not one of those huge smorgasbord type buffets with lots of variety. Basically, there were about two starches, two proteins, vegetables, and bread at each dinner. All the kids did really well as far as I could tell. Everyone got by even if some of the food may have been strange to them (e.g., tilapia with fruit salsa, peanut chicken, chicken stuffed with brie and cranberry). They picked around it and made do. And all the parents were having such a good time that no one was hovering around their child(ren) to see what they did or didn't eat. The focus wasn't on the food.

Sometimes we may fall into the trap of worrying too much about what our kids are eating. And sometimes we cross the line of the division of responsibility by serving them only things that we think they will eat - that is, more traditional kids menu fare. I think we can learn from backing off and letting them explore and make do with what's made available. Our kids may impress us and turn out to be quite successful eaters.

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