Fill 'em up June 22 2015
So here’s my last Thursday.
Menial breakfast duties.
Dress and pack off three kids in some semblance of appropriate outfits with appropriate lunchboxes to appropriate care options (school, preschool, lovely nanny).
Rush to town to drop flea-bitten super skinny kitten off at vet to make it loveable, or at least render it slightly less besieged by bugs so I don’t freak out at Elsie smooching it all day long.
Rush to another town to do a two hour plus interview and photography session with local pigeon fancier for a magazine piece (astounded by how interesting pigeon racing is - for instance releasing the birds to race is called a ‘liberation’ - but still don’t fall in love with pigeons).
Stupidly duck into a shopping centre to collect a top using birthday vouchers - SELFISH MISUSE OF PRECIOUS TIME but the shops were calling my name… no kids and ‘rewards’ burning in my pocket….
Do ginormous weekend grocery run – have invited 20 of my nearest and dearest friends to stay in tiny three-bedroom farmhouse we lovingly inhabit. Figure if they are all sardined in loungeroom on the floor they may as well be well-fed.
Rush back to other town to collect angry shrieking orange furball.
Reminded by loving farming husband (and this, dear friends is where as a farmer’s wife, my ‘pick up’ chores may differ from yours) to go to nearby butcher to collect meat…. 180kg of beef in my boot later…. (Apologies to the vegetarians, but beef farmers will naturally eat a LOT of beef and you get more than two t-bones and a roast when you send in a whole animal).
Missed school pick up. Husband has three kids in the cattle truck. Not great outcome. (Me-shopping was definitely a bad idea).
Grab kids and he reminds me I am also already half an hour late for a preschool committee meeting. (Shopping centre visit looks even more selfish now).
Make it through multi-hour outdoor meeting in mini preschool chair in sleeveless and now small-finger stained silk blouse. Backside may never regain normal shape. Blouse may never regain normal colour.
Children are also inappropriately attired for ‘cool’ conditions and have no snacks left in lunchboxes.
Haul out of there bang on dinner time amidst a lot of wailing – some mine, some theirs, a lot from the cat.
THEN in a momentary mindlapse, seeking peace I hand over some hand crafted magnificent local donuts I was planning to use as massive bribery to get good behaviour in lead up to massive weekend.
Everyone quiet momentarily. Then on sugar high.
Home. Unpack meat. All of it. That is a lot of sausages.
Then of course no one wants to eat sausage and mixed vege dinner hurriedly thrown together.
Can’t honestly blame them. The donuts rocked.
Bundle them all off to bed with extra teeth-brushing trying to scrub away my sins.
The fights. The waste. The constant tweaking of menus to suit constant changes in tastebud tastes (last week they loved a dish that now makes them gag?!?!?). The endless pantry emptying. The running a restaurant from home, making five dishes to suit every desire. The mess. The fussiness. The fads. The fast-food cravings. The distaste for anything resembling a vegetable that looks like a vegetable. The excessive use and abuse of carbohydrates. Every day. Every meal.
‘What can I have to eat’… ‘When will dinner be ready?’ …. ‘But I don’t like that!’ …. ‘I’m hungry NOW!’
The sound of the fridge opening ten minutes before tea. Snacks quietly and sneakily devoured. Appetite ruined. Grrrrr….
We all have different likes and dislikes when it comes to appeasing our tummies. But how as parents do we ensure nutrient goals are kicked while also appeasing small people. I have read (and sometimes burned) dozens of cook books on ways to hide dozens of vegies in delicious dinners, wean kids off junk and head them away from a heady addiction to sugar and all things nasty.
And I am a hypocrite. I will be the first to admit the kids will sit down to a lunch of homemade hommus, carrot sticks and wholegrain crackers while I am scoffing chocolate down the hall. However generally we are very good. We eat a lot of things we produce (beef aside) and the kids are often keener to try something they have grown than something that comes from the supermarket. We do the rounds of the local farmers market so they learn to eat seasonally (although all they seem to crave from our weekly visits are pork dumplings and banana waffles) and we go through at least 8kgs of apples a week… I am incredibly conscious of what they eat, especially at school and most treats are on the whole at least home baked, if not entirely wholesome.
I know kids go through phases. Things they once loved – avocado sandwiches for instance – now invite eye watering, Oscar-worthy vomit-inducing fits. All my kids started off as good eaters, then they entered the ‘fussy-stage’. Elsie is on the verge of it now, at nearly two. Meals that were once inhaled are now being picked at. I am shuddering at what lies ahead.
My children aren’t exactly off the size charts so I have always panicked about food. Preferring to cook meal after meal at night to make sure they ate something. Bad idea and something I no longer do, if just for the sake of my budget! Campbell eventually came out the other side somewhere between three and four (after eating like a sparrow for yonks) and now adores sushi more than anything, loves a mildish curry and on a recent trip to an upmarket Asian restaurant nailed everything from the seven-hour pork belly to the crunchy prawn salad. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it is called – ‘hope he doesn’t get a taste for lobster’…
Then there is Dougal. Mr now-four has been in a ‘not eating dinner’ phase for about three years. Unless it is pasta. Occasionally with cheese. But mostly just pasta. It drives me bonkers. I have tried all sorts of cuisines, all sorts of methods, all sorts of madness that results in much tears from both parties. I have given up. So has he. He often wanders off refusing to join the family at the table and then is found a few minutes later snoring soundly in his bed.
I toss and turn with worry about taking my son to hospital with a rare but significant case of scurvy.
He wakes fresh as a daisy after 12 hours sleep and devours two bowls of cornflakes, one bowl of yoghurt and two pieces of toast. His metabolism is different. He loads up in the morning and gradually decreases intake throughout the day. I am trained mentally to feed in the opposite way, start off light then work up to an overnight sustaining meal (if only so we get a nice uninterrupted sleep).
We have an uneasy routine of shadow boxing around the dining table that is creating undue stress and I want to do away with it.
So today, a week on from the donut debacle I played the big play. I took my little mini-mechanic- wannabe-wheat-grower to the John Deere shop. I let him ride in all the big tractors. I let him thumb through the catalogue. I let him choose a must-have accessory for his favourite toy. I even bought it.
But there was a catch. In front of all the salesman who now know Dougal Dozer Driver by name I made him agree to a deal. He doesn’t get the beloved backhoe-thing until he earns five stars. Five stars equates to five meals. He walks out of the store nodding. Chuffed to be adding to his army of machinery. He cradles it all the way home.
Then I take it and put it at the very top of the kitchen cupboard. Beyond even kid-on-chair-on-table height. And the tantrum to end all tantrum begins. The phone rings. The tantrum continues. A visitor comes to the farm (bugger not now while my kids are making me look so horrid). The tantrum continues. We ring Dad for back up. He concurs. The tantrum continues. We ring grandma. She concurs. The tantrum continues.
He helps himself to a snack of an apple and two arrowroot biscuits (wish I owned shares in those buggers, we have gone through enough packets in Dougal’s four years that I could build a bridge to the moon). He then awards himself two stars. Which I remove. Tantrum continues.
Then there is silence. He is thinking. He is scheming. He offers alternate deals. All are rejected.
He goes away to work on our driveway with his tractor.
He comes in for dinner. He pushes it all around on his plate. Lightly pan fried fish. Homemade chunky chips. A selection of raw veges. A few slices of cheese. Cheese is inhaled. Then carrots. He ‘shares’ the snow peas with his sister. The chips slowly are devoured. The fish awaits rejected.
I start cutting out and colouring stars. I offer him the glue stick, the chance to stick the big number one on the box. He begins to eat. Slowly. Now this kid has been known to hold small mouthfuls for eternity so I am not celebrating yet. There have been times one piece of meat has made it an hour or two after dinner, through the bath, toothbrushing and eventually into bed, still squirrel-like shoved in the corner of a cheek. I get distracted feeding/cleaning/feeding Elsie. I turn around all the fish is gone. Not hidden. Not smushed into the floor. Eaten. And even better – swallowed.
He glues the star on the box. We are both beaming.
Small victories, I know. Tomorrow is a new fight. There are four more stars to colour in for starters. I still have to think of something creative and interesting (both on the food pyramid and mind pyramid) to put before the masses… Seriously there is always another meal to think of. Love cooking. Don’t always love the thinking. The throwing on the floor. The throwing out to the dogs. Wish someone would structure it all for me and I knew that every meal would be a success.
And secretly… just a little I wish we could have donut-dinners every night.
PS. On hearing of my brilliant backhoe bribery my mother has just reminded me of her Barbie-blackmail to get me to the dentist. It seems my entire parenting existence is just one big bag of karma.