By: Liz S
As a parent and a nanny, I have spent years of my life working with children to get them to their next milestone or goal. Whether it is crawling, walking, talking, weaning them from a bottle, potty training, sleeping in big kid bed, learning letters and numbers, or having good manners, you name it, there is an endless to-do list for parents. Our little ones just reach one goal only to have another one facing them. Such is the life of a parent or care giver. Our role is to teach, support and encourage all facets of a child’s development.
My daughter Charlotte is 9 years old and in fourth grade. My husband and I have seen her successfully navigate through all those early childhood milestones and start to be a more independent being. But now is not the time to rest on our laurels, oh no. There is still so much to be done. And time continues to fly by, weeks at a time, doing homework, playing sports, having play dates, doing chores and more. I often say how much faster time flies by now that I have a child. And although I would love to savor each milestone and achievement as it happens, life moves on and there is always more to be done. This brings me to my Ah-Ha moment from the other night…take the win.
Let me explain. About 6 months ago I was determined to get more vegetables into my daughter’s diet. It is a simple mothers wish and I hear this a lot from other families too, “How can we get the kiddos to eat better?” Well, this was my goal and I knew I had a bumpy road ahead. My daughter would eat salad (with Caesar dressing and croutons of course) and had come to like summer squash we had grown in our garden, but that was it. No broccoli, carrots, corn, peppers, onions, or mushrooms- you catch my drift. No veggies. I had sent her to school with carrot and celery sticks and if I was lucky she would dip them in some ranch dressing, but who knows if it was really eaten. I have always put our nightly vegetable selection on her dinner plate and had tried some bribery and threats along the way to get her to eat them. I guess I was looking for her to not only eat them on occasion but perhaps even enjoy them? Dare I think that was possible? We took our pediatricians advice to always have a variety of color on our plates to get the best nutrition. We never made two dinner options, one “kid friendly” and one for the adults- she ate what we ate. We tried to expose her to many ethnic food choices (she has loved hummus since she was 2 yo) and not always go for the chicken fingers or mac and cheese.
After talking to Charlotte about her veggie likes and dislikes I dug a bit deeper and asked why she did or did not enjoy these foods. I had been pushing some sweeter vegetables on her thinking that would be an easy sell, offering corn, carrots and butternut squash. Turns out she did not like the combo of hot and sweet. She would eat raw carrots but not sautéed. I also found out she did like snow peas. I also heard her when she said absolutely no broccoli. I had tried to sneak broccoli in on many occasions thinking if she only had more exposure to it, she would come around. That never happened by the way, so I changed my tactic. I used snow peas as a base for my nightly veggies and started making a stir fry type of mixed veggies. I used onions, peppers, mushrooms, scallions or anything I had on hand. I picked out a yummy soy teriyaki sauce from Trader Joes to ease her into it and we were on our way. Charlotte would help slice and chop the vegetables and started eating vegetables each night. I noticed she would pick out less and less “unwanted” veggies from her plate and there were no bribes or threats to be had. I guess I took this in stride as I had most of our other parenting victories. Until Saturday night. Some new friends invited us to their church’s family night pot luck dinner. As Charlotte was sitting with some other girls her age, the parents noticed her plate. She had taken more vegetables, salads and healthier options that some of the other girls, which sparked a conversation. My friend said, “I wish my daughter would eat like that”. Charlotte proceeded to tell the adults at our table how much she likes onions, peppers, tomatoes, and other vegetables. She went on and on about her love of red onion and how she has come to enjoy Greek salad. I sat there nodding, as it was all true, then I noticed the surprised parents faces. They looked at me like I was so lucky to have a child who wasn’t a “picky” eater and would eat veggies. That is when it struck me. I was partly responsible for helping Charlotte expand her food choices and eat vegetables. I had set out with a specific goal and we had accomplished it. And I should take the win. I should celebrate this, even just with myself, that I made a positive impact on my daughter and ultimately her health.
This simple thing really resonated with me. I look back on all we have been through as parents and thought maybe time is flying by in part because we have not taken the wins as they came. Acknowledging, reflecting and yes even celebrating that milestone is important. It could help parents increase their confidence and support our desire to parent in a more conscience and engaging way. Parenting is a life long journey and commitment. You can feel like a hamster on a wheel. One day, one month, one year can roll into the next. If you have recently had a win in your family, I urge you to celebrate it. Did your little one give up his binky? Is your child now sleeping through the night? How about getting rid of all those diapers- woo hoo! Is that transition from a crib to a toddler bed finally paying off? No matter your children’s age and ability, there are milestones to be met and celebrations to be had. I do not want to look back on Charlotte’s childhood like a blur. I need to slow down and take the wins.
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