filet-o-fish shall never been the same again

I don’t think I’m very pushy when it comes to getting Jack and Jon to try new things. I believe they will reach milestones on their own, whenever their bodies and brains reach the perfect point for it to happen. I mostly don’t feel any pressure to have the youngest kid on the playground who can climb the rock wall or the only child in Sunday school who can sing Jesus Loves Me in multiple languages. You don’t want to pet the horse? No big deal. You don’t want to go down the slide in Monkey Joes? No problem. You don’t want to have your picture taken right now? TOO BAD!

Just kidding!

I’m not without fault on this issue and I admit I occasionally have to reign myself in. Like, oh yeah, I guess I shouldn’t make you wave goodbye to the lady in the store who said you were the cutest thing she’d ever seen. Wait. Who am I kidding? YOU’RE RUINING YOUR CUTENESS, WAVE! WAVE, YOU!

So yeah. We aren’t without hiccups. But in general I don’t force my kids into anything.

Except when it comes to food.

Okay, I admit it. I have, on a few occasions, behind locked doors and sealed windows, forced my boys to eat their peas under penalty of punishment. I believe it’s absurd for me to beg them to eat what’s good for them, so I don’t. I simply tell them what to eat, and they do. Maybe that makes me a strict and controlling mother. But whatever. I don’t recall seeing SHORT ORDER COOK anywhere on my job description. the end.

In fact, we have a little ritual around here that involves eating our dinner in courses, starting with the least desirable (veggies), continuing the the second least desirable (meat), and ending with the most desirable (bread or fruit). If you don’t finish course #1 you can’t get to course #2, and so on. This method took a long time to enforce with our boys, particularly Jon. After all, it’s much easier to explain this sort of thing to a three year old than to a one year old. Initially Jon was baffled when Jack would finish his vegetables in record time and move on, while Jon sat there pushing his plateful of carrots away and demanding bread. This was about the time we started the mandatory consumption of the first course rule. It goes something like this. You don’t have to eat whatever comes after, but YOU WILL EAT THAT SPINACH. period.

We suffered many long dinners, a few tears, and much food flung on the wall before it clicked. And when he finally got it, oh boy did he GET IT. I could literally see the comprehension dawn “The sooner I chugalug the green beans, the sooner I’ll be granted that coveted cookie.”

Now there is a new problem. It’s the how fast can I choke down a record number of broccoli without gagging myself problem. Because I’m all for a little healthy competition between the boys, but sitting there reviewing the steps of the Heimlich Maneuver in my head while I watch their chipmunk cheeks expand at an alarming rate is not my idea of a relaxing dinner.

“one. bite. at. a. time.” has become the dinner mantra. And when I see Jon gearing up for a chubby bunny contest I instruct him to spit it out and try again with smaller bits.

Some aspects of parenthood are so incredibly lovely. Some things I know will stick with me for the rest of my life. Like a smudge I can’t wipe off my brain.

Like one night last week when Jon tried to consume a half a tilapia filet in one swallow because he knew there was a honey covered biscuit on the other side. When it was apparent there was no way he could possibly down the mouthful of food, Caleb told him to spit it back on the plate. That was when I glanced over and nearly had a gag myself because what came out of his mouth was so perfectly masticated and molded into a neat little square that I recognized it immediately.

Caleb looks at me and goes “Well, now we know how McDonalds does it.”

And I will never look at a fish sandwich the same way again.