So, you thought feeding kids was simply about serving up tasty, nutritious meals? LOL! That’s a good one! If you want your kid to eat, you better get acquainted with the Mealtime Rules. By virtue of the fact that you gave birth, you entered into this Mealtime Contract, which is binding, absolute and, by the way, non-negotiable — for you. Beyond the “delicious” part, which goes without saying and is, naturally, subject to child approval, you should be acquainted with the contract’s other fine print:
1. Under no circumstances shall a child eat what the rest of the family — including her siblings — is eating. Special meals must be prepared per each child’s request.
2. A request for a specific food is no guarantee that said food will actually be consumed.
3. “Favorite” foods are subject to change without notice. Prior consumption is no guarantee the same food will be consumed again — ever.
4. No food may touch another food on the plate AT ANY TIME.
5. Minimum number of bites to be taken must be negotiated in advance. No exceptions.
6. Bite size to be determined solely at the child’s discretion. “Big” bites of cake and “tiny” bites of broccoli to both count as “one” bite.
7. Bribery — i.e., offering candy in exchange for tasting a new food — will not be tolerated. Any attempt will result in the immediate clamping shut of the mouth and refusal to eat anything else.
8. A fork must never be used when fingers will suffice.
9. A napkin must never be used when a shirt sleeve is more accessible. (And even in cases when it’s not.)
10. Boogers are a food group.
11. Healthy food should never be concealed behind cutesy names. Ants On A Log: Unacceptable. Jimmies On A Sundae: Acceptable.
12. Ketchup is to be used generously. Ditto ranch dressing.
13. All food must be “pure” and unadulterated. Any attempt to camouflage vegetables in mac-and-cheese, smoothies or cake will be met with projectile vomiting.
14. It is not a food “rut.” It is “consistency” in food selection.
15. New foods will be regarded with extreme prejudice. Requests to serve anything “new” must be submitted in advance. In triplicate.
16. Parent will not make “airplane” noises or attempt to trick the child into opening his mouth to accept food at any time. The child, however, may make farting, belching and “raspberry”-type noises at the table as he sees fit.
17. The ratio of French fries to green vegetables must always be 8:1.
18. Food must not be “weird” in any way. “Weirdness” to be determined at the child’s sole discretion.
19. Broken cookies/crackers are “tainted” and will be summarily refused.
20. There should be no expectation that any food eaten at Grandma’s house will be automatically eaten at home.
21. Food will only be eaten if served on the “right” plate. “Rightness” to be determined by the child as it may be linked to particular cartoon characters that may/may not be considered cool at the moment. “Rightness” may also be determined by the color of a child’s shirt or other yet-to-be determined random event. Parent has no say in “rightness.”
22. There is always room for dessert.
23. A parent is not permitted to eat anything on a child’s plate. A child, however, is permitted free access to everything on parents’ plates. A child may return any food to a parent’s plate … even after it’s been chewed.
24. Hurrying is not permitted. A child will be allowed to linger over his dinner long after everyone else’s dishes have been cleared and the leftovers put away. Mom must stay at the table with the child at all times.
25. A child who is “full” after three bites of dinner may still request a PBJ at bedtime because he is “starving.” If first choice of jelly is unavailable, parent must immediately procure said jelly from the nearest supermarket. Time of day is immaterial.
26. There is no crying over spilt milk. Screaming about spilled Skittles, however, is encouraged.
27. Chocolate is the only acceptable presentation for dessert. Concealing yellow cake with chocolate frosting is punishable by severe tantrum.
28. Use of knives is not permitted. Food will be shoved into mouth regardless of size.
29. Denial of dessert will not be tolerated. Any attempts to refuse dessert will be met with a severe tantrum.
30. “Mealtime” is relative. Any time a child is hungry is “meal time.” Even at 1 AM.
A version of this blog post was originally published on Lifescript’s Healthbistro blog March 15, 2013.
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