My mother seems to have forgotten what a picky eater I was.
For most of my childhood, I subsisted on buttered noodles, chicken fingers, and plain cheese pizza. On Thanksgiving, when presented with steaming dishes full of roast turkey, stuffing, and green bean casserole, I chowed down on rolls and waited for dessert so I could enjoy a slice of the chocolate pie my mother makes only once a year (I wouldn’t even try the pumpkin).
Well, surprise, surprise — my kids are picky too. And Thanksgiving is no exception.
I acknowledge my pickiness was on the extreme side, and I’m not proud my kids seem to have inherited it. Still, I don’t know many kids who get excited about turkey. Or stuffing. Or green beans swimming in cream of mushroom soup. I’m willing to bet most young kids will turn up their noses at jalapeno-cheddar cornbread and roasted mushroom tarts. Yet every year when we sit down at grandma’s for Thanksgiving dinner and I start buttering two rolls per kid, my mother starts:
Don’t they want some cranberry sauce? What about some mashed potatoes with gravy? Will they eat Brussels sprouts? Mashed potatoes without gravy?
I hear the hurt in her voice that her beloved grandchildren aren’t interested in the Thanksgiving feast she’s spent all week preparing. But the kids aren’t trying to offend, they’re simply being kids. Unless you’re serving turkey-shaped chicken nuggets and mac and cheese, Thanksgiving isn’t necessarily a kid-friendly meal. And we shouldn’t let that ruin the day.
My mother-in-law also seems a little mystified when my kids don’t eat very much at her house, but she earns major points for putting out charcuterie and vegetable trays each year. My kids can grab some cheese, crackers and a carrot stick and call it a day before running around with their cousins, which is what they’re there for.
I don’t want to fight with either grandmother on Thanksgiving about how little my kids are eating, but I also don’t want to fight with my kids. I want to enjoy my family time and the food I now look forward to. If kids don’t want to partake, first of all, more stuffing for the rest of us! Second, we know forcing kids to eat isn’t in their best interest.
I want my kids to try new things and learn to appreciate a broader range of tastes, but a holiday with fancier-than-normal foods might not be the best day for that. Let’s lower our expectations where the kids are involved. Did we show up somewhat close to the time we were supposed to? Did we bring the kids? Were they dressed? Did they politely decline the artichoke hearts as opposed to holding their nose? Call it a win, and we’ll see you in December for the more-kid-friendly holidays.
Although maybe keep some extra rolls on hand for those meals, too.
Lauren Davidson is a Pittsburgh-based writer and editor focusing on parenting, arts and culture, and weddings. She has worked at newspapers and magazines in New England and western Pennsylvania and is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with degrees in English and French. She lives with her editor husband, four energetic kids, and one affectionate cat. Follow her on Twitter @laurenmylo.