Parenthood is not a spectator sport. One of the joys (and frustrations) of parenting is watching children choose what to eat and what not to eat. I am really happy when they get excited about a particular food, especially when it’s healthy. On the other hand, I get frustrated when one of the kids says, “I don’t like it,” which usually prompts me to say, “But you haven’t even tried it yet.” Never, ever has that logical argument worked.
When Elijah was an infant, he had difficulty sleeping in his crib. A parishioner gave me The Scientist in the Crib, a book about babies. It did nothing to help. We found out later Elijah had acid reflux. With nightly medicine, and blocks to prop up the head of his crib, Elijah began to sleep. The Scientist in the Crib theorizes that babies are little scientists who test everything, including food. This “testing” is pre-programmed into the brain to avoid ingesting poisonous things. A different parenting book suggests parents introduce new foods by placing them on the child’s plate and on theirs. The child supposedly will see the parents eating it and, after several days the child will eventually try it. Wait, did I just hear you sigh while reading that? Yeah, me too. In the real world, that plan might work just before the child heads off to college after 18 years of hot dogs and chicken nuggets.
When do we reinforce a child’s testing of new foods and when do parents simply insist? I had a co-worker who would wrap up the plate of un-tried dinner food and put it in the fridge. The next day, that plate was brought out for the child who refused to try it (folklore/office gossip on this is that she and her son had a stalemate that lasted five days). I know another parent who sat patiently with the child every night because she could not get up from the table before eating her green vegetable… for hours the mom sat and waited with the child. By the way, green beans do not get better after an hour on a cold plate.
When do we trust our taste buds and when should we just dive in and try something new? When should children be encouraged to use independent thinking and control what they eat and when should they simply trust their parents?
The Psalm for this Sunday has the phrase, “Taste and see that the Lord is good, happy are they who trust in God!” Fewer and fewer people in our country are willing to taste and see what the Psalmist declares. That might be because so many Christians toward the end of the 20th Century wanted to tell everyone else what tastes good and what is not. I think that makes people unhappy, for the most part, and I believe people who taste God are happy when they do it on their own rather than under explicit instructions.
I’ve seen and experienced the God-of-all-patience who places a little bit of his goodness on a plate and waits. God never forced me to eat. In fact, God is so patient we are allowed to eat even of the sweet and poisonous food of self-righteousness, resentment, and greed; all the while God waits at the kitchen table for us to return to see that God is good.