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It's good for you, eat it!

It occurred to me, as I was washing dishes this morning, that my children hardly ever see grown-ups eating food they don’t like. I wonder if that’s true for children, generally.

That is, if I have taken a bite of some vegetable matter that I find loathsome, and the eyes of the children are upon me, I don’t (after my mouth is empty) state that the taste was awful, but that it was high in potassium, and therefore I will have another helping please. In truth, Your Humble Blogger is hardly ever in that situation, because my Best Reader is a wonderful cook who is also accomodating to my somewhat idiosyncratic tastes; I eat my vegetables because they taste so good. But if they do not, my instinct is to pretend to the children: That’s not bad at all, I might say, perhaps a little salt.

The small ones, then, having come across some bit of something that might be nutritious but noxious to their juvenile taste, are told that it’s good for them, that they need to grow up big and strong, to encourage their teeth and bones, to blah blah blahdeblah blah, and that they can be excused after eating that much. And, to the credit of my particular offspring, they do—we have been very, very lucky in the food-pickiness category as compared to the wide range of kids. But the concept that humans eat things that aren’t tasty for health reasons is modeled to them only by other children.

We have made a deliberate effort to model chore-doing, and we don’t hide the fact that it chores are a pain in the proverbial. During the toddler years, it was much easier to do household chores when the children were asleep or otherwise occupied, but I took advice from some book or other which pointed out that then the children grow up thinking that dishes magically cleanse themselves, that laundry simply appears clean and folded and put into drawers, and that the crud on the floor dissolves into the air. Nor to we falsely sparkle and grin: our children know that pulling weeds makes our backs sore, that cleaning out the trap in the kitchen sink disgusts us, and that while laundry is not difficult or laborious, it is not fulfilling or inspiring, and I grow tired of it while there are still loads to go before I sleep. Our children know that we do things that need to be done, and often slack on those we can slack on, until we can’t slack on them any longer. It may be spinach, but we choke it down.

Actual spinach, on the other hand, my Best Reader finds tasty either boiled or raw, and I quite like fresh spinach from our garden and don’t mind small amounts of the bitter, slimy boiled stuff. Which, I should say, only winds up on my plate at someone else’s house, where the politeness factor kicks in. I am (I hope) good enough at being polite that my children aren’t seeing me as a model of choking down unpleasant food for a good reason—and, anyway, that’s a separate issue from the eat-it-and-be-healthy that is a big part of children’s meals.

In truth, I hardly ever eat anything I don’t like. I eat a lot of things I like, and a few things I don’t mind, and sometimes I eat things that I like but am bored with (particularly for lunch, if I am uninspired), but I hardly ever eat anything I don’t like. And my children are presumably aware of this, and are also aware that on occasion they are pressured to eat some things they don’t like. This isn’t fair to them, and if there’s one things children notice, it’s injustice against them.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,