I am always badgering my kids: Just try it. You might like it. You might like lacrosse. Try coding club–you might like it. How about some pork chop? You might like it. Not sure where that came from in the Mom Toolkit.
Maybe it’s that my childhood didn’t have so much choice. That sounds worse than I mean it. I think times were different and my parents were different. Their approach was to give what they could and to take what they could get. The movie we might have been lucky enough to go to at the second-run 99-cent cinema was whatever was there, not one of the 13 playing at the multiplex. Whatever Mom served was what was for dinner (sometimes, like when she made macaroni, that was delicious; other times, with canned green beans or soggy broccoli, it was not at all). Still young, I was grateful.
But as I went from elementary school to middle school to becoming a dreadful teen I was always curious and questioning. I wanted endless options: after-school clubs that they weren’t around to pick me up from or sports that I’d already aged out of or excursions that they couldn’t afford. With each boy I crushed on I looked over his shoulder at who might be next (gross, I know); my parents shook their heads.
Fast-forward. So much later, after really working hard in college and first professional gigs, when I worked for Martha Stewart, she had a solid mantra that resonated with me: Learn something new every day. It was such a simple thing to be reminded of as a twentysomething who by then thought I knew so much; though I was no longer a kid I was ready to learn again. I expect to write often about the almost-decade I spent working for her–I learned so very much, only the beginnings of which included a rainbow of ingredients that I never tried, tasted or even saw while growing up in Connecticut.
Spin ahead some more (it does go just that fast). When our boys were born and began to grow, I wanted, desperately, for them to learn and to be curious and to try, basically, to carpe diem the heck out of their childhood. Because over the years I’d seen the benefits of being game.
But more and more I see as a parent that seemingly basic things require years for children to understand and to value. Say please and thank you. Hang your coat. Brush your teeth. Hold the door open. Have a fruit or veggie alongside that snack. Try just one bite.
So we repeat ourselves and encourage and try not to get frustrated when we get catatonic stares yearning for another hit of screen time or a stubborn “No!” at the prospect of embracing broccoli. (Truth: we are works in progress on the frustration front.) So we put the activity options in front of them, we applaud a first or second or third taste even if the response is lackluster, we put the food out and no longer push and push–we did strong-arm when my oldest was a toddler and it made every meal that much worse for all of us. We learned. I still have to try new things as a mom who’s figuring it out as she goes. And it turns out that I will always be learning something new every day.
On the broccoli front, we still haven’t had success. But we’ll keep trying. Give roasted broccoli a shot–it doesn’t go gray like its old-school 1970s boiled predecessor. It’s crisp and vibrant and a tiny bit smoky and I know someday, maybe with a squeeze of lemon and a hit of salt, the boys will relent and might even say thank you. What are you going to try today?
Hess, https://paperovernight.com the director of education policy studies for the washington-based american enterprise institute