“Jrue, what did you do at the big school today?” I asked my 4-year-old son as we rode in the car towards our house after school.
“Ummm,” he responded, his overactive brain sorting through the day’s events. “I pointed to the picture.”
“What else?” I prompted.
“And I played with friends.”
“That sounds like fun,” I said. “What did you and your friends–”
“Annnnnd,” Jrue interrupted, “I ate broccoli at the big school!”
“You ate…broccoli?” I asked, surprise registering through my tone. I immediately thought of the night before at dinner when I had created a healthier meal of baked chicken wings and mashed potatoes and broccoli. As I handed Jrue his plate of food, he glanced down at the broccoli and said, “Ew, I’on like broccoli,” then pushed the florets off his plate with a fork onto my carpet.
I just stared at him.
So, to hear him openly admit that he had consumed the very vegetable that he claimed to detest nearly 24 hours earlier was confusing. I felt some kind of way about it.
For one, my broccoli had to have been better than “school broccoli.” It was steamed in a bag to a nearly-perfect soothing crunch. I seasoned with salt and pepper and drizzled the florets with melted butter. This preparation method is the hubs’, the one that got me hooked to broccoli for the first time many years ago. Sure, it wasn’t coated with cheese, but it was better this way. It was tasty! Is tasty! I know that “school broccoli” wasn’t seasoned, nor did it come special with the stems removed and a side of really yummy chicken. My guess was that he ate it because the other kids at the lunch table ate it.
Peer pressure meals.
There was no other explanation.
Oh, but Dr. Meg of the “Meg Meeker, M.D.” blog gives more reasons why a child may eat better earlier in the day than later: “It appears that this mother’s son likes eating at noon rather than at dinner time,” she explained. “It’s not that the daycare makes better food, that he likes the daycare workers more, or even that he doesn’t want to eat for Mom at home. He is simply ready (and hungriest) while he is at daycare.” (Meeker, “Ask Dr. Meg: My Baby Eats at Daycare But Not at Home”)
This makes sense. With all of the back-to-back activities in my son’s classroom, as well as what I imagine to be pretty intense speech therapy twice a week, Jrue is probably famished when lunchtime rolls around. Compared to being at home in front of his tablet or toy cars, when he is most relaxed, he doesn’t have much of an inspiration to run to the dinner table.
In her article, Dr. Meg also reminded me of this point. “We mothers hold deep feelings about our kids’ eating. If they eat well, we feel like successful mothers. If they don’t, deep down we feel like we are failing. After all, our instincts tell us, If we can’t make sure that our kids have their nutritional needs met, what can we do? Food is very emotional stuff for us mothers. . .The truth is, food is emotional for us, but it isn’t for our kids. . .It goes in because someone says it has to, but he’s got better things to do.” (Meeker, “Ask Dr. Meg: My Baby Eats at Daycare But Not at Home”)
It’s difficult to keep this in mind in moments of panic and concern, especially since Jrue has been such a picky eater since about the time he learned how to hold a spoon. But, I will try.
I don’t want to battle eating at home against the food he consumes at school. As long as he is eating something, I should be relieved. It’s funny, though, how our new eating scenario, adjusted sharply from nearly no eating at all, can be compared to the Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods Market last summer.
Eating at home is represented as the brick-and-mortar Whole Foods store. It is a localized pleasantry with its own fans, a mainstay in the upper crust Anytown, USA neighborhood. Not for the weak of heart, Whole Foods has its own cost system of biodiverse grocery goods, much in the way that eating at home can give similar illusions of added expense. When time for dinner, I give a standard presentation of a meal with insistences to sit at the table to eat and not on the couch. It may be a favorite dinner of baked chicken or spaghetti, or not. For Jrue, eating at home may have what he’s looking for. Maybe not.
Eating at school is like Amazon, the larger empire, the giant corporation of endless bounty and mighty savings. It’s the popular place to be. Breakfast and lunch at school has some kind of kid appeal that I cannot put my finger on. Well, I take that back. One aspect is understandable: It’s more fun to enjoy a sandwich amongst kids his age who he is still trying to figure out if he likes or dislikes. If a peer hangs orange peelings from his ears for laughs, that’s an organic kind of entertainment for Jrue that mommy cannot replicate at home. (And a guaranteed friend.) If there is some kind of lunch “trade” occurring, I wouldn’t know about it, but I remember grade school shenanigans of the like at lunch tables in mommy’s past.
Amazon ate the ailing Whole Foods, didn’t it? Inhaled its debt and all.
“School broccoli” may be where it’s at. I may be working too hard.
Meeker, M.D., Meg. “Ask Dr. Meg: My Baby Eats at Daycare But Not at Home.” Meg Meeker M.D., n.d., https://megmeekermd.com/blog/ask-dr-meg-my-baby-eats-at-daycare-but-not-at-home/. Accessed Feb. 21, 2018.