The weather started to get crisp and cool in the morning so last week I boiled water in the tea kettle and poured it over wholesome oats. To make it fun, I put almond milk in the moo moo cow and put sliced bananas and raisins in little bowls so the kids could garnish their oatmeal with all the enthusiasm they muster up when garnishing their own pizzas.
They lumbered out of bed with their blankets and animals, climbed onto the couch and reached for the remote. I had to remind them it was a school day, even though I knew they knew that, because if it weren’t they would have hopped out of bed an hour earlier and bounced around the house making noise and clanking things together.
They dragged their feet coming to the table, sat down, stared at their bowls of creamy oatmeal and declared that not on their life would they eat that.
“I’d rather starve.” Said my oldest, while my youngest made hacking sounds.
“It’s oatmeal,” I said. “You need to try it.”
“No no no no no!” Heads shaking back and forth. They were adamant.
I wasn’t going to back down. I would bring in reinforcements. I went to the cabinet and got the brown sugar and maple syrup.
They looked at me like I was crazy. Brown is one of their least favorite food colors. In fact, they would prefer to avoid eating anything that is not white, yellow or orange.
“Just eat it,” I said.
“It’s going to make us sick!” said my youngest, with a look on his face as if he were looking at a pile of trash.
At this point it went through my head what a huge battle we have against the food companies marketing to our kids. When oatmeal, a food that is natural, wholesome and incredibly good for you is flatly denied and labeled as nearly poisonous by kids who would prefer on any day to scarf down a bowl of lucky charms or fruit loop believing that those artificially colored, overly sweetened food like substances that rodents and insects won’t even touch because they have been sold an image of happiness, we are in trouble.
Finally, my daughter, who can sometimes be reasoned with, and who can’t resist the pull of the moo moo cow agreed to take a bite. One bite.
I watched her, and as the spoon hit her tongue she winced. I stared her down and she put the spoon in her mouth. A couple seconds later, I asked her to take another bite while her brother started to cry.
“I already had one!” She protested.
She had another one. Her younger brother was watching carefully in between big elephant tears.
I poured my coffee and took a deep breath. When I turned around, she was scooping another spoon into her mouth. Her brother had his arms crossed. She looked at him. “Try it,” she said. “It’s like, with every bite, I like it more.”
He did try it, but he is stubborn so he only had two bites and he fought them like he was eating fire ants, while my daughter finished them. Three days later in the car, my son was complaining that his stomach hurt on the way to school after he’d eaten an organic pop tart and my daughter said, “You should really have oatmeal. It tastes good and fills your belly without hurting it. Really. You should just try it.”
I will try again this week. According to the Mayo Clinic, kids often need to be exposed to a food 12 times before they will try it. This is probably even true for my daughter as I’ve been trying oatmeal on her for years and this was my first success, but I hope my son will be easier to win over.
Baby steps, kid steps, grown up steps. This is all a process for all of us. Slow and steady and we will get there.