I have been thinking for a long time about all the voices that tell us we're Doing It Wrong in the kitchen. We wanted to bring you a column about the ways that you've actually been doing it right all along. My friend Cheryl Sternman Rule is bringing us this occasional dose of reassurance. — Faith
More fruits, more vegetables, less processed food. Homemade, wholesome, whole family around the table. The directives – from society, from the media, from other parents — come in constant, sometimes oppressive waves, and the message usually boils down to this: there’s a right way to feed your family and a wrong way, and even those who make the best choices they can still feel like they’re coming up short.
So let’s do this.
Let’s relax the reins on each other.
If you’re doing your best during these years of intense juggling, if you’re mindful about food most of the time, if you cook at home when you’re able, if you care what your children are eating, you’re doing it right.
My younger son just turned thirteen. My older son is two years older. They’re good eaters, great eaters even, but it wasn’t always this way. I could go on and on about the home-cooked meals I prepare and the amount of produce we consume, but the fact remains that when they were younger and I was feeling my way blindly through new motherhood, our mealtimes were real, not ideal. Yes, I cooked, I paid heed to labels, but I didn’t purée my own baby food or make my own nuggets. Our meals were simple and healthful and balanced, mostly. But pancakes for dinner weren’t uncommon; at snack-time there was juice, there were teddy bear cookies; and on harried days there was more white pasta than you could shake a stick at. I did my best.
Could I have done better? Sure, but I could have done better at a lot of things.
Today, I’ve got two teenage boys, and our meals are relaxed. That’s the victory. That’s the win. Not the fact that the chicken’s organic or the salad’s unsprayed (though that’s great), not the fact that they both eat peas (good, too). The victory is that we sit around the table each night, fill our plates, and focus on each other and not on the food.
If you’re a new parent, and you read labels, and you cook when you can – if you’re doing your best around food amidst chaos — you’re doing it right.
Life’s too short to feel bad about white pasta.
(Image credits: Cheryl Sternman Rule)