Parenting is tough when it’s our only job. Now, we are substitute teachers, chefs, playmates and more.
Mr. Polombo, my fifth grade teacher used to always say “one crisis at a time.” My twin brother and I used to laugh about it as it seemed so dramatic in that context. But this has become my mantra as a parent (and entrepreneur, for that matter). One crisis at a time. Before COVID, the term ‘crisis’ was figurative. A ‘crisis’ was my 3 year old finding a seed in a wedge of seedless watermelon or my 5 year old running out of ketchup mid-nugget. These days, it’s literal. Yet, our priorities as parents remain the same: keep our kids healthy – both body and mind; happy; well-adjusted and learning.
I think the difference is that, for many, our measure of success and our expectations have adjusted. Today, ‘learning’ is anything that occurs as long as my kids are awake: helping around the house, riding a bike and observing nature are all opportunities to learn – even if at the expense of completing their virtual school assignments. Another thing that has changed: I avoid conflict at nearly all costs. “Parenting and self-care need to look different right now and we have to be OK with lowering some of the bars,” said Anna Sweeney, M.S., R.D., a registered dietitian.
Where I have struggled the most, as many parents have, is balancing health and happiness. As parents, we always strive to provide balanced meals. Before COVID-19, I would kindly nudge my kids to make healthy decisions at mealtime. That would escalate into me directing them, and ultimately, forcing them. Now, I end the conversation after step one and regroup to find a creative way to get as close as possible to the goal (a nutritious meal) while avoiding conflict.
Nutritionist and mom of triplets, Julie Burns, R.D. agrees: “you’ve done your job as a parent by serving balanced meals; your kids are responsible for eating them. If you play food enforcer—saying things like “Eat your vegetables”—your child will only resist.” She also suggests having fun with food. The more creative the meal is, the greater the variety of foods kids will eat; i.e. “broccoli florets are ‘baby trees’ or ‘dinosaur food.’”
I think what this climate has taught us is that there is nothing more important than love and positivity, and for me, this was a fundamental tenant upon which Peekaboo was founded in the first place. It is now more relevant than ever.
“If you have kids, get them engaged in planning meals together each day. Have them create a plan for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with the goal of introducing healthy choices,” says Michigan Medicine dietitian Sue Ryskamp.
Many picky eaters enjoy getting more involved in cooking, and may surprise you by tasting new foods in the process. In our home, my kids know that Peekaboo hides veggies, so we challenge ourselves to create other dessert recipes hiding veggies, with the hope that one day they’ll make it to supermarket shelves.
“Being a ‘responsive’ parent and feeder means looking at each situation and going with what works,” says Dr. Katja Rowell, M.D., a pediatrician who specializes in feeding issues. In our family, what works is anything and everything that keeps the peace. Some days that’s lots of fruits and veggies – other days, it’s lots of Peekaboo Ice Cream and goldfish crackers! We hope that, during these challenging times, Peekaboo helps you find some balance for your family, too.