Whether or not you are a parent, or wish in any way to become one, you might have learned this little law of the universe the hard way: as a childless person, you simply do not announce what you would or wouldn’t do “if they were your kids.” The moment you utter these words, the parents of the world will swiftly catch wind of your overconfidence and put you in your place with either a frank explanation of how kids actually behave, or a well-deserved laugh in your face. For evidence of this phenomenon, look no further than Jill Filipovic’s tweet from yesterday, and the flurry of responses to it:
Filipovic (a feminist writer, lawyer, and author of OK, Boomer, Let’s Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind) is conscious of what she’s liable to unleash. “I know the thing parents hate most is when non-parents assert what they will do as parents which is inevitably smug and incorrect,” she begins. Of course, what follows is a but. “But I am 100% sure I will never assent to a ‘kid’s menu’ or the concept of ‘kid food.’” Cue the outrage from parents of picky eaters everywhere!
But it’s not just outrage from the wait-till-you-have-kids parents who take issue with Filipovic’s convenient conviction. There’s also a contingent of curmudgeonly “hear, hear” replies that insist they never got a choice of what to eat, and if they didn’t like the meatloaf on their plate then they just had to go to bed hungry, not like these coddled children of today, etc.
There’s a reason that whole branches of child psychology deal with the matter of picky eaters: there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. I firmly believe that no parent sets out to feed their kid Tyson dino nuggets 365 days a year for 18 years; cultivating diverse food preferences in your child takes work, and a relentlessly positive mindset in the face of tantrums, and in many cases, the willingness of the parents to venture outside their own food comfort zones, too. If a parent must pick their battles, then fighting with a kid to take one more bite of casserole might not always be the battle a parent picks. A kid’s menu at a restaurant is thus an escape hatch before the standoff has even begun: a promise that the next 30 minutes will be relatively drama-free. I can see why that’s so appealing to parents (and it’s cheaper than a regular entree, too).
On the other hand, there’s a lot to be gained from broadening your child’s food horizons, and many parents would consider it worth the struggle. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt has some great suggestions for raising thoughtful little eaters. As the debate continues over on Twitter, it’s worth throwing the question to you, some of the most thoughtful readers we know: Where do you stand on the institution of the kid’s menu?