Dinner time and foreign children

“There are starving children in Ethiopia.”

I was told this regularly as a child when I didn’t like the food I was served.

I’m sure people’s shaming country varied (children are, sadly, starving all over the world), but this is a familiar refrain to many of us.

The Kid eats reasonably well and also has his share of complaining about what’s for dinner.

I don’t shame him with meaningless reminders of hungry children overseas.

Yes, those children would like food, but what does that have to do with this meal? It’s not like our family had to decide if we were going to feed ourselves or feed those children, we decided to feed ourselves, and as a result, those children are dying.

Honestly, dinner time isn’t the best to get into the global politics behind this problem. Nine might not be the ideal age, either.

Did anyone who received these dinner time foreign political updates suddenly have gratitude for the (over-)abundance of food we have, then eat food they didn’t like with new appreciative eyes?

No, I didn’t either.

Does it work for you now? Didn’t think so.

Tired of the whining? Address the whining.

Genuinely concerned about the disparities in food abundance across the globe? Volunteer together or donate money or find organizations in your community to help local hungry people. Because we don’t need to travel overseas or even out of state to find people without enough to eat.

Your kid’s meal has nothing to do with it.

In the same vein, I don’t know anyone who prepares meals that they know their spouse doesn’t like, even if it’s their own favorite dish and they haven’t had it in forever

We certainly wouldn’t intentionally ignore the preferences of a dinner guest.

Sure, a guest is different than a kid, but a kid is a person with valid tastes and preferences, just like you, your spouse, and your guest.

I don’t make him eat what we’re having. Why would I? Because I made it? So I’m going to argue about eating it for half an hour? an hour? with a child who doesn’t like it? Is that really the way that I want to spend my energy? Is that the way I want to cultivate relationship?


Do I make him another meal?

Also no.

He has a standard backup of raw vegetables and hummus, and if there’s something else in the fridge or the pantry that he’d like with that, most of the time, that’s fine. We rarely have food in the house that would not be OK for him to have with dinner, and he’s never asked to have sweets. (He’d eat bread all night if we let him—so would I—but we rarely have bread in the house.)

I have so many negative memories of power plays surrounding meals. This is not how I want to be etched forever in my child’s mind—I will make enough other mistakes without trying.

The Climbing Daddy and I can have whatever it is that I or he has prepared, and The Kid can take it or leave it. And if we don’t like it either, we don’t shame each other into eating it—we either rummage through the fridge with The Kid or order a pizza for everyone.

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