I am not a good cook. In fact I am not even a cook. When you are single this is not a problem. A banana for breakfast? Easy. Take-away sushi for lunch? Excellent. Porridge for dinner? No worries!
But when you become a parent, nobody warns you that ‘cook’ is sneakily embedded into the job description. In the fine print. At first, you’re lulled into a false sense of security because they only need milk. If you’re breastfeeding, you don’t even need to buy anything or mix anything. Your body makes food while you’re free to do other things. How good is that.
Sometime around the 4-6 month mark, though, the difficulty factor ramps up as solids begin and you have to start buying, preparing and hand-feeding your child. It’s only once a day at first but it quickly ramps up until milk is a memory and you’re preparing, serving and cleaning up 3 meals a day plus snacks. SO. MANY. SNACKS.
All the time snacks. Because SNACKS.
For someone like me who doesn’t speak cooking and has little interest in or talent for food preparation, this is one of the most challenging parts of motherhood. I’ve bought books. I’ve frozen little ice-cubes of pureed organic sweet potato, I’ve tried.
But I’m not a natural and I can’ t say I enjoy it. Maybe nobody does. Maybe it’s just one of those things you do when you’re a parent like getting up in the night and wiping bottoms.
Wait, there are some people who enjoy it. They must. Because some of them devote endless hours and energy into creating ‘Fun! kid-friendly meals!’
You know the ones - with plates of food that look like art work. Food that’s cut and arranged into the shape of animals or story book characters. I’ve tried making vegetable faces on my kids’ homemade pizza a few times over the years. They pretty much ignore it and eat around the vegetables but not before lodging their usual complaints, reminding me of all the things they don’t like to eat.
Do other parents have this issue? Samantha Lee doesn’t. She’s the mum whose meals I was looking at last week. iVillage reported:
Samantha Lee’s fabulous dinner plate creations have made her an Instagram celebrity, with over 200,000 people subscribed to her posts.
Just like any other mum, Samantha was looking for a way to get her young daughters excited about their breakfast and lunch. The simple idea to shape their dinners into cute characters and stories succeeded in encouraging the girls to eat more independently, and has evolved into an ongoing project.
“I love to make something practical. Something for everyone to be able to follow,” Samantha tells Today MOMS. “I learned that food art for kids shouldn’t just look decorative and fancy. It should also taste as good as it looks.”
Well, yes it should but invariably it doesn’t. At least it doesn’t at my house. That’s not to say I don’t think about what I feed my kids. I do. I just struggle to find things that I can prepare and they will eat. Especially when their tastes change so maddeningly often.
“Wait, don’t you love chicken soup?”
“No, I hate it now.”
“Of course you do.”
My view is that most of us are doing the best we can. In fact, if you’re reading this article, I can almost guarantee you’re not the kind of parent who fills their baby’s bottle with Coca-Cola. So as an antidote to the images of meals none of us will ever EVER make - meals that look like Lady Gaga or monkeys at the zoo or involve cutting our kids’ initials out of different kinds of melon - I propose we start taking some iPhone snaps of the meals we give our kids: the good, the bad and the ugly.
Share them with us on any form of social media using the hashtag #IVrealkidsdinners, or email them to [email protected], along with any details you care to share about what’s on the plate. We’ll put them all together to create a gallery of reassurance and reality.
I’ll go first:
ABOUT: Once upon a time there was a girl who wanted desperately to work in the media. She began doing work experience aged 19, became an editor at 24, had a baby at 25, another at 33, spent 7 disastrous months as a TV executive, pushed the eject button on her corporate career to start a blog which became a website which became an independent media company she now runs with her husband. They then acquired another website (iVillage Australia!) and the rest is history…