Omnivore's mom's dilemma.

I read the book 'Omnivore's Dilemma' written by Michael Pollan, here in Vancouver. I am not writing about the book, which is eminently readable and very thought provoking. I have just borrowed the title!

What will you have for breakfast? The question confronts Leela as she gets ready to go to Montessori in the morning. Leela is going to be four soon and while she is not a complete omnivore, she being human, (as defined in Wikipedia) is primarily an omnivore and also opportunistic. An omnivore is defined as the one who eats everything, and she does like a lot of things, but she likes only those that her mother thinks is not suitable for her. Hence there is a drama enacted each day. The same drama continues for Lunch and Dinner as well.

Rohini is a modern mother, who likes to involve Leela in the process of decision making and is also a concerned one about what is right to ingest. She finds it difficult to deal with it as the problem is compounded by the fact that Leela has a brand new sister and we suspect she is being difficult due to sibling jealousy. Luckily it is not anti 'Rhea' but Leela wants to get back to being a child and get all the attention she used to get when she had no competitors.

It is not easy now for a kid to figure out what she would like to eat. There are so many things her taste buds have tried and liked. Many of them are not breakfast material and finally she makes a choice out of the two or three given to her. While it does not please her mother, she gets what she has asked for, however reluctantly. Then there is a problem when she starts nibbling, whatever she chose does not taste the way she imagined it to be! She dawdles over it and frustrates her mother with her sudden lack of interest in eating. She is not hungry any more or she does not like it! She may also regresses to being a baby and asks to be fed and it is already very late and they should be leaving for school.

In these moments of tension, as a grandfather, as profound as my experience is supposed to be, I am unable to give Rohini a 'mantra' to help. I am hoping Tara who is joining us soon will be able to do it with her grandmotherly wisdom!

However, trying to see if I can make some helpful suggestions, I tried to go back to being a kid of four myself. It was simpler those days. I do not remember being asked this question. Any way the choices were not that many.

I quote from the website of Michael Pollan: 'The omnivore’s dilemma has returned with a vengeance, as the cornucopia of the modern American supermarket and fast-food outlet confronts us with a bewildering and treacherous food landscape'. I remember walking to one of these super-mega stores and was bewildered by the choices. The way it is here, you have to take your children along and you do get persuaded to buy things with different tastes and give it a try. I cannot imagine the effect this has on the taste bud of small kids. In any case they get hooked to some taste you have absolutely no clue.

I remember as kid we had a village boy working and staying with us. Once I offered him some kind of savory which I was munching. He would have none of it, his logic was that it did not fill his stomach like the Raagi he invariably ate and he did not want to corrupt his taste buds with what we ate, as he would not be able to get it all the time. I really admired his self-control.

There are of course controls parents do try. They are denied Coke or Pepsi for instance! I remember Neil when he was five or six wishing that he could grow up fast. I was curious to know what he wanted to do once he grew up. Of course, as you can guess, he said he would do whatever he wanted. I asked him what, for instance, he would like to do? He said 'I can drink Coke'.

The argument I get is that they would get hyper with sugar in the drink. A reasonable argument as you have to deal with hyper active kids differently here than what we would be meted out those days!

We have a proverb in Kannada which says, what you eat is your choice, what is worn needs others approval! But it is clear making a choice in this country is not easy. I remember that during the festival of 'Janmashtami' it was fun time after the festival but a tough one before that. We would see a lot of savouries prepared and stored during the week prior to the festival, but we had to wait till after the puja before we were able to eat it. Supposed to help our self control, but it was hell for us children.

Imagine the torture kids here goes through, they have to wait till they have grown up to eat all those forbidden stuff they are exposed to, not just a few days of wait we had. Then again they see kids in the class drink and eat all that cool stuff which are forbidden to them.

I wonder, as they sometimes accuse us, are we being mean to them? I know it is for their good, but how does one convince a four year old! You could reason with them, may work for a while but not too long. Bribe them with other things, no idea how good it is long term. Divert them with other ideas, they are not so easily diverted, these modern day kids are smart. We can punish them, a real no-no according to me.

It seems to be a real tough dilemma to resolve. You can see why I am waiting for Tara more eagerly than normal!


Narasimhan said…
Nidhi Mama,

Article just portrays the general dilemma that even dad's face across. We too feel the same when the 'mom's' instruction are not adhered to and they go without/with little breakfast the moment we see their innocent faces after work, the morning frustration just evaporates until the next morning.

We are enjoying all your experiences. I guess shortly you could release a book (if some publisher is available) as "Grandfather's short stories".
Rama Prasad said…
What a self created dilemma? How could one extract oneself from such a situation...hmmm!

Perhaps let each member choose something every weekend and holiday and mother lays down what is easiest and healthy from Monday to Friday for she is the provider. How about that?
Idea 2: Become childlike and eat along with her exactly what she chose. Race her to clear the plate. Make it fun. Truly enjoy eating and watch your own plate!

Bon appetit!
Sriram. N.L said…
My great-grandfather's advice to my mother when I would fuss was - let the kid starve, and obedience will automatically follow! He would always be quoting this sentence - "Ade undenu, kada tegi" (I will eat the same thing, open the door) - to illustrate what would happen if one were to send the kid out and lock the door. Many pediatricians give the same advice, that the kids know when they are hungry and how much they need to eat, so the parents should not worry. Difficult to follow, particularly the first time around.

As you said, those were different days and either we were more afraid and respectful of elders, or since they had a lot more things to handle, could not afford to pamper the kids too much.

I would be interested in knowing whether we are suddenly supposed to acquire a deep knowledge about raising small children once we become grandparents!


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