Our kids were not fussy eaters. But one of them really, really didn’t like asparagus. Actually, none of the kids liked asparagus.
But during one particular dinner, one particular kid let it be known that there was no way he was going to eat his asparagus. In my fatherly wisdom, I let it be known that he was not going to leave the dinner table without eating that asparagus. All four spears. It was a classic dinner table stand off. I was serious and committed. So was he.
Truth be told, I like asparagus when it’s steamed, buttered and still hot. But — as you’ll probably agree — cold and mushy asparagus is something on which to gag. And that’s exactly what the young diner did. He sat there for several minutes, gave me the evil eye for several more, and finally shoved two or three cold, soggy asparagus spears into his mouth. Gagging, choking, and spitting some of the green goo back onto this plate.
That’s all I remember. I don’t recall any lingering animosity. I do remember suggesting to Rita that we quietly avoid serving asparagus for a while. We didn’t tell that to the kids, but it just seemed like a battle we didn’t want to fight again for a few months. And that was that.
The lasting impact of the event is really the most amusing part of the story. Now as adults, all our children enjoy fresh asparagus, even ordering it in restaurants. When the plates are presented, one of the kids will snarkily say, “No one can leave the table until you finish your asparagus.”
There are a few valuable takeaways here: One is that, other than their birthday, I hope you’re not letting your kids dictate your dinner menu.
Second, try not to wage war with your kids on trivial matters. Like eating asparagus, toothpaste residue in the sink, elbows on the table, loading the dishwasher the wrong way, or leaving the door ajar when the air conditioning is on. It’s your call. But choose your battles wisely.
Three, expect occasional battles and standoffs with your kids. But don’t come down so hard that you can’t laugh about them later. One of my favorite lessons to share is this: At the end of every interaction, be pulling your kids toward you, not pushing them away.
Hope that makes sense.