If you’ve ever had children who were such picky eaters that you’ve been ready to throw up your hands and quit feeding them, read on.
Our daughter Saydi lives in Boston with her husband, Jeff, and four delightful children: Hazel, 9; Charlie, 8; Emmeline, 5; and Peter, 3. She is an extraordinarily good cook. In fact, when it’s Saydi’s turn to prepare the meal of her choice at our family reunions, we rejoice.
But her children are not quite as crazy about her cooking as the rest of us. Even though she had insisted for many years that they pleasantly try “a lot or a little” of everything she cooks, she was still getting complaints.
Well, maybe they were a little more than complaints — more like shrieks of resistance.
One night, she served a lovely Indian curry, and after hearing “Eeeew! Why is this green?” from Charlie and “I can’t eat this; I hate raisins” from Hazel, Saydi couldn’t take it anymore.
(By the way, she is known to have inherited a quick temper when pushed to the edge from one of her parents, whose name starts with "L.")
“OK, if you kids can’t appreciate the work I do to create a nice dinner for you every night and be polite even if you don’t like what we’re having, I am going on strike!” she said with gusto. “Since this seems to be the way you behave almost every night, you will be cooking your own dinners for a week!”
It immediately felt like a good idea. After a consultation with her husband, these were the conditions that she put forth the next morning for the strike:
1. Hazel and Charlie will be preparing dinner every night for the children in the Shumway family. They will not be allowed to use snack food, food that is to be used for school lunches or breakfast food.
2. They will also be expected to clean up their mess and do the dishes after dinner. Good luck!
The first night didn’t go exactly as Saydi planned. The children were giggling and laughing as they busily prepared dinner, and Charlie even came rushing out of the kitchen occasionally while Saydi was working on her computer to say, “This isn’t punishment. This is fun!”
You can probably guess what happened next. By the third night, they were getting tired of ramen and fried eggs and especially tired of cleaning up without the help of their parents. Saydi was preparing food for herself and Jeff, but the children were not allowed to have any of it.
As the week progressed, Charlie wanted to cook hamburgers and begged his mother to help him figure out how to make the patties. By the fourth night, both kids really wanted to have some fun food for Cinco de Mayo, but they had no idea how to make tacos, burritos or anything with that south-of-the-border flair. They were desperate for help.
Like the truly great mother that she is, Saydi reminded the kids that in order to end a strike, there needed to be some changes that both sides could agree on. She suggested that they work up a contract that would make both mom and kids happy.
The kids organized their own meeting, collaborated and brainstormed their own ideas for compromise. They presented their proposal to Saydi, who agreed with their plan. Hazel rushed off and typed the document to make the end of the strike official.
Saydi has been delighting us with her trail of Instagram posts of this little adventure. When the strike ended with this agreement, Saydi, who is the master of funny hashtags, added these to the end of her last post (If you don’t get this, ask a child or a grandchild for a translation): #ownershiprocks #justintimeforcincodemayo #sickoffriedeggsandramen #mrspigglewigglecure #momwins.
So far, it’s working. In fact, it’s working so well that she is thinking of a laundry strike and maybe a picking-up-the-toys-on-the-floor strike.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at EyresFreeBooks.com or at valuesparenting.com, and follow Linda’s blog at eyrealm.blogspot.com.