meals in general

I am literally in the middle of making dinner and my 3 yo is on his second banana - what do I do?!

If you're attached to the ideas of meals, it can help to think about why - what purpose do you think they serve? There's no physical or psychological benefit to making kids wait to eat, or making them eat on a schedule, or insisting they only eat certain things at certain times - it's fine for kids to eat when they're hungry So make that easy for them, and for you - have lots of good things to eat that are readily accessible to your kids.

One of the things that tends to "throw" parents is that kids tend to eat a lot of one thing, then a lot of another, then a lot of another. If you look at their diets over a month, they do "balance out" but it doesn't look like "three square meals a day." So don't panic They're actually pretty good at listening to their bodies, when we don't get in the way with lots of rules and limits and timetables.

When my kids were younger, my partner and I tended to eat one or two meals together ever day, and the kids were welcome to join us but not required. One is really social and has a high metabolism, so he was pretty much always happy to eat with us, if he was around. As he got older, he'd sometimes cook, too. The other is more of an introvert and doesn't like a lot of foods, but sometimes she'd come and hang out for the company, and maybe have a bowl of cereal or a popsicle or something. But there were always lots of other foods available for both of them. They never had to wait for a meal... unless we went out to eat, but even then, we always had snacks in the car.

If meals are important to you for social or cultural reasons, make them attractive to your kids! I don't just mean make foods they want to eat (although please do that! not only will they be happier, it will spare your ego to have them gobble up things they like rather than push away things they don't). I mean make "having dinner" something more enjoyable than watching adults blah blah blah over boring adult things and not being able to play. Bring play to the table - it's how kids learn, remember That will mean different things depending on your kids personalities. It might just mean involving a very social kid in the conversation rather than talking over their head, but it could be letting kids be the center of attention, or having special meal time games or projects, or involving one of the kids in the cooking, or everyone watching a favorite show or movie together. Think in terms of "family time, plus food" rather than a dull meal waiting to be "excused" back to life.

And if meals don't work for your kids, don't worry about it. Like I've said, one of my kids rarely sits down for a meal - but she's still managed to learn table and social skills. It's not like it's rocket science! And it doesn't have to be a matter of "being a short order chef" - it just takes re-arranging the way you plan and prepare food. Think logistically rather than emotionally, so that you're planning for kids to do what they do, rather than trying to get them to fit into a box that doesn't work for them.

And have fun! Your kid likes bananas? Draw some faces on them - do them up like Minions, maybe. Which Minion will he eat? What are its abilities? Get him talking. It could turn into your dinner conversation for tonight! Or it could just be a moment of food and connections... which is what's important, anyway.

childish things

I feel a personal resistance to the adding of artificial excitement to everything to make it more appealing.

I used to struggle with these kinds of feelings, too. They're totally normal, and working through them is a common part of the deschooling process. One of the side effects of schooling and the efforts of parents to teach kids "right" ways to be, is exactly this kind of cynicism or ennui toward things that light up children. We use the word "childish" as a put down, frown when they delight in the "wrong things" and are instantly suspicious of their interests. One of the truly wonderful things about unschooling can be learning to let go of a few of those layers of hardness and relearn the art of delight from our kids.

It absolutely does take an effort to overcome those ingrained messages that toll "this is stupid, stupid kid stuff" and see that joyfulness and wonder can be about the simplest, sweetest things - a pink plastic pony in a McDs kids' meal can be as precious and wonderful to a child as a bright new beetle or a river smoothed stone. And it's Okay to let our kids appreciate they world as they find it - to love color and sound and motion because that's who they are. To say yes to their delights as we strive to rekindle our own. It feels stilted and fake at first because we've forgotten how to play, told ourselves that playfulness is fake and cheer an advertising ploy to armor ourselves against the years of nos and limits and have tos of our own childhoods. We don't have to teach our kids that armor - they'll grow their own as they need it. We can give them gentleness and appreciation of their enthusiasm, support their delights, learn from them how to look at the world again with wonder and awe, and it doesn't take anything away from them. It lifts them up and lets them hang onto a little more joy for a little bit longer.