The age between 2 and 4 is known in France as the phase d’ opposition and parents are well briefed on the subject from experts and everyone around them. The children are going to say no to assert their individuality and show they are separate from their parents. So the “no” phase or as it is termed in English , “The Terrible Twos” (everything sounds better in French) is expected and French parents know that before the age of two is the time to get children to taste and eat everything. During the phase d’opposition they bend rules for bedtimes, and let them assert their will but the table rules stay the same, “You must taste all that is on your plate.”
By starting this new routine and trying to cement it in my family I am going to have a phase d’opposition myself. In fact, in reading these posts and looking at how different this routine is to our Australian culture, most of you would of already assessed I am going to struggle to keep this routine.
I believe my kids can do it, I’ve seen the immensely relieving proof already. But how are they going to go in society at large?
Thirty years ago snacking was not a normal part of our culture. Our Mum’s didn’t arrive to their friend’s places with a pantry full of snacks to quieten their kids and it wasn’t met with the friends snacks for the kids. Kids had their afternoon snack, sitting at the table and off they went to play.
Our kids (Americans, Australians, British) are snacking on average 3-5 times a day and these snacks are not the type we used to eat. with the food industry pumping out kid-size snacks in all their fake food glory.
My kids can have popcorn, fruit, muffins and a slice of cake all right before I take them home for lunch at any given playdate. My kids are the first ones to the table and the last ones there, hanging out in desperation for another morsel.
It is standard practice to bring food for the kids to the park, to a play centre or absolutely anywhere you are going. If you are the parent who doesn’t bring the food then your kids (at least this is what mine do) are the seagulls hanging around for the morsels offered to them.
We are peer pressured into an unprecedented level of snacking. It was getting bad in the office before I had kids. Morning teas and regular “leaving do’s” would involve copious amounts of cake, mini quiches and sausage rolls and then a group would often head to the vending machine in the afternoon. Substantial lunches laden with carbohydrates, the norm.
So when I had kids I thought OK, here’s the chance to eat right, until I realised that cake was the norm at “playdates” for our newborns, despite protests from most of us that we were trying to lose the baby weight and “really shouldn’t” ….but yes we did.
So obviously I didn’t want to be the one that didn’t bring or serve the cake….
Once again the peer pressure cycle strengthens. So one of the motto’s I live by is, “Be The Change You Want To See” but the peer pressure is strong. I already feel bad for not providing the snacks to the “theoretical” playdaters at my place.
This morning I am heading to a playdate early and have asked my girlfriend to hold off on the snacks and we will sneak off early so my kids don’t feel like their missing out. Out of sight out of mind but my girlfriend did worry about my kids thinking she was mean for not serving any food.
See the pressure we are all under as Mothers?
School is obviously another place where I will lose the routine. He has already said to me, “Mum at school I will got morning tea.”
And yes, yes he will. So the morning tea will be similar to what I have been sending but hopefully soon we will be able to add more variety, more vege sticks and dips, maybe even yoghurt or cheese (he has been off them since the start of his very own phase d’ opposition). Lunch will be a wider ranged affair than what I have been sending. He will get his own form of peer pressure and he will decide for himself how hungry he is to eat the “different” things I send but his afternoon tea will be the same size and his dinner substantial.
I just have to sigh wistfully when I see examples of the French canteen menu (a full sit down affair, costng on average $3 per child).
You can see more menus at karenlebillon.com – she posts them weekly, below is an example of one of her posts.
As usual, the meals follow a four course structure: vegetable starter; main dish with vegetable side; cheese course; dessert. All meals are served with fresh baguette (eaten plain, usually one piece per child!) and water. No flavoured milk, juice, sports drinks, or pop. No vending machines. No fast food or junk food. Food for thought!
Monday, September 30th
Salad: Lentil Salad with tomatoes
Main: Roast pork or turkey, with peas and carrots
Dessert: A kiwi
Tuesday, October 1st
Salad: Cucumber salad with vinaigrette
Main: Salmon lasagna and organic spinach
Cheese/Dairy: Cheese fondu with baguettefor dipping
Dessert: Organic fruit compote
Wednesday, October 2nd
Salad: Macedonian salad with vinaigrette
Main: Veal ‘marengo’ with rice
Cheese/Dairy: Petits suisses (akin to flavored yogurt)
Dessert: An organic orange
Thursday, October 3rd
Salad: Cauliflower with vinaigrette
Main: ‘Hachis Parmentier’ (sort of like Shepherd’s Pie) with organic beef
Cheese/Dairy: Pyrénées with organic baguette
Dessert: Fruit salad
Friday, October 4th
Salad: Red beans and corn
Main: Chicken skewer with ratatouille
Cheese/Dairy: Cheese fondu with bread for dipping
Dessert: Paris Brest’ (a wonderful dessert made of choux pastry and a praline flavoured cream – yum!)
Moving on from my green-eyed monster Day 3 with my children was rather pleasant. We didn’t get off to a great start with Julian.
It was his choice for the morning so I made porridge but as I knew I was making it I bought some milk (we don’t drink it in our household so I never have it on hand but for porridge I usually pop in almond milk or a little cream and water) as a treat. Unfortunately I bought goat’s milk (I like to switch it up) and though it tastes just like normal milk when cold on heating it does taste a bit…goats cheesy.
He cried into his porridge telling me it tasted like yoghurt (remember this is another thing he doesn’t eat). He had helped me pick the yoghurt flavour the day before however and I urged him to try the organic apple and cinnamon yoghurt we’d bought. “Yuk.” He declared this through tears as he tasted it. The French toast and scrambled eggs that was presented was pushed aside and he spent a good five minutes in protest before eating all of his scrambled eggs and half the toast. He tasted the swiss cheese but declared it “yuk” and was not impressed with my story about how when I was younger I used to think a mouse had made the holes.
Leo was in his element with his yoghurt and banana and then porridge. He cleaned his bowls, ate some cheese and picked at his scrambled eggs and toast. I truly think he was full.
We headed out to the park after breakfast then picked up my Nanna to take her to an appointment where we waited for an hour. I’d brought them nothing to do and was on the verge of pulling my hair out when they left as they climbed over chairs, rolled on the floor and screamed and spoke at the top of their lungs.
I nearly cancelled lunch but I had done that last time to my Nanna so we pereserved, heading to Wagamammas.
I ordered for the kids straight away, Julian got crumbed chicken, rice and cucumber with a freshly pressed apple juice and Leo got the chicken and vegetable noodles and a juice. I got the bento box and Julian stole half of my edamame (soy beans in pods). I pretended to be cool with this but inside I was jumping for joy. Leo wasn’t as fascinated by them but happily grabbed my sweet potato chips. We shared an amazing deep friend banana with the best coconut ice-cream I’ve ever had. Between the four of us we all got a few mouthfuls each and it was the perfect end to a delicious and happy meal. I actually got to have some real conversations with my Nanna and the kids were super-happy. I actually felt rejuvenated from the meal instead of my usual slightly crazed state.
It was quite the meal and the kids napped on the way home, I then transferred Leo and had to wake him at 4:30pm. I served some more toasted apple bread with butter.
With such a big lunch they did not need that snack in hindsight.
I served them cucumber and tomato salad first and they ate that before my husband and I sat down.
I then served baby snapper with cream, wine, butter and parsley sauce, potatoes and wilted spinach.
Leo happily ate his fish, tasted his spinach and was finished before Julian even started picking at his food. He didn’t cry but he wasn’t happy and barely touched his whole dinner, though he did taste everything. He left the table in a mood when Leo got served two teaspoons of organic vanilla ice-cream (he was happy enough with that portion size).
Neither of the kids asked for the 4:30pm snack so I need to just assess how big our lunch is before deciding whether or not they should get it.
There were barely any “I’m hungry” cries and when Julian said it (Leo didn’t say it once!) he realised that he wasn’t really because he smiled when I said, “Are you really?” then he asked for water. “I’m Hungry” is part of their whining repertoire and they say it on automatic pilot.
I was actually really disappointed in the taste of the baby snapper myself, it didn’t taste as fresh and was distinctively fishy, which I don’t remember it being in the past, so it wasn’t the best meal and I didn’t really enjoy it either…but I did eat it.
This is such great timing! After hearing Pete Evans, Jess Ainscough and Melissa Ambrosini talk about food and what we are feeding our kids, I’ve been trying and trying to think how I’m going to get my little ones to stop asking for snacks and avoid the treats other parents always bring. Like your kids though, my ones are always the seagulls hanging around the snack table as they usually don’t get that stuff at all!
Thank you for sharing this journey beautiful… I hope I can fully your example. x