5 Reasons I Don’t Cook Separately for my Kids

At the Knotty Pine Cafe in Payson, AZ

It’s one of those great debates among parents–along with crib or co-sleeping, when to potty train, and how to discipline–do you or do you not cook separate meals for your kids? I’m sure the number of parents who do this for every meal is low (I mean, how would you even have time?), but there is definitely a contingent of folks for whom it’s a fairly regular occurrence.

Not us.

I’d like to think I’m not a monster of a mother for saying so. Believe me, my kids eat plenty of “kid-friendly” foods like hot dogs, fries, and the ever-popular mac & cheese. They’re not missing out on the occasional indulgence in the American Childhood Dream of greasy, fiber-less grub. (After all, we do shop at Costco and sometimes surrender to the siren song of $1.50 jumbo all-beef dogs–come on, I’m only human!) But by and large, I’m a big believer in what’s good for the goose is good for the gander when it comes to food–that is, what’s good for mom and dad is good for the kiddos, too.

So, not that anyone asked, but here’s my blow-by-blow defense of why I don’t cook separately for my kids. (Side note: I know there are kids for whom this is simply not possible, due to special needs, allergies, or medical conditions. I’m sure this doesn’t apply to those situations.)

1. I want them to develop an broad palate.

For their own good! There is so much incredible food on this planet. I believe they’ll be missing out if their upbringing trains them to enjoy only a handful of “safe” foods. Plus, I don’t want them to end up being chased by dogs because they stuffed mutton in their pockets instead of eating it (Seinfeld, anyone?)

2. Compromise is essential in a family.

The truth is, the world is not our oyster–it’s not mine, and it’s not my kids’. Being part of a family means we all have to compromise, sacrifice, do things we just don’t love doing, because we love others. In our house, that’s the way the tofu crumbles…literally. Making the (albeit small) sacrifice of sometimes eating food they’re not crazy about is one way for my kids to learn this important lesson, which hopefully will serve them well when they have families of their own one day.

3. I simply don’t have time (and don’t want to spend the extra money!)

Does anybody? It’s nutty enough around here trying to get one dinner on the table in the child-diverting 22 minutes of a Jake and the Neverland Pirates episode!

4. I (generally) cook healthy food. I want my kids to eat healthy food.

“Kid” foods, as mentioned before, tend to be a processed grease-fest. If I’m going to the trouble of cooking healthy food for myself and my husband, I certainly want my kids to benefit by eating it, too.

5. There’s power in sharing a meal (one meal).

I believe this. As a family, we hang together, and this includes the food we eat. It undermines the experience when everyone is eating something different. Our culture individualizes everything, but isn’t there is richness in the communal act of a family around the table partaking of the same food together? I think so.

So on this December 31st, happy new year and here’s to many happy, shared meals in 2014!

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