I am not proud of this silly story about broccoli and a boy.
I, of all people, should know better.
But this is the experienced me talking now, the older me, the me that has raised my children already.
In this tale, I was not a mom yet, and I was about to learn a lesson I would only find the words for years later.
This is how I learnt about the power of role modeling and food.
The story starts with a cute little boy at the table away from us who made eye contact with me. I recognise a brave spirit. It takes a certain assuredness to make and maintain eye contact with an adult.
For me it is magical, being seen by a child. So, I work hard to keep it. Funny faces is a good place to start but you have to be careful not to be scary or to be so lame that they turn away. Rebuked by a one-year-old has a certain type of shock value.
This little guy had his plate in front of him, sitting secured in a highchair. His hands were his knives and forks, so I mimicked him and picked up a chip with my fingers, pretending to not be able to find my mouth. He laughed. I was winning at this entertainment game, this connection between two souls.
He had a chip too and fumbling his way, trying a different technique to mine, be brought his face down to meet the chip that was being squeezed in his hand. I laughed.
He followed my mime show and picked up a beautiful green broccoli tree. His eyes were alight with the game that we were playing eight feet apart. I wasn’t thinking, I was playing too. So when he lifted that tree towards his open mouth I pulled a ‘yuk’ face. Kids are supposed to think broccoli is yuk, right?
He instantly pulled his hand away from his mouth. He was watching me, searching for confirmation of what to do next. What had I done?
I was flustered, just as shocked. I considered turning away, ashamed. His mom would never know and the boy could never tell. I considered just going with it and sticking to the unspoken narrative that broccoli was … what … bad for him, dangerous, disgusting. What was my next move?
I really wished that I had broccoli on my plate that I could consume with delight right before him. I even considered rushing over to his pate and eating his broccoli to show him it was safe. Uh, no, not acceptable.
Honestly, I don’t remember what I did after that. I wonder if that boy, now a man, eats broccoli.
Children are meaning-making-machines, their brains searching all the time. And we will make plenty of mistakes, but when our children are battling with life, perhaps we can learn to love the broccoli.