Crunchy versus creamy and the possibility of change

Even a simple peanut-butter lunch around here can be emotionally intense, at least for Mama.

I really enjoy knowing what kinds of sandwich Lucy and Rosie like. I love it that they are different, and I love knowing their specific preferences. Lucy likes creamy peanut butter with honey, crusts cut off. (But don’t section the sandwich: keep it “biggie.”) Rosie prefers crunchy peanut butter, cinnamon-and-sugar, also the crusts trimmed off, but then desires to have the sandwiches cut into small squares or triangles. (I’m just not going to worry about how many of you might be judging me for feeding my kids sugar sandwiches. They get apples, too.) I love getting the different kinds of peanut butter out of the cabinet, lining up the cinnamon-and-sugar and honey, and creating a customized assembly line. I love knowing my girls, and I think they love it that I do.

But I also know that I need to be careful with familiarity, because people change. The joy of being known needs to be leavened with the freedom to change. Every few days, I try to double-check their preferences. The other day Lucy decided to try crunchy peanut butter for a change. Or sometimes they want to try eating the crusts. I want to be alert and ready for these changes, never underestimating their ability to grow and mature — or even just flip-flop once in a while for fun.

In her new cookbook, SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue, Aviva Goldfarb describes her strategy of encouraging her kids to try different foods because “maybe their tastebuds have matured.” I think this is brilliant — picking up on the innate desire of all children to become more adult-like. Since I started mentioning this to the girls every once in a while, Lucy’s tastebuds have already “matured” so that now she likes raisins and bananas (or I should say “re-likes” them, since she ate them daily as a baby).

But we all can miss the boat sometimes. Recently, Lucy and I have been reading the classic Bread and Jam for Frances, and it is really one of the saddest stories. Frances is going through a picky phase and only wants to eat bread and jam for awhile. But then her mom gives up and stops asking Frances if she would like to eat something new. She completely misses Frances’s cues, leaving her in this uncomfortable position: now that she has declared herself as a “bread-and-jam-only” girl, how does she put aside her pride and ask for some meatballs? And can’t her mom just nonchalantly offer some spaghetti and save Frances the shame of not being understood?

After a few tears, it all works out in the end for Frances, but this story feels like a cautionary tale for parents. Remember: your children are growing and changing every moment! Frances’s mom was surely preoccupied, and I’m grateful for her vulnerable example, sharing a less-than-stellar parenting moment to help the rest of us remember that our kids will probably, someday, want to eat a meatball. Or crunchy peanut butter. Or crab legs. May we be ready for those moments. Will you watch for them with me?

Mentioned in this essay: Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell Hoban, illus. Lillian Hoban.

6 Replies to “Crunchy versus creamy and the possibility of change”

  1. Love this! Abigail HATED turkey sandwhiches for the LONGEST time, and then one day at preschool her friend had one…she now requests tukery rolled up in a little zip-lock daily…

  2. Once again a beautiful post. Our Alex, (13) used to refuse to eat onions….he told people that he was allergic to them. And now he wants a cookbook just for onions…

    Yes, tastebuds mature….but as we walk this journey of life….not just tastebuds change….May we watch for those moments of God’s grace invading our lives and those around us…

  3. I’m one of those mean moms that always gives her kids a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. I figure even if they hated it last time, it doesn’t hurt to try again. And both my kids LOVE crab, so I expect the twins will as well.

  4. Thanks for sharing about customized sandwiches. We have opinions at our house about homemade jam or store jam, such strong opinions that a simple mix-up produced an unforgettable fit, at the zoo no less.

    I read Bread and Jam for Frances a bit differently. I admired the mother for letting Frances have exactly what she asked for, even though the mother knows that a balanced diet is best and makes for stronger rope-jumpers. Frances was not seeing reason, and the mother knew her daughter well enough to use a backdoor approach, similar to Mrs. Quimby helping Ramona pack her running-away bag in Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Mothers don’t always know best, but here I think they do.

    I like the idea about taste buds maturing. We’re definitely going to work that into our vocabulary. Abi recently told me she thought she was more like an adult because she doesn’t like store frosting anymore. :)

  5. hee hee… I have fond memories of Bread and Jam. But my mom may indeed have made a few comments that directed my thinking… ;o)

    I always thought (even as a child) that the mom was wise to let Frances learn that a steady diet of any ONE thing wasn’t fun… wise to let her discover on her own that there were other things she liked, missed, enjoyed…. and to humble herself a little to have to admit it. It strikes me that Frances is, perhaps, the sort of girl who needs to learn that way. I was NOT that sort of girl (though my sister was!) – and I’m guessing Lucy and Rosie aren’t either. Good for you for understanding your daughters, and knowing how to help them grow into their own people!

  6. Keri, it is so fascinating how differently we read that book! One more reason why it would be super-fun to live down the street from you, to compare notes on books like this. :) Sigh.

    Kelly, I think you’ve identified something key here, about different children needing instruction in different ways. It is possible I will change my tune at some point in the future with my own kids :). But I know that I was very sensitive to shame as a child, and so I latched right onto that piece of the story in this book. But I like your word for it: humbling. That makes much more sense to me!

    Another instance of great community here in this discussion. Not to mention all the encouraging stories of kids learning to love turkey, onions (Nicole, that was me as a child!), and crab — inspiration!

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