A Green Bean Standoff
August 23rd, 2015
Last weekend, I found myself locked in an epic battle of wills with my two-year-old.
At issue was a green bean. And not even a whole green bean. The entire showdown revolved around a small bean fragment, probably less than a half inch long.
I wanted Little Bird to eat it. She had other plans. At stake was a piece of chocolate cake, purchased in celebration of my husband’s birthday. I had thrown down the gauntlet — no bean, no cake – and a confrontation ensued.
The truth is, I almost never fight with my kids about food. I decided early in my tenure as a mother that getting into power plays with my kids at mealtime was a waste of everyone’s time. I never require my kids to clean their plates before they leave the table, or insist that they finish large helpings of foods they hate. That sort of standoff can quickly spiral out of control with a strong-willed kid.
And I am the mother of several strong-willed kids. My third-born shows signs of being the most obstinate of the pack.
So I don’t force my kids to eat. I serve healthy meals (usually) and my kids are welcome to eat them or not. I don’t make special accommodations for fussy eaters, but I do try to make sure there’s at least one item on the table that everyone likes, even if it’s just a big bowl of fruit. In the grand scheme of pediatric nutrition, there are worse things than an occasional dinner comprised entirely of watermelon.
Dessert, however, is another matter. Dessert is a privilege not a right; a treat for those who eat good dinners.
Hence the showdown over the green bean. My daughter had failed to consume a single mouthful of vegetable during the meal and I wouldn’t let her have cake unless she ate one symbolic bite of green bean. (Nutritionally, I realize this trade-off was questionable. It was the principal of the thing, okay?)
This wasn’t some salty, waterlogged green bean out of a can, either. This was a glorious, crisp-tender amethyst bush bean grown in our own garden and harvested mere minutes before being tossed into the boiling water. This bean was perfect.
Birdie wanted no part of it.
Throughout dinner, I reminded her that she needed to eat a bean to have cake. She responded with furrowed brow and pursed lips. As we cleared the table, I set a bean in front of her, pointedly. She threw it on the floor, just as pointedly. We brought the cake to the table and I offered her one final chance to change her mind. She fed the bean to the dog.
Then, just when it seemed that a nuclear meltdown was imminent, the crisis suddenly dissipated. Once the cake was actually on the table, my wily daughter feigned disinterest. No fussing. No tears over being denied a slice. “Oh, that cake? It doesn’t even look good,” her expression seemed to say. I’ve never seen a two-year-old look so haughty.
Our dinnertime standoff ended in a draw. Neither bean nor cake passed her lips. Oddly enough, I had to admire her a bit. My youngest is a girl of convictions and no chocolate cake – no matter how yummy – would cause her to falter in her moral repudiation of green beans. She’s probably stronger than I am. There aren’t many things I wouldn’t choke down for a good piece of chocolate cake.