When I was growing up, my parents were very strict with us about eating. We were to eat everything on our plates. There wasn't a lot of money, and we certainly weren't going to waste perfectly good food. And no, my mom never said the old, "There are starving children all over the world who would be so thankful for your food," so we never got the chance to say, "Then let's send it to them!" My mom was too smart for that. She said, "Someday you might be a missionary anywhere in the world, so you'll need to learn to eat whatever is put down in front of you." Oh, great. Who were we to argue with being a MISSIONARY? We were totally defeated before we even started.
Of course my brother, being the perfect older child he was, never had any problems eating his food. Whatever, he would just wolf it down and run out to shoot baskets or play guitar. Not me. For some reason it sticks in my memory that we had coleslaw almost every night. Now if there's anything in this world I hate (besides onions and tunafish) it's coleslaw. But my dad liked it, and it was inexpensive to make so we had it. I would sit at the dining room table long after everyone else was gone, stirring the coleslaw around, stuffing a strand or two in my cheeks, and gagging softly (I'm making myself sort of sick even now). My mom would be in the kitchen, rattling the pots and pans around, and my dad would appear every so often in the doorway of the sunroom and roar, "You'll sit there 'til midnight, but you WILL eat your dinner!" Good times.
At our house we don't insist that the girls clean their plates. We do insist that they try something of everything. If we're serving something they don't like and they've made a reasonable attempt at trying it, then they're allowed to leave the table without finishing. However, they may not have anything else to eat until the next meal. There are only so many battles you can fight, and while I don't want them to be picky eaters, this is just one hill I'm not prepared to die on.
However, between you and me, sometimes they make me so mad. Last night I prepared chicken spaghetti from the Pioneer Woman Cooks. I took out all the things from the recipe my family does not like, such as green peppers and onions. I substituted what they love: black olives. So basically we had a casserole consisting of all their favorite things: spaghetti, parmesan cheese, black olives, rotisserie chicken, and the coup de grace, Stovetop stuffing mix (uncooked) on top. How could I go wrong?
I put it in front of them. Lucy said, "I'm not sure I'm really hungry, Mom." Me: "Yes you are. If I put a big piece of cake up there, you'd eat it in 10 seconds." Elaine: "I want cake!" Me: "Both of you get up there and eat this delicious chicken spaghetti I made you." Then I left them to eat in the kitchen by themselves and went and sat in the rocking chair by Darren in the living room. Please don't judge me, internets. There was a whole long incident involving a granola bar earlier that I won't go into here and frankly, they were on my nerves.
Shortly after I heard a (plastic) crash and the sound of splashing water. I said to Darren, "Three two one...someone will be in here right....NOW." Lucy: "Mommy? I'm really really sorry. I spilled my water, and it's all over. I didn't mean to; it was an accident." Elaine followed her in "An accident, Mom!"
Me: "And how did you spill your water; were you goofing around?" "No, Mom, I promise. I was doing this (makes swooping arm motions) to eat my food, and I bumped my cup." (Because you know how you need to make large, swooping arm motions to eat your food, right?) I said, "I know. It was an accident. No big deal. Now both of you go back and eat your supper. Don't make me have to come in and set the timer." (The timer apparently puts the fear of the Lord in them like nothing else.)
Approximately one minute later. This time Elaine comes in (big grin). "Mom. I trew my chick-a-naghetti on da floor. It's an accident." Darren said, "Go back to the kitchen immediately." When she did, we both just burst into laughter (simultaneously burying head in hands). What can you do? I finally did have to set the timer, and at least Lucy finished her food and Elaine picked hers up off the floor and threw it away.
My prayer for them that night? That God calls both of them to be missionaries.