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Doing A ‘Mango’ On A Picky Eater

For about a million moms ‘out there’, the most dreaded time of the day is mealtime. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, the litany starts:

Mom — Come and eat.
Kid — What’s made?
Mom — Rice, dal, beans, salad, curd.
Kid — Yuck. I’m not hungry.
Mom — What? You just said you were starving.
Kid — If it’s dal and beans, I’m not hungry. How about some paneer?
Mom — We’ve had paneer for the last one week.
Kid — So?

And so on. It’s this vicious circle that doesn’t let a mom rest in peace. If you give in, you’re the ultimate sucker – having caved in to a kid’s tastebuds. If you don’t, you risk the kid going hungry till kingdom come.

That’s when I went into the ‘mean mom’ mode. It’s not something new. Counsellors will always tell you in their worldly wise tone that just let a child go hungry and he’ll come crawling to the dining table. I figured it was time to try out my new avatar on my six-year-old.

So, with my jaw sticking out, I declared the dining table emergency. If all members of the family did not make it to the dining table within five minutes of the meal being announced, meal facilities would be withdrawn.

I meant the announcement to sound democratic. In other words, in theory at least, the threat held good for adults as well as children. In practice, it was targetted at the truculent six-year old.

Ten minutes on, no family member was in sight, six-year-old or otherwise.

That was a bit of an anticlimax, but I persevered. I sat down with a loud thump, hoping the sound would carry far and wide and started noisily serving myself.

Still no sign of my dinner-table companions. I then started munching my way through dinner. Since I started this exercise, I might as well finish it, I told myself.

Ten minutes into dessert (luscious mangoes, which happen to be a family favourite, age no bar), a slight rustle to my left indicated that someone had finally materialised.

My son stared in disbelief as he saw me clamping my jaws on a juicy mango.

Drip, drip, drip went the mango. It must have looked unbelievably heavenly. I kept my eyes on the mango, seemingly indifferent to the ogling I was being subjected to.

Suddenly, a plaintive voice asked, “Don’t I get anything to eat?”

They sounded like words straight from heaven. With barely controlled euphoria, I replied with some measure of calm, “Sure, sit down. There’s rice, dal and bhindi.”

The next ten minutes were like a pageant any mom would die for. Munch, munch, munch, he went. With unbelievable concentration, my son worked his way through the entire meal with no break in between. Finally, when a plate licked clean stared up at him (and me), he asked, “How about some mango?”

And that was that. Mean mom had done a ‘mango’ on her picky eater. It’s a lesson I try not to forget. You may think, what’s there to forget about it? But its easier said than done. Part of me is programmed to nag my kid to eat. The other part is only now learning to get him to actually do it.

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