Monday, May 6, 2013

Natzi Boot Camp, Food Options and Questions I Don't Ask

The above cartoon of a mother offering food choices to a young child has been making the rounds on Facebook. Call me an old fuddy duddy or mark it down as a generational thing, but I've never - ever - had this problem. Now Young Missy, before you roll your eyes, hear me out! I came from a generation - I'm 55 - that had more options because we had less choices. What I mean by that is, our families ate meals together, attended Mass together - yes, even with lots of kids, and we worked together as a family. There were set roles and parameters for everything. As the oldest, it was my responsibility to help with the little ones, mow the yard, and do the dinner dishes - among other things. Our mom did the cooking and laundry but we all pitched in with chores of our own. We had manners - I actually grew up curtsying to adults - and knew the high points of fine dining. Dad worked long hours and came home to a nice meal. He was the 'wait 'til your father comes home' kind of Dad but Mom could weld a formidable hairbrush occasionally - right on the tush!

Dad's version of the evil eye - lol.
Now as shocking as this Nazi Bootcamp - a derogatory phrase coined by an outside dissenter - may sound, we were all very well adjusted, each knew we were the favorite, and remain close - even into adulthood.  Much like an obedient Catholic finds comfort in having things completely spelled out - what with the Bible, Catechism of the Catholic Church, General Instruction to the Roman Missal (GRIM), rubrics, St. Joseph's Catechism, and all the other handy dandy instruction manuals we Catholic have at our disposal - our family knew exactly what to expect, when to expect it and how to react.

Sing with joy to the Lord!
Make no mistake about it. We had lots of spontaneous vacations and fun. Our impromptu vacations - when Dad was suddenly laid off - are legendary. And as a good German, Mom was certainly all about celebrating the day - even if it meant declaring that, "today we celebrate, because it will never be Monday, May 6th, 2013 again! To this day, our loud, noisy, laugh-filled gatherings are the envy of the neighborhood and invitations are a much coveted commodity. In similar fashion, our Catholic faith is one of carefully (and thoroughly) set parameters, yet the joy we find in practicing it well are found nowhere else!

So back to the cartoon. We ate like kings. Mom, in her frugal German style, was an excellent cook - Top Chef material. But the ingredients and menu were hers to decide. The rest of us just showed up and perhaps set the table. We weren't given choices - like would you rather have chicken or fish or peanut butter or schnitzel? No, she cooked, we cleaned up and everyone ate - whatever she deigned to put on our plates. And you know what? We grew up very healthy - because our meals were balanced. Our tastes were vast - because the variety of her dishes made sure that our young palates were exposed to many options as far as cuisine was concerned.  We were familiar with German food - duh - but also Chinese, Mexican, French, and of course down home American. And we weren't picky eaters because we didn't even know we had a choice - we were just presented with many options, throughout the years, at the behest of our creative mother. The when and what was up to her.

Now let's fast forward to my mothering days - and to the 7 grandchildren with whom we have been blessed. We use(ed) the same style of parenting and guess what? It works just as well for us as it did for our parents. My husband and I have a traditional family setup - other than the fact that we work from home (together) and share a love of cooking. What's for dinner is our choice. If you want to belly up to the table, eat what's there because the cafeteria is closed (that goes for our style of Catholicism as well). As I lined up 2 five-year-olds and 2 three-year-olds for lunch today, I had to smile in loving memory of my Mom - Saturday marked the 19th year since her death. She made my parenting and grand-parenting so much easier by leading with her example. And again today, the sometimes picky eater wanna be's cleaned their plates - all four of them - and not a single complaint. Oh sure, Sarah initially gave her customary sullen stare at the fare but as everyone else settled in, she ate with equal gusto. You see, her daddy was raised by my husband and me...and so the only choice is whether or not to fall into line quickly or try to wait it out. And the grownups always wind up winning the waiting game. Bon appetite and God bless!

Hail, hail, most of the gang is here!
German-themed birthday party!