5 things meals should be (according to a toddler)

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I like to joke/brag that my son is an advanced eater. From an early age, he has learned to appreciate food and uses it as more than just fuel for his very energetic body. This doesn’t mean he is a perfect angel, who will happily eat exotic global cuisine. He is still very much a picky toddler. What makes him unique is how he appreciates food. He has taught me what meals should be.

1. Meals should be savored. My mother told me that feeding my son is a pleasure. Yes, she is talking about a two-year-old. She has said the same thing about my husband. Both have particular tastes and make it very clear when they like their food.

You know when my son finds his meal delicious. He takes a piece of food, slowly places it to his lips and let’s out a satisfying, “mmmm.” He smiles gleefully, complimenting the chef with every mouthful.

2. Meals should be social. My husband and I wanted to establish good eating habits for our son, so we make a point to have our family meals at the table. Our son loves to be part of the dinner conversation, even if he doesn’t have much to contribute. I know he feels valued and included.

This year, I am excited to celebrate Passover and experience the seder (ritual meal) through my son’s eyes. I am eager to see his eyes light up my father leads the prayers and the smile on his face as he eats my mother’s food.

3. Meals should be done properly.Like many adults I know, I am guilty of shoving food in my mouth as I rush through my day. I barely know what I am eating, let alone have enough time to appreciate what I am putting in my body.

My son has a different approach. No matter what he is eating, whether it is a bowl of cereal or a plate of pasta, he has to sit at a table with a proper plate, utensils and napkin. Even if I allow him to eat on the go, such as at the playground or a buffet-style party, he will insist on finding a place to stop and sit. I certainly appreciate the opportunity to sit down with him and enjoy the moments before he’s up and moving again.

4. Meals should be memorable. I love telling people the story of how my son, while eating ice cream at a synagogue event, offered his napkin to the very messy child across from him. The story makes me smile every time, because it perfectly describes my son.

That story also shows that sometimes the simplest of meals can be the most memorable. Perhaps over a slice of pizza my son will share a funny story from school. Maybe he will talk about an upcoming trip over a bowl of cereal. I hope that he will look back on his childhood and think fondly on those special meals.

5. Meals should be an act of love. Whether we serve a home-cooked dinner or reheat some leftovers, I am grateful that my husband and I are able to provide our son with the food so many others go without. Feeding my son is an act of love that I see reflected in how much he is growing and thriving.

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