McCOOK, Nebraska -- As challenging as parenting is, it amazes me sometimes how quickly our batteries can be recharged. It just takes one precious moment to wipe out weeks of seemingly fruitless efforts.
I received one of those moments earlier this week and of course it occurred at the most stressful of all parenting locations, the dinner table.
Declan's negativity toward 75 percent of our meals has apparently worn on me over the past few months and I found myself cooking separate dinners in many scenarios. Not only was the stress of the dinner table ruining our evenings on many occasions, but I caught myself shifting what I was eating in the direction he preferred.
I am not saying I began cooking microwave dinners or pizza nightly, but while I might have a chef salad, I would make him noodles with alfredo and peas.
My main problem with this arrangement is that I realized I hadn't even attempted to get him to eat a salad in a couple of months. I decided to give it the old college try and prepared myself as much as I could for his slanderous references to my "yucky food."
Declan of course curled his face at the sight of the salad, which had been carefully prepped and included baby spinach, fresh mixed cabbage, dried cranberries, bacon bits, a few raisins and a hard-boiled egg. I quickly cut him off and reminded him of the four bags of fruit snacks I had let him eat the day prior (which he had forgotten had existed because I previously banned him from them for many months).
It soothed his frustration for a moment, long enough for me to explain that if I was going to let him have food that was bad for him, like the fruit snacks, he would have to eat healthy food for me every now and then.
There were a few tense moments of silence as I waited his response. His face relaxed and he said "OK" as he jumped up to the dinner table.
I was surprised, but instincts took over and I rapidly took advantage of the fragile situation by helping him choose just the right mix of salad dressings.
The battle was far from over and I tried not to let him catch me watching him so closely as he began taking his first few bites.
I was nothing short of shocked when he pulled a giant baby spinach leaf from his plate and spun it in the air by the stem as he eye-balled it.
"Drat....baby spinach, what was I thinking, I should have used iceberg, not near the nutrition value but he hates baby spinach," I thought to myself.
Just as the thought processed he gulped down the spinach leaf as if it were a BBQ chicken drumstick, carefully setting the stem on the napkin beside his plate. I froze and simply watched in amazement as he tore through the salad, snarfing down one spinach leaf after another.
He paused at one point and looked up at me, holding a spinach leaf in his hand, "these are awesome Dad!"
I was caught off-guard and mumbled something about spinach, which immediately caused him to freeze and look intently at the salad in front of him. "You didn't put spinach in here did you?"
80 to 90 percent of my being was screaming at me, "Tell him no! Tell him no!" But I couldn't do it. I rolled the dice.
"Yeah, those leaves that you are eating up, those are baby spinach. I've been trying to tell you how good they are, I knew you would like them if you gave it a shot," I said.
To my amazement, it worked. Declan resumed his consumption of the salad and simply replied, "huh, they are good, I really like 'em."
I smiled and could feel my parenting batteries instantly recharging, for at least another few months that is.