Breakfast with kids is a time of bribery and intimidation

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Beginning back when I was in elementary school, I was taught that &uot;breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Beginning back when I was in elementary school, I was taught that &uot;breakfast is the most important meal of the day.&uot; We watched movies, read comic books and filled out worksheets that all had the same message: Skipping or skimping on an early morning feast was not nutritionally sound. From what I see of the nutrition propaganda that comes home from school in my kids’ backpacks now, this perspective is still being promoted. Fine. I agree that eating a proper, nutritionally well-balanced breakfast is the smart thing to do. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t happen all that often at our house. Understanding the rationale is one thing, doing something about it is something else entirely.

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It all starts with me. It’s my fault both from habits and from genetics. My wife experiences no trouble eating food in the morning, even when she was pregnant with our children. I can’t eat breakfast without a struggle. Some days, just looking at food in the morning can make me nauseous (and I’ve never been pregnant!). All through my years at school and college I would force myself to eat something before I left for classes: dry toast, a banana, oatmeal, or crackers. But there were many days I just couldn’t bring myself to eat, and a couple of granola bars would get tossed into my backpack (where they would stay until I got home).

Nowadays I get up at 5 (most mornings) to write or get other work done, so I can usually eat something by 7. But my kids are a different story. When they left toddlerhood behind, they seem to have left their appetites also, because they just won’t eat more than a few crumbs at breakfast time. Despite the money spent on trendy breakfast cereals, toaster pastries and other exotic breakfast candy, we cannot get them to eat.

There are some exceptions. Eating breakfast in restaurants doesn’t seem to be a problem. But eating in restaurants every morning just isn’t possible on our budget, and fixing &uot;restaurant&uot; food at home leaves behind too many dishes.

Another exception is found just before Christmas, when we usually get our box of FFA grapefruit from Texas. And for a few weeks (until they are all eaten up) I find I actually look forward to eating in the morning, as do my son and oldest daughter. The youngest child dutifully tastes one grapefruit each year, but then goes on to eat other things with greater gusto. My wife, as I said above, never has trouble eating breakfast, but she also enjoys the citrus addition to our diet. This year, for some reason, our box of grapefruit came from Florida and they weren’t quite as tasty as in previous years. Maybe the stress of the election had an effect on the orchards. We still have some in the drawer and nobody wants to eat them.

Most of the time, though, mornings are filled with whining and nagging. Eat some breakfast, says an adult. I’m not hungry, says one kid. I’m playing, says another. Just give me a cup of coffee and a cigarette, says the third. Back and forth the struggle goes. They ask for breakfast products I’ve never heard of and have no intention of buying. They dawdle as they get dressed or try to sneak in to the living room and watch television. The oldest rummages through the cupboards and refrigerator, looking for some new food combination that will get her taste buds going. She’s a real &uot;connoisseur&uot; in the morning.

And all of this happens under a deadline, with animals meowing and fussing for attention around our feet. It’s kind of like those commercials for the breakfast food products that we don’t buy. Everybody is rushing around getting in everybody else’s way. Busses come at a certain time. Kids must be ready when they get here. School starts at 8:25 whether we are ready or not. Parents need to be at work or at meetings. The dog needs to go for a walk. The cats need to be rounded up and expelled from the house (something they clearly do not enjoy – I have the scars to prove it). It’s go go go from the moment we get up, to the moment that we all step outside the door.

With that kind of a morning routine, I just don’t think breakfast is ever going to give us that important push into the day. All that the lessons from school taught me was that breakfast was important; if getting kids to eat breakfast was covered in our lessons, I must have been distracted or asleep, weakened and listless as I was from a lack of food.

David Behling’s is a rural Albert Lea resident. His column appears Tuesdays.