It was New Year’s Eve. We took the girl’s and their dinner as well as some snacks and wine for us, to the playground at the back of the beach. I rarely leave the house without food for them as it appears to be the main bribery tool that works when trying to get them to complete the simplest of tasks.
The girls opened up their Peppa Pig lunch box, as they do every day, in excited anticipation to see what goodies lay within the pink canvas casing. Sometimes I can sense (and understand) their disappointment- it’s usually some variation of the same 3 ingredients: yoghurt, pasta and eggs. However today (as it was NYE) I’d tried to make it more interesting. I’d go so far as to say I’d possibly gone a little overboard with the amount and variety; chicken, avocado, crisps, yoghurt, nuts, grapes, cherries, dips and crackers – no egg or pasta in sight for once! Initially most of the contents seemed to meet their approval- this was evident by the way they were busily tucking in. Obviously not all of it was a winner, every now and again an item of half nibbled, sucked, licked or untouched food landed on or near me as they discarded it.
After a few minutes my 3 year old hot footed it to the other side of the playground where she promptly stood and stared intently at a family who were sitting down to enjoy their own picnic. They gave her a couple of token/awkward smiles as they tried to carry on enjoying their dinner in spite of her watchful eye.
After a good ten minutes of some hard core staring and probably making them feel immensely guilty with each bite they took, they caved in and passed her a strawberry. Without hesitation she took it from them and ran back to us, grinning with pride and satisfaction at her achievement/steal.
When I was a child it was drummed into me daily not to take food from strangers. I can’t remember what age I was when I started to understand this. As you can see, I haven’t started teaching this to my girls yet but I guess it may be time to start.
I remember the first few times my daughter got ‘food envy’ when we were out in public. I’d desperately try to explain and show my friend or the stranger she had approached, how much food I had brought so they didn’t think I was a terrible or unprepared mother. The shoe has now been on the other foot as it’s happened to me many times with other children. I have to say I find it a little awkward. I have no issue giving the child some food but it’s often tricky to know what is the right thing to do, especially if the parent is nowhere in sight.
It made me wonder why it is that children get food envy? My youngest will vigorously shake her head from side to side and throw food off her high chair in disgust, 5 minutes later if I’m eating the exact same thing she stares at me longingly and opens her mouth wide waiting for me to shovel some in. Once I do as she requests, she has a look of immense satisfaction on her face and opens her mouth even wider in readiness for the next deposit.
Is it because other people’s food actually tastes better or is it the satisfaction they feel when they get something that isn’t actually theirs? I’m inclined to think it’s the latter however I’m no child psychologist so unfortunately I don’t have the answers. Just food for thought!