Not to brag, but…
Our kids eat kale. Straight up, plain kale, in all its wrinkled green glory. Kale, which is not just a commoner vegetable like carrots, but Superhero nutrition, somewhere on the order of brussel sprouts. Or turnip greens. Or something else I don’t like to eat.
All of this is thanks to a simple psychological trick, um… careful methodology… called reverse psychology.
It came about in this way: One evening my housemates made dinner. It was a grown-up favorite–sausage and kale over pasta, sprinkled with olive oil and feta cheese. Yum. The cooks were wise (experienced) and kept the ingredients separate for the kiddos. Sausage in one section, pasta in the next, and a little bit of kale in one corner.
The sausage disappeared first, followed closely by the pasta, until four kids were left with lonely bits of green and the irresistible urge to leave the table. “I don’t care for the yucky stuff,” our youngest cherub intoned. “Kale, it’s called kale, and you need to at least take a thank you bite,” an exhausted grown-up replied, “We’re out of carrots.”
Rebellion was brewing. The kids looked at one another. Four of them and four of us, and though they were smaller, they were perhaps faster and definitely more agile. They looked at us, and then…
Brilliance. I think that it was housemate-dad who spoke first. “You’re right kids,” he said with an exaggerated sigh, “Do not eat that kale. It’ll make you grow, and we like you just the way you are.” The kids were confused, but the grown-ups caught on quickly. “Oh, of course!” “Why would we give you such a thing?” “If you eat too much of that, you’ll grow up. And you are so cute right now.” “Don’t you dare touch that kale!” “Candy. Nothing but candy for these kids from now on.” “What were we thinking?”
And the kids shoved kale into their cute little mouths. Did they know it was a joke? I still don’t know–they were laughing, but they were eating. They ate the kale, and asked for more.
“No, you don’t want more of that stuff. Don’t you want marshmallows with sugar sprinkled on top? Ah, come on.”
In classic grown-up fashion, we milked our little trick for all that it was worth. For weeks. Kale was just the beginning. It became a nightly routine–a well-balanced meal on their plate eaten amid our feigned protests. The drama and the laughter increased, but they ate anything we gave them. “Please. Please stop growing! Please!”
Can you blame us? It was working so well.
And then. One night, right after dinner, I took my eldest out to buy Christmas presents. As we were driving, she spoke from her booster seat. “Mama, I need to have a talk with you.” “Yes honey?” “Mama,” she asked, “do the grown-ups really want us to stop growing?” “Oh no, of course not.” I laughed lightly, but she was completely serious.
And she wasn’t done. “Mama, did you like me when I was four?” “Yes.” “Do you like me now that I’m five?” “Yes, of course.” “Then, Mama, you will probably like me when I’m six or seven too. Mama, you have to let us grow.”
Ouch. I took a deep breath, trying not to smile, but now also fighting back a few tears. This was serious.
“Okay, honey. From now on, I’ll let you grow. I promise.”
“Thanks Mama.” I could hear her smile from the back seat. Satisfied, she went back to watching Christmas lights out the window, but I swallowed hard.
Did I really say that? Yes honey, I’ll let you grow. I’ll let you grow, I promise.
And how many times will I have to say these words again?