I'm trying to live up to my daughter's example.
When you become a parent, you realize that sometimes a little shame isn’t so bad.
I’m not talking about those awful public shaming stories, where an unhinged dad makes their kid stand on a street corner with a derogatory sign, or cases of slut-shaming where moms and dads try to humiliate their daughters for their wardrobe choices.
I’m talking about those delightfully rare moments when the child actually gets to pull the reversal and shame their parent.
I’ve experienced that moment first-hand and, I have to admit, it has made my life immeasurably better.
How? Well, having a child made me have to confront one of my WORST personal quirks.
I was a picky eater.
But not just picky. I was a terrible eater. I was a horrible eater. I was terrible, horrible, no good, very bad eater.
Feeding me as a child must’ve been a nightmare. My poor family.
I was a meat and potatoes kid. I wouldn’t try ANYTHING new. I couldn’t deal with new textures or flavors. I couldn’t even deal with logic.
I loved spaghetti, but I’d scream bloody murder if you tried me make me eat lasagna. You could explain to me in explicit detail that the lasagna had all of the same ingredients as my beloved spaghetti and meatballs and I wouldn’t listen. It was OTHER. And I wasn’t going to eat it.
I wouldn’t eat Mexican food. I wouldn’t eat Chinese food. I wouldn’t eat rice or fish or anything “creamy.”
When my family would go out to dinner to a restaurant, if there wasn’t anything on the menu that met my specific tastes, I would sit silently, eating bread, until my parents went through the Burger King drive-thru on our way home.
I was a monster.
But years later, I had a kid of my own. And when you’re a parent, you become aware of not wanting to pass along your own particular quirks and idiosyncrasies to your child.
You want them to have their own weird little “things”, not your recycled anxieties, so you do your best to suppress them when your kid is around. For me, that meant pretending that I wasn’t an insanely picky eater.
We’d go to restaurants and my daughter would say, “Daddy, try this hummus,” and I would, without hesitation. Not because I loved hummus, but rather because I didn’t want her to see me flinch when she offered it. (My eight-year-old self would’ve screamed in outrage.)
It turns out my kid is a downright adventurous eater. She’d try almost anything and I wanted to live up to her example.
We started having fish once a week for dinner (because she loved it), even though I took my first bite of fish when I was 33 years old. She made me take her out for sushi on her eighth birthday, even though my brain was screaming the first time I took a bite of squid.
She didn’t know that some people recoiled in horror at the sight of certain foods. She never thought to turn her nose up at something and declare “Gross!” without even trying it.
She ate with an open mind and open mouth. And I happily ate that way beside her, not because I was that open-minded, but rather because I was terrified that she’d see what a picky, un-adventurous jerk I could be at the dinner table.
She made me feel ashamed of how I behaved around food. And she made me want to be a better person.
And guess what? I’m not nearly as picky anymore.
I still have some quirks, but now I eat fish, rice, Chinese food — almost everything that I despised, sight-unseen, as a child — and I like it. I really like it.
So, when it comes to parenting, not all shame is bad, particularly if the watchful eye of your kid — and the voracious way they eat fried shrimp — makes you want to broaden your own horizons and finally see what you’ve been missing.