Why I Cried for Joy When My Daughter Ate a Chicken Nugget

Don’t judge me. Sometimes I just want my children to eat their meals, even if they are not models of nutritional value. I carefully pack their school lunches each morning with foods they have eaten and enjoyed. I also throw in a few different foods once a week to add some variety. But when I empty out their lunch bags eight hours later, I sadly find half-eaten sandwiches, untouched apples, and congealed cheese sticks. With three small mouths to feed, it’s not easy finding foods that are tasty and nutritious that will satisfy a 6-year-old and 3-year-old twins.

This is especially true for my daughter Nina. Until recently, Nina did not eat solid foods. Anything I could puree, Nina would eat. Vegetable and chicken soups, avocados, smoothies, and applesauce were her favorites. She ate avocados as a snack, for lunch, and had avocados with soup and applesauce for dinner. On a weekly basis, it was normal to have over 20 avocados in my house in various stages of ripeness, ready for whenever Nina was hungry. And I was happy that at least she was eating a healthy fruit that was good for her. I continued to pack Nina’s lunch with the usual suspects, but also included solids that resembled what the rest of the family was eating. But there was never any pressure for her to eat these items, only hope.

So, when Nina ate a chicken nugget the other day, I quickly averted my eyes and busied myself with something in the kitchen. A few minutes went by and still, I did not make eye contact with her. Nina gets very upset when people pay attention to her when she’s doing something that she doesn’t usually do. After about five minutes, I gave her minimal praise (“Good work, Nina”). She barely glanced at me, and continued to devour her delicious chicken nugget. I smiled, and slowly exhaled.