Pick Your Stories (part 3)

by Liz on May 19, 2010

I’m still riffing on the ideas that came to me while reading Amber Strocel’s post on crusts.

Part one of the series is here.

Part two is here.

As I mentioned, I declared early on that my kid would not become a picky eater.  He’s outgrown his crust aversion and I have managed to re-frame his dislike of tomatoes and onions as perfectly reasonable preferences (which just happen to differ from my own).

However…  just the other night we were eating dinner and my ‘picky eater’ button got pushed again.  I’d picked up some lovely asparagus (one of my favorite signs of spring!) and my husband had grilled it.  AJ ate the top inch or so that was it.  He also does this with broccoli.  Eats the flowers and leaves the denuded stalk behind.

Before I started writing this series, this would make me nuts.  Why doesn’t he just eat the whole darn thing?  I admit when I was a kid, I preferred the stalks to the flowers of broccoli, but I ate it all.  And is there really that much variation in taste from the top to the bottom of a stalk of asparagus?  Seriously!

Surely such behavior was another warning signal of ‘picky eater syndrome.’

Putting this out into the blogosphere, I’m hoping that there’s at least one mom out there that can relate to my… umm… concern.

But I realize that there are likely to be far more moms who will wonder if I’ve lost my very last marble.

I imagine them saying,  “The kid eats broccoli and asparagus and she’s worried that he’s a picky eater?  You have got to be kidding me!”

Standards and stories

My story was that eating only the tips of the veggies was an indication that picky eating was afoot.

Remember how it goes: we observe a situation and in the next instant, create a story.

I hadn’t even realized I had such a story until I started to articulate it.  And in the act of articulating it, I got enough distance to see that even if my story was one possible story, it certainly wasn’t the only story that would make sense of the observable data .

Here’s the thing.  All those ideas we have about what we ‘expect,’ what is ‘normal,’ what’s  acceptable and unacceptable, appropriate and inappropriate… they are all stories.

The interesting thing about our standards is that they are stories that directly affect how satisfied we are with the situation at any given moment.

Whenever you’re unhappy about a situation, you can bet that there’s some standard you’re holding that isn’t being met.

Some notion of what’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’  Some story about what ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be happening.

I have more to say on the subject of standards and stories, but for now here’s an invitation:  the next time you find yourself feeling disgruntled, unhappy, angry, or sad, ask yourself, “What’s my story?  What standards, expectations or ‘shoulds’ are at play here?”  What possibilities open up as you ask this question?

I’d love to hear your stories!  So please share in the comments!

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Amber May 19, 2010 at 11:13 pm

Oh, man. Reading this post I realized I have a story that my kid ‘should’ eat her food without complaining. Every night at dinner she complains about what I’ve prepared. And every night she ends up eating it and asking for more. But somehow, I find the initial complaint ungrateful. But maybe that’s just my story, my imposition of adult courtesy on a 5-year-old child.

Thanks for the food for thought. And sorry for the pun. ;)
.-= Amber´s last blog ..Scare Tactics =-.

Liz May 20, 2010 at 8:26 am

@Amber- I hear you on the complaining about dinner! My 10yo (who really isn’t a picky eater!) will often groan when he finds out what’s for dinner. I have had to restrain myself from snapping at him and inviting him to make his own dinner… My husband will often respond to the groans by saying, “That’s a good way to hurt the cook’s feelings.” or something similar.
And just because our standards are stories doesn’t mean we have to give them up! I’ll have something to say about this in another post.

Char Brooks May 21, 2010 at 1:36 pm

my story is that my son should notice the lawn is long and mow it. he’s 20 years old for God’s sake. that being said, he should have mowed it the way I do and while he was at it edged it as well.

i asked him too do it and he didn’t respond as quickly as i want him to.

result: i did the lawn, my back didn’t like it, i felt resentful, did the edging which i did an incredible job of hacking up because i’d never done it before (my neighbor called my son’s cellphone and said “it looks like your mom has an anger management issue!” at least according to him), and now i feel like i’m the talk of this desperate housewives neighborhood i live in.

so what impressed me most about your post here was these lines:

“The interesting thing about our standards is that they are stories that directly affect how satisfied we are with the situation at any given moment.

Whenever you’re unhappy about a situation, you can bet that there’s some standard you’re holding that isn’t being met.”

i wasn’t satisfied with my lawn job or my son, i’m not happy that the neighbor thinks i’m nuts, and at the same time the whole thing makes me laugh especially after having read your story about your son’s asparagus top eating behavior.

thank you for helping me laugh at my ridiculous standards. when i talk with my son about this, i will use your post as my lead-in to share with him where i was coming from on this and see if we can communicate more clearly about how we can both be helpful to each other around the house.

he wants some cable tv channels added – i’m unwilling to pay for them unless he’s willing to help me do some things like this here in a timely way.
i trust that with some humor i’ll lower my standards and we’ll have some laughs with this as well.

thank you for your amazing perspective.

Liz May 21, 2010 at 1:48 pm

@Char- I so relate to your situation! Part of the trouble is that when our stories are unconscious, we don’t even articulate our expectations or desires to ourselves, never mind the other people in our lives. I’ve got post coming on just this topic!

Shannon Wilkinson May 21, 2010 at 4:09 pm

I don’t have kids, but I sure manage to get myself embroiled in stories with other people. I just read the best story about telling ourselves stories in the book, Mindset by Carol S. Dweck. She tells one on herself, about when she and her now husband were dating. A few months into it, they were sitting next to each other and he said, “I need some space.” In her head, the story started about how he wanted to break up, blah, blah, blah, and she panicked. She mustered the courage to bravely ask, “What do you mean?” He said, “Could you scoot over a bit?” A great reminder for me, to *ask the other person* when I have the opportunity!

Liz May 21, 2010 at 9:52 pm

@Shannon- this is a great story because we’ve all been there! I’ll have to check out this book sometime soon!

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