Cook, My Darling Daughter! is the title of a cookbook from the 1950’s I found in a secondhand bookstore and gave my eldest daughter as a young adult.  She had little experience of cooking, since in our family parents cook for their kids, and even though her brother and at least one of her younger sisters were determined foodies and excellent cooks, she had never been interested.  She was content to be fed, and since this was consistent with the culture of our family, her disinterest did not especially stand out. But I often wondered “will she cook for her own children some day?”

It used to be that all parents, principally mothers, cooked for their children as a matter of course. Family dinners were the norm and neither PTA meetings, sporting events nor work-outs were allowed to interfere. Occasionally you would be invited to eat at a friend’s house, where it was certain their parents would be serving dinner, as surely as your own.  

By the time my own children were growing up, however, family dinner times had largely disappeared. Most of our children’s friends ate on the fly, re-heated prepared food in the microwave and “fended for themselves”, as adults were busy at work, in the gym or dieting. Our oldest daughter regarded the firm obligation to be home for dinner as an annoyance, though her sisters loved it.

And today?  She cooks for her own family, every evening after work and every day on the weekends. Her children are young, but they are expected to sit at the table with their parents and eat what has been lovingly cooked for them. Though the two little boys are unlikely to be aware enough to thank her (or their father) family mealtimes and adults cooking for their children is being modeled for them with every meal they eat.  This is the only real way habits and expectations are passed through the generations.  

My daughter works full time, as I did, and is often exhausted. But feeding one’s children is not an afterthought, or a drudge, it is a core adult responsibility and… a joy. She apparently did not need to cook as a child or teen in order to cook as an adult; when she was young she had other interests, but when her own children came along she had a model for adult behavior.  It helps that her husband is Italian!

Tracy Klein, PhD FNP forwarded me this article with the provocative title:  You’ll Gladly Die For Your Children; Why Won’t You Cook For them?   And while I couldn’t agree more, I wouldn’t go so far to say children need to learn to “make healthy food choices” or learn to cook.  I regard this particular admonition as a way to avoid telling parents the hard news they actually need to hear: that feeding the family is their job, not their child’s job.  I say, let children be children, for childhood is short.  Read it and see what you think.  Pass it on.  It’s a discussion well worth having and not just for those of us in the eating disorder treatment world.