Like many small children, two-year-old Delaney is a fruit bat. She loves to eat from the fruit bowl, and I’m constantly topping it up after trips to the grocery store.

Like many fruit bats, Delaney also prefers the choicest fruit, and she is often not inclined to eat the whole piece of fruit. So as I follow around after her, I amass a collection of half-eaten apples.

Half-eaten apples, October 2012
Fit for a smoothie, perhaps?

What to do?

There is a section of my mind that bows to economic realities. I believe that apples cost money, and apples that aren’t fully eaten are representative of economic waste. Shouldn’t I be teaching Delaney that apples cost money and her habit is throwing money in the bin?

Another part of me remembers the starving children of Africa. We currently own so much food that we could feed a third-world family for several weeks without needing to shop for more. Shouldn’t I be lecturing Delaney on how grateful she should be to have food at all and therefore she should eat the whole thing?

What about good habits, and finishing what we start? Isn’t this an essential life-skill, and aren’t the toddler years a good time to start training our children in this? Shouldn’t I be making Dell eat a whole apple before she starts a new one?

I know all these truths, and more. I am constantly reviewing these things in my mind as I seek to parent respectfully so our children grow into conscious adults.

So I hold my tongue. I collect the apples I find. I finish some if I’m hungry and drop the rest in our composting bucket to feed the chooks or the garden.

For this is what I have learned over the years.

Economic realities are not a lesson for small children. And the truth is that if a kilo of apples only costs a couple of dollars, then the value of the waste amounts to cents. I know that it all adds up, and although I’m on a budget, I can afford to pay a bit extra each week so that Delaney has a new apple to eat when she wants one. Why would I bully her into eating a yellowing apple simply to save 20 cents?

I am thankful that Delaney loves to eat fruit. She is not choosing to snack on chocolate bars or biscuits, but grown-from-the-tree goodness. This is a food choice that will become a foundation for her future health. Why would I jeopardise her natural proclivity for apples just because I want her to eat more of them?

There are two ways to waste food. One way is to throw it in the bin, and the other way is to eat it if our bodies don’t need it. If Delaney’s current practice is to stop eating when she is full, shouldn’t I be applauding the way she listens to her body and praise her for putting food down when she is full? Why would I try to force-feed her a greater quantity than her stomach needs?

Perhaps I need to have more fruit in my own diet. If I didn’t have a little person around to prompt me to eat more apples, I may not even munch on one! My own conflicting stories of guilt and fear that I received in my own childhood mean that I’m eating more fruit than ever as I “clean up” after Dell.

My favourite phrase in parenting is:

“It’s a phase, it’s just a phase.”

Delaney will grow into a bigger person. She may soon have room in her stomach for a whole apple, and the “waste” may dwindle. In a short while, this experience will fade into memories, and I hope that Delaney will still be making good food choices when she is hungry.

In the meantime, I can be gracious enough to keep a good stock of apples on hand for her — for whenever she is hungry. I can offer to peel and quarter the apples if that makes them easier to eat. I can even use our handy-dandy apple-slinky-maker to make the fruit more exciting. This is food for life — even if it’s just half an apple!

Apples in a bowl, October 2012
Dig in!