‘When the kids want to get away with something, they definitely go to their dad’

Welcome to So Mini WaysYahoo Life’s parenting series on the joys and challenges of parenting.

Most parents may relate to having a pint-sized picky eater, but in Camila Alves McConaughey’s just published children’s book, Just try one bite, it is the children who are trying to expand the culinary horizons of the adults. While the Brazilian-born mother of three admits she has an aversion to salmon and okra and has only recently converted to mushrooms, she saw her first trip as a children’s book author as an opportunity to give a fun spin on the conversations families can have. have about healthy eating.

“I did not want it to be preachy,” she tells Yahoo Life about the book she co-authored with Adam Mansbach, illustrated by Mike Boldt. “This book is not about ‘follow one path’ or ‘follow a diet’ or ‘what’s right / what’s wrong’. It’s really about getting children and parents to talk about ‘how can we have a healthy relationship with our food and have fun with it? ‘”

Alves McConaughey himself knows the challenges of dealing with a picky eater at noon. The Yummy Spoonfuls co-owner and lead brand director shares three children with Oscar-winning husband Matthew McConaughey: 13-year-old Levi, 12-year-old Vida and 9-year-old Livingston. While children’s eating habits fluctuate over time, Vida is currently the most difficult to satisfy.

“She’s going through a phase where … a lot of vegetables and fruits that she used to like, all of a sudden she says, ‘I really do not like it. I really do not like it,'” says Alves McConaughey. “So what we did was [say], ‘You know what? We understand that your taste buds change, your palate changes. We understand and respect that, but you know that all those things are good for you. So we make an appointment: You can get a vomit vegetable. “

A “vomiting vegetable,” she explains, is something her mother-in-law came up with when she was fighting with a young Matthew McConaughey over food. The child can choose their least beloved veggie – “the one that makes you gag” – and it will never show up on their plate. The catch is that the child should try at least a small bite if another vegetable is served.

In the end, Alves McConaughey tries to get out of any picky phase, realizing that most of the food peculiarities her children have picked up over time eventually disappear. But getting his kids to help in the kitchen has also made it easier for them to learn about food and explore new flavors; getting them to make eggs or pizza is one of her mother-hacks, just as it is to serve delicious smoothies filled with ingredients like kale that they would not normally eat.

“The hack is really getting creative,” she says. “Release the pressure of trying to be perfect.”

Camila Alves McConaughey about her new book, picky eaters and raising three children.  (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

Camila Alves McConaughey about her new book, picky eaters and raising three children. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

She admits that perfection has escaped her when it comes to enforcing sparkling table manners, ranging from keeping her elbows off the table to chewing food with her mouth closed. Because McConaughey’s 90-year-old mother, Kay, has moved in during the pandemic, it has become a “constant conversation” to get the kids to stay at the table until their grandmother finishes eating.

“I’m failing this,” she laughs. “I can not figure this out.”

In addition to the dinner label, the 39-year-old mother’s biggest parenting challenge right now is to guide her children – now tweens and a young teenager – through hormonal changes and the pandemic upheaval. Parents talk for a long time about the exhaustion of having a newborn or the drama of dealing with moody teenagers, but the anxiety in between is something Alves McConaughey was unprepared for.

“I’m actually more exhausted [now]”she says of the energy needed to deal with this emotional phase.” It’s like, give me the physical [work]. Let me change some diapers. I stay up all night. … The brainpower you actually need to guide them through everything they go through with this transition period, it’s something I was not [expecting]. I just did not have many people talking to me about it to prepare me for it. So I was a little in shock. At the end of the day, I think, ‘I want to make tequila, and I want to rest.’ “

But this phase is also exhausting “in the good way,” she notes. Seeing his children mature and grow more independent and form their own interests is a “joy”, one that gives a glimpse of the people they want to become and more meaningful conversations.

Compared to his movie star spouse, Alves McConaughey considers himself more disciplinary, noting that “we balance each other very well.” Although she’s also trying to have fun, her kids are more likely to go to McConaughey when they want to hear an “okay, okay, okay.”

“When the kids want to get away with something, they definitely go to their dad because they know they can probably get away with it better than with me,” she says.

And then there’s Grandma Kay – aka “KMac” – who Alves McConaughey grinningly calls a “troublemaker”.

“It’s definitely a transition, but it’s been a big blessing,” she says of her mother-in-law moving in. “She brings so much joy into the household. She’s funny. She’s naughty. She’s a troublemaker … But it’s very gratifying. And the relationship we have with her now, and which the children have, is invaluable.”

Living on top of a large, busy household – including three children, a grandmother, three dogs, two cats, assorted turtles and fish and a man “with a really busy life” – requires a lot of organization. Alves McConaughey keeps a large calendar on the wall, assigns a different Sharpie color to each person, and plans appointments, events, trips, and other commitments months in advance. She also squeezes time for her to step away from it all, even though it’s only a 10-minute break, where she can be alone and have “no one calling me, no one asking for anything.”

Just Try One Bite will be released on March 22 (Photo: Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers)

Just Try One Bite will be released on March 22 (Photo: Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers)

“I think we as mothers have really high expectations of what we can do – as we should,” says Alves McConaughey. “But the reality is, we have to step back and say, ‘Okay. I know I can handle a lot, but what’s really realistic for me?’

She adds: “I think we have to be realistic that we can not take the big breaks all the time. But to be able to have the small mini-breaks that actually recharge us … it just gives you that energy to to continue … Sometimes I just sit in the car before I get into the house and I just breathe in. I do breathing exercises and say, “OK, I took five minutes. I did some breathing exercises. I’m ready to go in now. ‘”

These little breaks can help tide mothers like her over until “you can actually take proper time for yourself, which I think is very important.” She remembers putting her “foot on the ground” during the pandemic.

“I think, ‘I lose it. I have to go,'” she says. “I literally did not even tell my husband where I was going. I packed up, I loaded the car, and I thought, ‘I have to go.’ Like, I’m out. I need a day. “Sometimes you just have to do it. You have to do what you have to do. And it’s important to realize when you need the bigger breaks.”

—Video produced by Stacy Jackman.

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