I was struggling with what to share today when the topic just naturally appeared to me in the form of a cheese quesadilla. I know I’ve shared a lot about the insanity of having two picky eaters. But none of my words can articulate the drama that comes along with our meal times. One has to experience the hour-long fits of rage from my children to get the full effect of the mealtime madness at my house.

This picky “phase” began just before age three (my kids are almost six). It isn’t just the food choices they complain about, they also complain about the size and the shape of their food. They let me know their disdain for the color plate touching their food, or which side of the table they are served on. I simply cannot win.

I have done everything you are not supposed to do, and I’ve done everything by the book. I have consulted our doctor, and more than one Registered Dietitian. I have spent many mornings adding organic fresh berries and fruits to a smoothie just for one sip to send my kid into hysterics. They help me cook meals and snacks in the kitchen all the time and they still won’t eat any of it. I have tried everything to end the pickiness. Given all my hard work it stings when people make comments about my kids food choices, or posts those #proudmom moments on Facebook because their kid ate a new vegetable. My kids ate all of their organic veggies once too.

So what about the quesadilla? Well, last night I was pretty proud of myself for making enchiladas. I had no idea how easy these are to make. Thinking ahead I knew my kids would not even consider a bite of an enchilada, so I gave into making cheese quesadillas. If you have never had a cheese quesadilla, it is simply shredded cheese sandwiched between two tortillas and heated up to create a melty, gooey cheesy sensation. You can add things like chicken or veggies, but not in my house. My children are purists when it comes to their cheese quesadillas.

F A I L

I call the kids to the table expecting them to recognize one of their favorite foods and begin eating without complaint. Instead: (actual conversation in the Whatever household):

Child: “I can’t eat that.”

Me: “What do you mean you can’t eat that? You asked me to make it for you.”

Child: “I don’t eat round foods.”

Me: “You don’t eat round foods?”

Child: “No.”

Me: “Since when?” (Knowing she has eaten plain cheese quesadillas most of her life).

Child: “Since right now.”

Me: “So, mommy just made you a cheese quesadilla that you asked for and now you won’t eat it it because it is round?”

Child: “Yes. I can only eat triangles.”

Me: {blink} {blink} {blink} Stare. “Are you asking me to cut this into triangles?”

Child: “Yes. But only if they are small triangles.”

I CAN’T WIN.

Now this is the point where other parents suggest I not give into the demands, she either eats or she doesn’t. But other parents do not live my struggle. I could refuse to cut the triangles and spend the next 30-60 minutes listening to my kid scream about how awful her life is, or I can just give her triangles and move on peacefully. I can’t count of the number of meals I miss because I spend so much time disciplining my kids through theirs. It is a complicated tango we dance at least three times a day, every day.

My daughter accepts the quesadilla in triangles. Then opens each triangle and peels out the cheese. I leave the table to wash the dishes already resenting the bedtime snack she is going to beg me for later. I feel like I have tragically failed this part of parenting. Then I realize I need to dig deep and listen to my own advice, “Do whatever it takes to make it through this, Rox. You have fought a good long fight. You have hung in there longer than most folks would. You still feed them the good stuff and allow just the right amount of treats. You have remained faithful in your belief in good food. So what’s going to work to make your meal times less stressful?”

LET THEM WIN.

After nearly 4 years of battling against two strong wills, arguing, threatening, bargaining, yelling and digging my heals in, I give up. I GIVE UP! I raise the white flag and concede the war. I am no longer going to spend extra time in the kitchen crafting meals with hidden veggies, just for them to be rejected over and over. I am no longer going to worry about buying up the organic chicken nuggets when my kids won’t even come to the table if those are on the plate. I am no longer going to recreate healthier versions of Alfredo sauce just for my kid to splatter across my kitchen cupboards.

My kids are healthy and they are strong. So I will let them eat fish sticks and chicken nuggets every single night. I will let them eat their cheesy topped cheese with a side of cheese. I will let them have a small bedtime snack even when they skip refuse dinner. Most of all, I won’t let it bother me anymore when people say things like, “I would never let my kid get away with that.” OR “I guess I’m lucky my kids just eat everything.” OR “I better train my kids now so they don’t act like that later.” From now on, I will accept that this is what our “whatever” looks like. And this is what works for me. #proudmom

The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia and The Novice Mommy.

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29 Comments on I Surrender the War on Meal Time

    • Total solidarity! I remember back to when I was a kid and if I didn’t eat something I just sat there quietly and found a way to get rid of it when my mom wasn’t looking. It would just be so much easier if my kids figured that out! LOL

  1. you are so funny! I only eat round… no… not that… triangle… but not that… omg. Nailed it. And it can be such a battle – who wants to look forward to that every-single-evening? lol

  2. This was really great to read. I am a first time mom and we have transitioned from bottle to food. My little one eats everything so I have not had to go through this. Of course, he could change (praying he wont) so this is a post I am going to keep. I love your letting go of perfection mindset – I just recently wrote a post on authentic self and another on being an imperfect perfectionist. Raising the white flag is a step out of your comfort zone, but I guess it must have been the right time 🙂

  3. Man…. do you have a hiddeb camera in my house or what?! I feel like we lead VERY similar lives. My dynamic duo is 3 years old going on 14. Bossy. Mouthy. PICKY…… is there a stronger adjective to describe picky?! If there was, I’m sure you would know it. My one boy is AWFUL. He doesn’t even like the touch or sight of most foods. Each bite has to be cut into microscopic pieces & most times he barely finishes anything on his plate. Mealtime = a BATTLE three times a day here too. Constant coaching to eat, take a bite, empty threats of going to the doctor, etc. The other boy is a decent eater, so thank God he balances out this craziness. Hang in there, momma! It’s “whatever” here too. 💗

  4. YES YES YES!!! I am on the verge of a picky eater emerging and I have to ALSO think back to when I was a kid – and all I wanted was macaroni and cheese with BBQ sauce in it. So who am I to fault my kid for wanting something particular even if it drives me mad. YOU ARE WINNING MAMA!!! Hang in there!!!!

  5. I have 2 great eaters and 1 terrible eater. I have found that the more kids a person has they more they realize that each kid is his own person and it isn’t that the parents are awesome parents so that is why they have good kids…it is because the kid was randomly born good. Some kids are just born difficult and you can be the best parent ever and those kids are just who they are…I feel like it will serve them well as adults to be so demanding. 🙂 They will make great bosses…they have been acting like a boss their whole lives. Ha!

  6. OMG, I can so relate to this. I am a food blogger….and all three of my kids are super-picky. It is only SLIGHTLY better with my oldest two now that they are 10 & 11. My rule is that if they don’t want what I’m making they can fix themselves something else. All three will starve rather than eat something they don’t want.

  7. This conversation is hilarious!!!! Haha and we love how you pointed out the “offensive shape”. We don’t have children yet, but when we do we hope we maintain your sense of humor. XOXO

  8. So true! My kids were like this when they were little. They used to say like they couldn’t eat eggs because they felt weird in their mouth. Now they eat eggs all the time. They’ll get over it! You just have to show them you’re stronger than they are…LOL

  9. I think it’s okay to feed them what they ask for sometimes. So long as they’re eating. We all parent differently and we all want the best for our kids. Just do what you think it right for them.

  10. I always found it difficult to make my kid eat and behave at the dinning table. Thankfully now my kids are older and we really enjoy spending together time, especially at hibachi restaurants.

  11. My little cousin went throught a phase when he said he couldn’t swim in wound pools, so I definitely feel you on the strange pickiness. Go with your gut mamma, believe it or not, this too will pass and when they get hungry enough, they will eat.

  12. I definitely pick my battles when it comes to meals. Usually they get free reign for breakfast and lunch, and then dinner is mine, where they need to eat what I make. Sometimes that works, sometimes that doesn’t…

  13. I was a picky eater as a kid but it was only the types of foods. I can’t imagine dealing with pickiness about color and shape too! Best of luck in the future! Maybe they’ll outgrow it. 😉

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