If I had a nickel for every morsel of food refused in my home, I would happily be able to retire for good. Mealtimes are fraught with head shaking, staunch refusal, and leftover food going cold and crusty on small plastic plates. My kids will happily eat dirt and lick the linoleum in public restrooms, but just watch what happens when they are offered a single green bean or the wrong color of cheese. It’s like a declaration of war, and my kids are in it for the long haul, and they will not be bested.
I have three kids, and I had the first one when I was just 19. He is 11 years older than my second, and in that time I learned a lot of lessons. One of which was “pick your battles ” and I no longer favor battles about food.
With my oldest, we would sit at the table for ages, stubbornly determined to stick to the “eat what you’re given” rule. I remember my son pleading not to eat such “yucky” things as grilled cheese, or chicken with rice (the horror). I would sit there, insisting that he just try a bite, viewing myself as the steward of his health and therefore needing to to stick to my guns when it came to food. Every so often, I’d become so stressed out with the whole scenario that I would make him a while separate meal, or let him just have cereal for dinner. Nights when I just simply didn’t have the energy.
I would be completely wracked with mom guilt over food during this time. This went on for a couple of years, and then at some point when I stopped paying attention, he became less picky. Don’t get me wrong, he is still stubborn and somewhat picky about food, but we no longer have these issues when it comes to meals. He is now a very healthy 16 year old boy who will eat almost anything in the house.
In the years between when he started eating and when I had my second child, I had many regrets about the time I wasted worrying incessantly about food. It’s normal to want to make sure your kids have proper nutrition, however, it’s another thing altogether to get into needless power struggles and beat yourself up over the fact that your child is being picky. And make no mistake about it- kids WILL be picky.
I always declared that I wouldn’t get into these same battles if I could do it all over. So now that I am, I have taken a step back. I won’t be making everyone their separate meals, but I also won’t be sitting for hours in a game of stubborn food-centric tug-of-war. I just won’t.I am lucky to have found some fruits and veggies that my kids will eat, and I feed them to them often. I try and give the produce first and the more preferred items second. I’m not afraid to bribe with a treat to get them to eat their dinner. And if they refuse, then they refuse! I am lucky that there is no one here at risk of malnutrition, and that their health is in great status. I can afford to decline this fight.
So when it comes to picking my battles, I am very deliberate to not pick food. And I’m not even sorry about it.
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