Every time I sit down at the table to eat with my kids, I wonder how they can be mine. I watch as they poke, prod, and scowl at the contents of their plates while I quickly devour my own meal with much ease and enjoyment, and I think how on earth are we related?
Because I like food. Hell, I love the stuff. I love to make food. I love to buy food. I love to watch food being made (sup Food Network?). And most of all, I love to put food in my mouth and eat it.
My children, on the other hand, generally want NOTHING to do with food. To them, the four major food groups are: potato chips, chocolate, lollipops and fruit snacks. Everything else is “for grown-ups”.
To his credit, my son has made a lot of improvement since graduating toddlerhood. These days, he’ll even choke down a piece of lettuce every once in a while. But my daughter? Is the WORST. Much, much worse than my son ever was. She drives me insane. I don’t think she’s ever eaten a whole meal in her life. I don’t even understand how she’s still alive.
At almost two and a half years old, she weighs in at a whopping 22 pounds of teeny tiny toddler.
Here’s a fun fact: actual babies have emerged from their mother’s womb weighing more than my daughter does right now. Seriously, I looked it up (and you thought your chunky nine-pounder was a butterball).
Basically, I know a thing or two about picky eaters. So are you in the same boat? Let’s find out!
You know you have a picky eater when:
1. Your child is much more interested in the utensil itself than the food she is supposed to be placing on it. I once left the kitchen for a minute during lunchtime and returned to find my daughter eating her mac n cheese with a screwdriver (note to self: remind Big M that it’s only okay to leave a tool within arms’ reach of a toddler if he at least plans to fix something with it at some point).
2. The very prospect of running low on your child’s favorite food, otherwise known as the ONLY thing they will happily eat, is enough to keep you up at night, tossing and turning and contemplating a 2a.m. run to the supermarket. And running out of it altogether? Can we say DEFCON 5?
3. You will give into almost any food request. I made my daughter a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich (!) the other day, and apparently that wasn’t heavenly enough for her because she refused to eat it until I slathered some butter over the top, too. So guess what? I whipped out that Breakstone’s tub and smeared like nobody’s business. Guess what else? She still didn’t eat it.
4. Remember the days when you honestly believed you would always cook just ONE meal for your whole family and everyone would sit down and eat it together? “I’m not a short order cook!” you would exclaim. HAHAHAHAHA! Wasn’t that cute?
5. You rarely make your own lunch because you now live off of untouched leftovers. Same goes for the dog (who’s looking like he might need a diet soon).
6. You often find yourself wondering how your child has not yet starved to death, considering that if you went that long without a meal your stomach would leap from your body and drive itself to the nearest McDonald’s.
7. You’ll do practically ANYTHING to get your child to eat, including but not limited to: airplane/train mimicking, deception, book-reading and TV-watching during meals, singing songs about food, dancing to songs about food, buying toys that look like food, allowing them to cook their own food, and prying open their clamped little mouths and just shoving the food in yourself. For the most part, none of that ever works. But you’re unfailingly willing to try. My daughter sometimes responds well to a hearty round of applause after every bite she takes. Yep, you read that correctly: applause after EVERY SINGLE BITE. It’s like being in the Wheel of Fortune audience while trying to eat dinner. Isn’t it amazing that I haven’t jumped off a cliff yet?
8. This is a disturbingly familiar routine: your child tries something new and LOVES it, finishing off every last bite until the plate is scraped clean. You practically fall off your chair with excitement, then immediately hightail over to Costco to buy a six-month supply– only to find that she suddenly hates it and refuses to touch it the next time you give it to her. Or ever again.
9. Dinnertime in your house is pretty much a three-ring circus. One kid is hopping dangerously up and down on her chair while the other is trying to eat his soup with his toes. One kid has to get up to pee three times and the other follows him into the bathroom. One kid is crying hysterically because there are vegetables on his plate while the other is crawling around on the table and tossing food into the dog’s mouth.
10. You sometimes harbor actual feelings of animosity toward anyone with children who are good eaters, secretly wishing years of obesity on the whole family (okay, not really….but maybe just one kid….).
11. You resist the urge to roll your eyes and scream whenever people without children dish out unwanted advice on how to improve your child’s diet (I’m looking at you, Rachael Ray). Come to think of it, this is your same response to ANY bit of parenting advice given by someone without children (now I’m looking at you, Supernanny).
12. There is absolutely ZERO chance of your child eating a single piece of food when company is over, or on play dates, at parties, or basically anytime there is something even the slightest bit interesting or distracting going on. Well, at least until it’s time for cake and dessert.
13. There is no limit to the excuses your child will give for not eating, since they know they can’t use “I’m not hungry” every time. Here are a few examples, courtesy of my son: “the cereal is too spicy”; “I’m too tired to eat”; and my favorite “but I ate dinner yesterday!”
14. You’ve contemplated buying stock in Pediasure, since you could have purchased a used car by now with the ridiculous amount of money you’ve spent on the stuff. Seriously though, are crushed diamonds their secret ingredient?
15. You’ve found yourself examining the ice cream carton for calcium content, and you’ve conceded that a few squirts of ketchup is perfectly acceptable as a serving of vegetables.
16. Going to bed without dinner is neither a threat nor a punishment to your child; it’s more of his preference.
17. You would happily travel to the end of the earth (or pay for international overnight shipping, anyway) for anything your child likes that has even the slightest amount of nutritional value.
18. All poor eating habits seem to magically disappear at Grandma’s house. “I don’t know what you’re talking about! She ate her whole dinner for me.” Argh.
19. You’ve witnessed your child eat random, inedible objects off the floor since the day she learned how to crawl, yet she still won’t eat anything you put in front of her. Apparently, Cheerios taste better after marinating in dust bunnies under the couch for a month.
20. Bribery. So, so much bribery.