Last night after going to bed, our oldest son got up and came out to announce he was starving. Yes, he did not say hungry, he used the word starving.
While this may have been an exaggeration, in his mind it was true.
Why was he so hungry? Well, like most nights lately, he did not eat dinner.
Food has been a struggle in our household. It went great when both our boys were babies as they ate pretty much anything.
But then the menu continued to shrink down to two or three foods.
Even the classics like pizza were getting destroyed for having sauce or melted cheese on it.
My wife and I have reached a point of having to choose between cooking food we like and dealing with the fall out, or just making the boring three things all the time.
Our youngest, who is two, has now also hopped on the bandwagon on not liking food. He in fact, really does not even like sitting at the table for dinner.
It is pretty rare that you can serve food, grab a drink and sit down before he pushes his plate forward and gets off his chair.
Before anyone says anything under their breath, we have tried being firm on having to try everything and having to sit with us.
But eventually, it really is not worth the fight.
It is a power struggle plain and simple and I am not sure if we are winning or losing anymore.
We think, well they will eat when they are hungry. But then eating for us becomes about survival and not enjoyment.
I like sitting at the table with the family every night. Sure we don’t talk about much, but we are together. I bet there are thousands of families who wish they were so lucky.
Back to the eating. The boy’s taste pivot on a dime these days. It seems like the only sure thing is some kind of frozen and breaded piece of chicken.
Like I said, even kid-friendly classics like pizza and pasta no longer make the cut.
So what do we do? What do other parents do?
I ask around and it sounds like we are all in the same boat. It is rare to hear parents say their young kids eat well.
We take our kids grocery shopping, let them pick out stuff, let them learn what food is, let them help cook it and yet they seem to get no enjoyment out of eating.
Maybe we let up on the power struggle. Just stop focusing on it completely. If they eat, great. If not, just most on.
Even the lunches I pack for school don’t get eaten most days and those are made up of 100% things that our son picks out. He claims he forgets to eat it.
When it comes to parenting struggles, the food issue is easily at the top. So far, we have been pretty lucky with our boys. They are happy and socially well-behaved little dudes. They make us laugh, they have great compassion and they are a treat to spend time with.
But this food thing. It is a test of every bit of patience we have. We would love for it to stop, but I think that won’t happen any time soon.
Then you add the prospect of me going back to work, and quality food time is only going to diminish.
I have plenty of time to prepare a good meal for all right now. I can’t imagine what happens when dinner becomes a sprint to the finish each week night.
Is it partly our fault? I am sure of it. I am sure there was a tipping point where we caved on something and the kids assumed control.
But you do what you have to do to get through a meal.
I grew up in a household where you sat there until you ate it. That is how it used to be done for many. It was horrible. It solved little. But it was again, a power struggle that a parent could feel like they won.
I don’t want to see the boys sitting at the table for hours when there is life to be enjoyed. I want them to love having family dinners. I want them to love food, or at least new food.
I also feel like there is little left to try that has not already been tried. The “experts” advice always comes from people who seem to have perfect kids.
Our son asked if we could wash the sauce off his chili last night. See where we are?
This week’s strategy I think will be trying to reset and not focus on it so much. I hate making such a big deal out of lunch and dinner. I am sure it adds to stress, pressure and the fight to be the winner.
Easier said in the afternoon, when you are well rested and not staring down the screaming face of your kid who says he is hungry but does not like the colour of something that has been that colour for the history of time.
We are trying to stick to not cooking different dinners for different people. That is really the only thing we have not tried. It seems like it is a band-aid that will bite us in the ass later.
The bottom line is, it breaks my heart just a little when you hear your son tell you he is starving. Yes, he has the power to fix it by simply eating dinner, but at the same time all you want to do is give him the snack he wants, so he will be happy and go to bed. Full disclosure, we did give him a snack and he slept fine.
Wrong? Sure. But what are you going to do right?
Have a food story to share? Does your kid actually eat what you do every night? We would love to hear how you did that (and video proof).
The one thing I have come to learn from all of this, my parents did a good job because my sister and I were the exact same way.