We’ve been going through a rough patch in our house recently when it comes to eating. My almost-four-year old has fallen back into some of his “picky” ways and now my six-year-old, who has always been an adventurous and excited eater, is going through a “I don’t like the way it looks! I don’t like the way it smells! I won’t eat THAT! I HATE that!” phase. To say it has been trying would be an understatement.
It can be incredibly frustrating, painful, and even infuriating at times when one or both of the boys is turning their nose up at the dinner that I carefully prepared, especially when it is one that I prepared “knowing” that they like it. Over the past months I have learned to control my reactions and to take the drama out of it, but it can be really, really hard! And, if I am being totally honest, sometimes I fail.
Two nights ago I made a giant baked pasta, a consistent favorite and safe bet, because I knew that neither of them had been eating very much in the previous days and I wanted to give them a good meal. No luck. The little one ate half a bowl and the older one only ate one bowl (when he often will eat three, since this is one of his favorite meals). I was so annoyed that I snapped, “What is going on?! This is one of your favorites, guys!!” My younger one looked up and me and said, “I’m sorry, Mama. I’m full. Can I have dessert now?” UGH. Did it get me anywhere? No. Did it help the situation? No. So I quickly moved on and let it go.
But then there are those moments that come and remind you that you are doing it right and that these are just phases. And, as my mom always reminds me, these moments come just when you are about to completely lose it. Last night was one of those moments. My six-year-old, the normally adventurous one, has one food that he consistently doesn’t like: ginger. It is a strong flavor, so I get it, but it does add wrinkle when making stir fry. But last night I decided to try a peanut sauce stir fry in the hopes that it might open him up to the idea of stir fry again.
It did not start out well. First he freaked out that we were even having stir fry. Then he refused to taste it because “I don’t like the smell OR the look!” So the little bit that had been in his bowl ended up in mine and he stuck with just rice (and I gritted my teeth). But then, after a little bit of watching all of us (including his little brother) happily eating the food, I caught him eyeing the stir fry pan again. I asked him if he would like to try it again. At first he said no, then he said, “well, just a carrot.” Pretty soon that “just a carrot” was everything in the stir fry, except for the tofu. It was such a relief!
This process really confirmed for me that the combination of taking the drama out of the dynamic, having options or “safe” foods on the table, and firmly sticking to the fact that was made for dinner is dinner (even if he is begging me for salad) is worth it. It can be so hard, but in the end it not only helps to create healthy relationships with food, but also strengthens the trust and openness in our relationships with one another.