It’s funny, the things you learn about yourself when parenting. Or attempting to parent. Or pretending to. The point is, I’ve always enjoyed throwing things away. Does that can opener spark joy? No? Goodwill pile! I enjoy a clean space. Finishing the last apple feels amazing, and bulk buying always brings a slight tremor to my credit card hand (what? you don’t have one of those?).
There is one exception to this rule, and that is FOOD. More often than not, my toddler rejects
everything something I present to her. The perfect meal I’ve constructed goes uneaten and she, like her father, has a six-sense for leftovers. So no matter what get’s preserved after the initial rejection, there is a very low chance the food will get eaten.
Why is this so hard for me to accept?
Perhaps it’s the loving care I place in each egg I scramble, or maybe there’s just something about food that’s so hard to let go of. It’s life-sustaining, it shows the care I have for my child. I communicate love through food, so when rejection comes it stings. Watching that love swirl down the garbage disposal (something I do enjoy), feels like the worst kind of rejection.
So let’s talk strategy. I’ve often found that the problem is never with the kid, it’s with you. So in the spirit of self-discovery, this is how I manage food fights.
1. Don’t Fight
If she doesn’t want it, she doesn’t want it. The more you push, the less likely you will have success. In the end, it’s just food. She’s entitled to her tastes. You can rant all you want (and I do) about how you never had x, y, z opportunity growing up (I certainly didn’t). But she is not you. Only you are you. And she doesn’t want the green beans.
2. Don’t Eat It
If there was one bit of parenting advice I WISH someone told me it’s this–do not eat what’s left on the plate of a child. Ever. I don’t care if you threw caviar on that thing, DON’T. This rule is beautiful in its simplicity, yet hard to enforce. Because that juicy nugget is SITTING there, staring at you. But why slap on the extra calories because you feel bad throwing out half of a banana? Eat your own meal, placed in front of you, without stealing bites from other plates. They watch everything, you know. It’s terrifying.
3. Play Around (i.e. Make it FUN)
Conventional wisdom will tell you that toddlers eat only the following: mac n’ cheese, chicken nuggets, pizza, etc. etc. this lie somehow gets lodged in your brain and you begin living the dream. Not only did my sweet one reject all these “kid friendly” foods, but she gravitated towards what was on MY plate. So she began eating the following–salmon, blue cheese, broccoli. WHAT?!? A child eating broccoli? Yes, she may reject these things later on, but why not start with craving the good stuff? I want her eating real food instead of processed crap. Why not try for those foods first? You may be surprised at your little one’s palate.
4. Ease Up on Snacks
I know, this rule breaks with tradition, but I usually don’t offer snacks (unless she asks). As a result, she eats more at meal times. Amazing concept, I know. Your child won’t starve, and there is nothing wrong with a few crackers and milk in between meals. Simply put; hungry children tend to eat more. Set yourself up for success!
Hopefully, these won’t be revelations to you. Rather, an attempt to maintain some sanity in light of toddler negotations. As my mother so poignantly reminds me, in the way mother’s do; it’s just food.