Turn for the Douche

If I’ve really, truly failed one thing with raising my kids, it’s with food.  I just… they don’t eat for SHIT and it drives me right slap out of my mind and sometimes I’m calm about it and other times I get so pissed.  The ways I’ve messed up are many.  I’ve somehow raised three children that refuse nearly every food offered and eat basically cereal, fruit, and yogurt.  I’ve failed in that I’ve failed to stay nonchalant about it.  I’ve failed in that I don’t even KNOW how I’ve failed or where we went astray off the path but GEEZUZ other kids eat food and mine don’t.  We eat normal, healthy meals in front of them, EVERY DAY, and yet they refuse to participate.

(I should add that the main focus of my concern is that they are actually getting enough calories.  I know lots of folks complain and/or obsess over their kids’ eating, but I’d wager that their kids eat more than my kids do.  I’m serious… these kids don’t eat.  Like, AT ALL.)

I am just so goddamn sick of making a meal– and I do mean ANY MEAL, kid-stuff included– and having them groan and moan and pout and declare how much they don’t liiiiiiiike it.  There’s a “weird spot” on the apple slice, or “crumbs” in the yogurt, or “this cheese tastes funny” or “it’s too cold” or “it’s too hot”.  After awhile, you just want them to eat the fucking grilled cheese, ya know?  And while they’re at it?  SHUT UP.

We’ve tried ignoring this behavior, having good attitudes about this behavior, sending them out of the room for being rude and negative, sticker charts to reward them for not complaining, putting our foot down and insisting they eat something, involving them with cooking, praising them for trying something new (no matter how teensy the bite), making meals full of foods they “like”, taking them to see where our CSA food is grown and involving them with the food source.  Nothing works.

And believe me, my expectations are not unreasonable.  I want them to come to the table without complaining.  I want them to eat a few bites of what’s being served for dinner, and I’m not talking big mouthfuls; I’m satisfied with nibbles.  (And while I don’t cook two meals, there are always kid-friendly options).  And I want them to be polite.  THAT’S IT.  They KNOW these expectations, and YET.

So tonight, I made a good supper.  A reasonable supper, delicious even.  It was corn chowder (it included bacon and potatoes), corn bread muffins, yogurt for the kids, milk, etc.  I KNEW they wouldn’t gobble down the soup, but I did not feel it was unreasonable for them to taste it.  Two of the three LOVE bacon and corn, and all three like potatoes.  But of course, they refused to even take the smallest droplet of soup into their mouthes.   AND they would not stop with the ever-loving BITCHING about this meal.  And remember, they bitch about ANY MEAL, so it’s not like a sammich thrown their way would solve anything.

Basically, it ruined our evening, an evening I was looking forward to.  I ended up storming out of the kitchen (rather than yell/lecture them anymore).  David quietly cleaned up the dishes.  We skipped the fire, the hot chocolate, the popcorn, the fun cozy family night.  I spent the rest of the evening barricaded in my room, fuming.

And now I’m still just so pissed.  I WANTED to have a good evening.  And yet, I could not seem to rally to having a cozy, lovey night with them.  I didn’t even want to be in the same room as they were.  I feel like we are TRYING to give them a good life, a happy home, and all they do is look around, pull down their pants, and take a huge shat all over everything.

And yet…  I feel like taking away our tradition is messing with something sacred.  I feel BAD that we didn’t carry on, despite how dinner went.  It wasn’t even about the food, or whether or not they ate, or any of that.  It was about how, once again, we couldn’t even enjoy a simple meal together.  We couldn’t spend a half hour together as a family without their behavior grating on our very last nerve.

But they are just kids– little children– and they have bad days too.  *I’m* the adult; I shouldn’t take it personally.

Basically, this entire day took a turn for the douche. And in the end, we didn’t salvage it.

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23 thoughts on “Turn for the Douche

  1. I love this post, and I can’t put my finger on why. I just do. I love it.

    We found we had to abandon the idea of The Family Eating Dinner Together. It’s such a classic on the “being a good family” list, but it didn’t work for us and it was making us LESS of a good family. Now we eat in shifts: the kids eat, and then we eat later. If they don’t eat, I don’t have to look at it; if they whine about the food, they don’t have to eat it, and I don’t have to watch them not eating it or hear them whining about it. I cook, and then I leave on my walk. Paul is in charge of refills, but he’s removed from the cooking process so doesn’t get as upset if the whole meal gets dumped in the trash.

    • I’ve known about and loved your idea of feeding the kids first for a long time. But fixing them food and then LEAVING THE HOUSE? Now that is an entirely NEW LAYER to this plan.

  2. I just want to HUG YOU after this post. My kids are often the very same way. They complain at fricking CHICKEN NUGGETS sometimes. Frozen nuggets, AYFKM?! So yeah, I feel you.

    We do meals the same way, i.e., I don’t make different meals for the kids, but I do try to have at least one thing I know they like on the plate. I try so hard to detach from whether they eat anything or not. But it’s not just about the eating it, it’s about the WHINING and the “What IS THIS?” and then the “I don’t LIIIIKE THIS!” and “How do you know, you’ve never tried it!” and then the “I’m full, can I have DESSERT?” Hahahahahaha. Oh, man, I love that one. (We only have dessert on Mondays and Fridays.) It’s a mental game for the parents and sometimes we win it — they get down without eating anything, and who cares? — and sometimes we lose by getting emotional. Bleh.

    That corn chowder sounds awesome and my kids would NEVER eat that either. Wish I’d been there, though. Mmmm!

    • Oh, we get the “I’m full.. can I have dessert?” so often too. I should be keening from hysterical laughter because RILLY KID? UM? NO. We also get the post dinner, post dishes, “I’m hunnnnnnnngry.”

      Also, only one of my three children will even THINK ABOUT touching a chicken nugget. And even then she’ll eat 1 or 2, tops.

  3. Ditto what el-e-e said! Seriously, everything she said.

    We have tried it all as well and it still sucks sometimes. I only cook an interesting-for-adults dinner from scratch 1-2x a week because I can only take the whining that often. The rest of the time it’s pasta or plain chicken or pizza and THAT’S IT. Even then, I still get whining (there was a recent memorable evening when I tried a new kind of pizza crust and she wouldn’t eat it because it was SPECKLED. JESUS H.)

    I’ll tell you what, I would KILL to have you cook that delicious sounding dinner for me. Tell your kids there are starving (not really) moms in Virginia who would LOVE that dinner!

    • YES! We’ve had this too, with finding spots or “green things” or WHATEVER on a different kind of pizza. Or any food, really. One the frozen pizza we buy switched their recipe so that the cheese had TINY green specks and it was a NO GO.

  4. Our kids are the same, and we’ve tried a lot of the things you’ve tried. Our oldest even went to Farm Camp last summer at our CSA farm. My husband is the one who cooks, so he’s the one who really can’t take the always and forever whining. It makes me want to hit them. (I don’t.)

    I like Swistle’s idea of eating in shifts. Although no one in our house leaves for a walk, so I don’t know if it’d help because we’d still be around.

    You know what else I can’t stand about my kids’ eating (this may just be my kids, idk…)? We buy SO MUCH FRUIT – like, I’m guessing close to 30 lbs a week – and my kids often eat two bites of a banana and throw the rest away. And then want something else. Usually yogurt… or anything that we’re trying to save for their lunches because it’s individually packed.

    Lunches are another thing. They don’t eat them. Sandwiches? No thanks. And my kids go to a school that doesn’t have a cafeteria, so it’s not like there’s another option. UGH. They often return home with the exact same food we sent with them, only hot, smashed, and inedible.

  5. Food issues are definitely something that I’m NOT looking forward to. I already get frustrated when James won’t eat, and he’s just a baby (and I wouldn’t want pureed peas either!). I’m sorry your evening didn’t end up as you hoped. I like Swistle’s idea of eating in shifts…I don’t know if that would help you or not.
    I wish there was some magic formula that we could all share to either make the kids eat or make us not care so much. Good luck!

  6. Food issues are so frustrating. Nothing makes me see red more than slaving over a delicious, healthy, home-cooked meal and have my kids (especially the oldest) ask for goldfish. Yes, they would rather eat crunchy cardboard than my food! $^#&!!!

    I have had to let go, basically. (I do still bitch about it though sometimes.) We serve them what we’re having, which includes things they like, and they can eat it or not. I do ask that they try a “yes or no” bite to see if they like it and that’s it. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. If they try everything and truly don’t like it, I will sometimes let them have an apple, banana or cheese stick but I’m not cooking them anything else.
    I let them snack freely all day, but not after 3PM because then they definitely won’t eat dinner. We are having major food struggles lately too, because they won’t just SIT DOWN AND EAT instead of sliding out of their chairs, getting under the table, kicking each other, tooting and burping on each other (*sigh*) and I have not handled THAT well at all.
    Anyway, I feel for you.

    • YES, this is another thing: they won’t just sit on their chairs! At almost 8 and 4, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect them to keep their ASSES in their SEATS, and YET.

  7. Oh, and the food specks! HAHAHA! d refused his entire breakfast yesterday because his omelet had a black speck on it! GAH! Those battles are particularly frustrating. Banana and apple bruises, too soft grapes, spices in anything… all lead to whining and fights.

  8. I have to take a deep breath, because this made my blood pressure go through the roof. I am so frustrated on your behalf! I feel like if my kid has eating issues, it will drive me into a blind rage all the time. So you’re handling it well, I have to say (and I want some of that corn chowder right this minute!).

    Did you see Amalah’s recent post about how she sets a timer for Noah (who is a picky (non)eater), and tells him that if he finishes his dinner by the time the bell goes off (I think she gives him 30 minutes, but maybe less would be even better), then they can do something fun, like play a game or watch a movie or have hot cocoa and popcorn by the fire (I’m sad you didn’t get to do this). And if he dawdles and doesn’t finish in time, then it’s bath and bed, no fun stuff. Anyway, I don’t know if it would work for everyone but the time pressure seems to have miraculously transformed his eating habits.

    (Sorry if you weren’t looking for advice! I just thought of her post as I was reading yours! And I like Swistle’s technique, too — especially the leaving the house part!!)

  9. Oh god the whining about food – I cannot take it. My husband and I trade off the cooking, so we both feel the aggravation of this sometimes. The line we’ve drawn is that my son absolutely cannot be rude about not liking something because I swear to dog if we had to sit through one more meal listening to him bitch about how he DOEEEEEEESSSSSN’T like (fill in the blank) it’s TOOO (fill in another blank here) particularly when he’d just had and enjoyed the same damned dinner last week, my husband or I, or both of us was going to burst a blood vessel. It’s like nails on a chalkboard. The best I could do was to say it’s fine if he doesn’t like it or eat it but I’ll be damned if we are going to have to listen to him pick it apart like a New York Time food critic. Ugh.

    Considering making a line of Mad Libs for parents that include fill in the blanks for stories like refusing to eat food or go to bed. . .

  10. Oh MAN. I don’t know what to tell you about this, except that obviously your kids aren’t starving, so I really like the idea of you just doing what you need to do for YOURSELF in this situation, which could be, like Swistle, removing yourself entirely. Is your pediatrician concerned at all? If not, I say seriously, deal with what you can control, i.e. your own behavior, by getting the hell out so they have nobody to whine at but each other.

    Good luck! I hope it gets better. Also, it just seems cruel that you have THREE picky eaters. One should be sufficient, you know? Or two, MAX.

  11. I think the only thing more tormenting to parents than sleep issues is food issues. I know we’ve talked about this off and on over the years and I’m sad for you that it hasn’t gotten any better. We try to have family meal time, otherwise my husband only sees our kid for about 15 minutes before bedtime, but I have to admit, the nights when Parker eats early and R and I get to eat in peace and quiet are fan-freaking-tastic. It makes the meal so much more enjoyable. I get so tired of the constant bargaining “How many more bites do I have to take before I can have dessert?”. For the first time, just 2 days ago, I didn’t offer a kid-friendly alternative to the vegetable beef soup and when she didn’t eat it, she went to bed hungry. I felt bad but she didn’t die of starvation overnight. Right now it doesn’t feel like it’s ever going to change.

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  13. If leaving the house isn’t an option: EAR MUFFS! You know, those great hearing protection ear muffs that people wear when using loud machinery? They are about $15 or so and WORTH EVERY PENNY. If you put the ear muffs on over the ear buds for your MP3/music player, you can’t hear the children at all, and if you just put the ear muffs on by themselves, they dampen the sound like a covering for a raw nerve. Then, when your children try to talk to you, you just point to the ear muffs and say, “I’m sorry, your words were hurting my ears, so I had to put the ear muffs on and now I can’t hear you.” After doing this once or twice, my 4 picky eaters will usually at least make an effort to cut down on the complaining because they ALWAYS have something they want to tell me. The ear muffs and music are really nice for long, family car trips (when the wonderful husband is driving) too =)!

  14. My kids are good eaters, so I have nothing to add to that.
    BUT, they bitch and fight me on everything, which takes what COULD BE a fun thing (like watching a movie with popcorn) and ruin it. ” I WANTED to have a good evening. And yet, I could not seem to rally to having a cozy, lovey night with them. I didn’t even want to be in the same room as they were. I feel like we are TRYING to give them a good life, a happy home, and all they do is look around, pull down their pants, and take a huge shat all over everything.”~I HEAR YOU!!!!!!!!!!!

    I’m sorry it all turned out crappy. It’s so frustrating.

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  16. Hey there!
    I think so many of us feel your angst and complete aggravation with this-many of us have lived it, whether as parents or children. We all know that late afternoon/evening crabbiness that exascerbates it… it’s an explosion waiting to happen. Anyhow, when my now 5 yo daughter was 9 mo’s, I had the good fortune of reading Child of Mine by Ellyn Satter. A mere coincidence, it was. But it changed how I do things (or did things) and I think resulted in the good overall eaters that I have. We are still working on getting the 2.9yr to stay at the table longer than 5-7 minutes but at least he’s polite about it. Mind you, I didn’t think I’d have trouble feeding my kids at all-I’m a good eater, as babies they’re good eaters. But this is not really about eating-it’s about power. And it’s natural for kids to practice exerting theirs at home on their parents and it works so well; think of all the parents that bristle or flip, that bribe or threaten, etc, etc. Anyway, read some Ellyn Satter. Try the division of feeding responsibility (it sounds very official but is ridiculously easy)-you decide what, when, and where you serve, they decide whether to eat and how much. That’s it, simple, brilliant, effective. If you’re up for it, you might start by having a conversation along the lines of: “Daddy and I realized we’ve been goofing this all up! We thought we were supposed to serve you meals and get you to eat them, but now we realize that we serve the meals and you get to decide whether to eat!…” The trick is to always serve a known liked food with whatever you are having (ie: bread and butter, rice or pasta, a glass of milk, bowl of fruit, etc) and if that’s the only thing the eat, fine. Let it go. Model good choices yourself; enjoy your meals. When you do this long enough they will eventually trust you to let them make their own food choices and maybe be willing to try something new. No forced bites, no how many do I have to eat, no if this, then this, no hiding foods in other foods. Often my kids start with an ‘I don’t like this…’ to which I answer, ‘you don’t have to eat anything you don’t want to…’. We have had nights where my son ate only broccoli for dinner, 3 helpings but he was happy. When you think about what they eat by the week instead of did they get enough servings of x,y,z today, it’s easier to let it go and feel confident that they’re averaging enough to eat. Check it out and I hope it appeals to you; Ellyn Satter gets kids. Best wishes, Leah

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