We all know that our children need to eat healthily and well to get all the vitamins and minerals they need to grow and develop, and not die of scurvy in the meantime.
It’s also important that we help them to foster a good relationship with food from an early age so that they grow up understanding that things like crisps, chocolate and chicken nuggets are all OK in moderation, but you also need to eat green stuff (other than bogeys and no, green Pom Bears don’t count) occasionally.
But oh my god, getting my three year old to eat anything other than junk, crap and spaghetti bolognese is driving me barmy.
Babies are (often) easier where food is concerned. Lots of babies will eat basically anything you give them from cold green unappetising mush to sticks of broccoli, uncomplaining and without question. Some won’t, but many will. I guess it’s exciting compared to a diet of milk and milk alone to have a bit of texture, even if it is the texture of reheated slime and tastes of, well, broccoli.
Having a baby that eats well can lead parents to feel slightly smug, because they’ve heard about fussy eaters and they think they’ve managed to swerve that particular parenting crisis.
But it’s not all cut and dried. Don’t be smug just yet, avoid that gloating Facebook status for the time being. Babies soon develop into toddlers and preschoolers and they know what they want and what they don’t, and mealtimes become so much more fun!
How do I know this? Because as babies, my children would eat absolutely everything, and more. They were little baby-bird-like dustbins, always squawking for more porridge, puree or those stupid expensive baby crisps made of air and sadness.
The older one still has a good appetite and will usually at least try new food without resorting to threats or bribery.
But the smaller one… Well, he was fairly OK at eating, right up until early toddlerdom… and then BAM,
Now, dinner time with my three year old is a process not dissimilar to the stages of grief.
This is how dinner time currently goes:
Stage 1: Denial
This is the state I must be in when I first decide I will spend upwards of half an hour chopping, slicing, mixing, roasting, boiling, and stirring under the foolish misapprehension that my lovingly prepared meal will end up vaguely inside of my three year old.
Meal prep always starts ten minutes too late to keep him happy. Turns out creating a nutritious, delicious family meal whilst having a small person shouting ‘I WANT A SNACK’ at you repeatedly is tricky.
As a side note, I have learned that it is very possible for a three year old to be ‘hungry’ and ‘not hungry for dinner’ simultaneously.
Stage 2: Anger
Flustered and probably sweating from having a miniature Gordon Ramsey loudly critiquing my cookery skills, I place my lovingly home-crafted meal in front of my youngest child.
utters whines the immortal words…
“I don’t like this!”
Anger bubbles up inside me as he refuses to even look at it, let alone entertain the notion of tasting it, and starts whinging about wanting snacks again.
Stage 3: Bargaining
Bargaining in this case is very similar to bribery.
Please just eat some, you’ve not eaten anything all day apart from four Aldi Teddy Faces and six bites of an apple and I’m worried you’ll die.
If you eat it, you’ll get a star for your reward chart!
If you have some, you can have pudding!
Just one bite and I will let you watch Paw Patrol.
Stage 4: Depression
Oh god, please don’t feed it to the dog.
I spent an hour making that and the ingredients cost a fiver. What a waste of time and money. My whole life is a big waste of time.
WHY DO YOU WANT ME TO CRY?
Stage 5: Acceptance
IN THE BIN IT GOES.
(Or more likely, I’ll eat it. And this is why I’m fat).
Clearly it was my fault for trying in the first place, I’m sorry.
I’ll do spaghetti bolognese tomorrow. And forever.