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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Excuses, Excuses!

Dear Daughter is a picky eater. She's pretty much always been that way, at least off and on. It's "on" right now, and getting worse daily. She will, however, eat copious amount of "greasy beans," which are green beans swimming in butter. Go figure. She wouldn't touch the things with a 20 foot pole during the first two years and seven months of her life. Dear Son, on the other hand, will eat anything you put in front of him whether it is intended to be edible or not. He especially likes black olives and his bath water right now.

Anyone who is a mom to young children knows that entire days get consumed with preparing and cleaning up meals. Since young children need to eat frequently and are so messy, the mess from one meal takes a good hour to clean up and then less than two hours later you are back in the kitchen preparing the next meal.

Daughter is in a phase where she doesn't like to eat ANYTHING unless it's ice cream, plain noodles (no sauce), or chocolate. Oh yeah, and "greasy beans." I've gotten tired of working my butt off (which never quite comes completely "off," by the way) to prepare healthy meals multiple times every day that daughter won't eat. Today I gave her some choices to pick from before I prepared her lunch. She insisted that she wanted tortellini. The same tortellini that she didn't eat a week and a half ago when I made it for her, mind you. She insisted that she DOES like it and that she WILL eat it THIS time! Thinking that she is so fickle these days that exactly who knows if she will or will not eat the requested food, I went ahead and prepared the tortellini (sans sauce, because even if it is plain ol' smooth Traditional Rague sauce, there just MIGHT be a mysterious onion in there somewhere). The outcome? She wouldn't eat it.

I surveyed the mess in the kitchen, the mess covering Dear Son (who enjoyed the tortellini, of course), and the floor around his highchair, and considered all the work I had in front of me to clean up as soon as I got Son down for his nap. I considered how I made what Daughter REQUESTED this time, and how it sat, barely touched, on her plate. Since it was the fifth time this week that she has done this, I knew I was going to lose it again if I didn't send her to her room so I could cool down. We have already developed the rule that if Daughter asks for something and doesn't eat it, it gets saved for later and reheated for her to eat before she gets to have something else. This strategy still doesn't seem to prevent repeat episodes like I've described.

So Daughter trudged upstairs to her bedroom, sobbing all the way, leaving me feeling like the horrible Ogre Mommy. I really don't like to make big issues over food. I've had my own dysfunctional relationships with food over the years, including refusing to eat any. I don't want to pass that curse on to my daughter. I DO want her to know that it's not okay to be wasteful, and it's not okay to be inconsiderate of my time and effort to prepare and clean up after the foods she requests and doesn't eat. I don't want to scream and yell at her and pound my fists on the counter in protest again like I did a couple mornings ago when Daughter said she wanted eggs for breakfast and then didn't eat them in spite of sitting at the table for over an hour picking at them and requesting Rice Crispies instead. I told her she could have Rice Crispies if she still wanted them AFTER she ate the eggs she wanted. An hour and ten minutes later I had to pack up the kids and head out the door to keep from being late for work, and there she still sat picking and dawdling. Whew! I really lost it that time, and I pretty much agreed, after that, that I WAS the horrible Ogre Mommy. I did request her forgiveness later for losing my temper so badly in spite of it not being okay that she continues her own abhorrent behavior.

And so, as I felt my frustration broiling today over the current theme, I felt an "Ogre episode" coming on. I managed to simply send Daughter to her room so that I could have a time out while I hosed down Dear Son with the kitchen sink sprayer and considered just dropping a lighted match in the kitchen so that I never had to look at the never ending mess again.

I was calm by the time I met with Daughter in her room. I tried to talk logically with her, questioning why exactly did she not want to eat the tortellini that she requested me to make for her. She didn't answer, and I asked again. She said, "I don't know." I told her that wasn't true, she does know, and I wanted her to tell me. I knew that she was probably afraid of being unable to come up with the right thing to say that would calm my ire over the ordeal. Sure enough, what she finally said was, "Well...let me tell you something! I just have so many things in my imagination that I just don't know what the right excuse is!"

Of course I busted up laughing and had to squeeze her and kiss her before I finished the "talk" with a reminder that the tortellini would be waiting for her when she got hungry and to remember next time not to ask for things to eat and then not eat them.

God help me, just about every post I make these days is tagged with the "Parenting Stress" label!


Anonymous said...


I soooo feel you here. Alex has been a picky eater since 2. His diet consists of:
*Macaroni and cheese
*Cheese pizza
*hot dogs
*bologna sandwiches (sometimes)
*fresh spinach- NO dressing (I have no idea how or why..he tried it out of his dads garden)
*raw carrots (usually only baby)

We've tried everything. I've finally started this and it's helped:

I make him what he will eat, If the family is having a big dinner he gets a quick sandwich or hot dog because it's a 2nd meal and I will not take the time when HE is the picky one.

Also, I have bored him to death. Eating the same things over and over has caused him to request a few new foods that he has picked to try. If he doesn't like 'em...we try something else. The rule is you have to take one bite of everything. If you don't like it..fine.

And of course, if you do not get no dessert (or snack). Therefore, if tortellini had been dinner and he didn't want it, then HE had to make the choice of eating it or loosing out on dessert. This usually does the trick.

I used to be ogre mommy. He'd be getting sick from something, or we'd be in a yelling match, or he'd be hungry. This puts the power of choice in his hands with clear consequences that reward him for eating and trying new stuff.

I hope it helps :-D

MGM said...

Thanks for the tips. We tried the no dessert or snack thing, too. It didn't seem to phase her, and she'd just keep repeating the behavior at every meal.

It does work to require her to taste one bite of anything new on her plate before she gets dessert, but that only works if she also approves of the rest of the meal.

It seems to be working to simply require her finish what she requested in the first place at whatever point that she decides she is hungry after all. After she finishes what was on her plate that she wanted in the first place, she can have whatever she wants next.

Of course it all works a lot better when I don't have that stress-laden moment in which I blow my top and when I can stay matter-of-fact about it all. But in a pinch, if I lose focus and become Ogre Mommy, it serves as a good opportunity to teach daughter about unhealthy displays of anger and asking for forgiveness and such.

Fortunately, she is able to grasp all this pretty well. After all, she is already solid on the point that I'm not perfect (as you have probably read in previous posts!) *sigh*

jesse said...

Sweet Pea is picky with her foods too. I mean as a baby she wouldn't even eat the 3rd foods because it would make her gag. As of now her diet doesn't consist of much but every now and then she will surprise me.

Rambler said...

I'm going through this as well. My seven year old is finally trying new stuff and her horizons have opened up considerably but the five year old is the complete opposite. We have tried everything you did. We've reheated, we taken away desserts, we've said "this is dinner, if you don't eat it you'll be hungry". My father in law even offered her a dollar for every new thing she tried. She still hasn't budged.
Her menu consists of: chicken nuggets, hot dogs, egg noodles, pasta (but only with Daddy's tomato sauce), tater tots, and peanut butter sandwichs.
If you find something that works, please pass it on to me!
Good Luck!

LeAnna said...

I have dealt with this with Alex as well. The best advice is that I can give is that I don't give them an option of eating it later. When it is dinner time, it is dinner time, I spend enough time in the kitchen as it is. I have been assured by my doctor (and my eyes) that my children will not starve and will eat if hungry.
I simply remind him that he wanted it and if he doesn't eat it now he will have to wait until the next meal to eat. Alex is older but if I gave him the option to have it later, he might take me up on it quite often. I don't need him on a power trip about food! Like I said, I'm in the kitchen enough.(although he also is the kid that will get grossed out about leftovers sometimes). We've only had to follow through with that one once or twice.
I do try to make something on the table that I know he likes at each meal, and I have him try new things, but if he requests it, he eats it, or he waits. I don't make a big deal about it but I try to be consistent too! God bless!

Student of Life said...

Bless you! I completely understand your frustration. My son often ends up making me laugh when I'm trying so hard to give a stern lecture. It's so frustrating and adorable at the same time!

Dana said...

You are not an ogre mommy. I guess I have been very fortunate in that I have 3 kids that will eat just about anything. I have only had to save a meal a couple of times. Best of luck to you!