Monday, January 28, 2013

meal wars: dinner drama

For months now, Mason has basically eaten whatever Brad and I do for dinner, which has always been my goal. This mama has no intentions of becoming a short order cook! But one night recently, Mason turned into a little rebel and now peaceful dinners feel like a distant memory.

It's like someone flipped a switch in my boy.

The mere sight of foods that Mason used to eat eagerly and happily now cause him to sob and scream: chicken, potatoes, broccoli, pork chops, rice, pineapple--nothing too crazy. I literally place him in the high chair, he nervously looks at his plate/high chair tray, frowns, starts badgering me for a cracker, and freaks out when I encourage him to eat whatever's for dinner. He has a complete meltdown in the chair, won't take a single bite of anything on his plate, and ends up going to bed without any dinner. This has happened a couple times in the past week.

If I would let him, I'm sure he'd eat a dinner of solely crackers, applesauce, or sweet potatoes, but I put my foot down. Yes, I feel like a horribly cruel mother sending my 16-month-old to bed without any dinner. But my gut tells me that giving in and letting him eat whatever he wants isn't wise for any of us in the long run.

Each time Mason has boycotted dinner, I've wrapped up his untouched plate and placed it in the refrigerator, ready for him should he wake up starving at 3 AM. Although he sleeps somewhat fitfully on an empty stomach, thus far, he's made it through the night. And the next day he's absolutely ravenous, hungry enough, in fact, to wolf down the yucky dinner that he shunned the night before. Go figure.

I barely give Mason an afternoon snack to ensure he's good and hungry for dinner. As much as possible, we try to eat together as a family so that he can see Brad and I eating the same foods he does. I try to mix up the way his food is served to keep him interested and engaged. Any other ideas to ward off the thunderstorm at dinner, Gentle Readers? I've discovered that if I give one of his staple foods--applesauce, sweet potatoes, etc.--too early in the meal, he will simply demand more of it and won't eat anything else, so I tend to use those foods as rewards or to help the green veggies slide down a little easier.

It's no accident that my two siblings and I will eat pretty much anything. Sure, we have our favorite foods, but we're not at all picky eaters. I have no idea how my mom did it with all three of us, and she doesn't remember either, but this is one battle I find worthy of fighting. I need to hunker down because food rebellion, unfortunately, feels like it could be a long war.

What's your version of dinner drama and how do you handle it?


Lisa said...

I'm sure that this feels like it will last forever, but it won't. Persevere with what you are doing and Mason will learn to eat what is in front of him.

kerryandtorey said...

We take a different approach since both of us were made to eat things and it never resulted in us liking them :-) Also, after working all day it is nice to have a nice family meal with no tears. I won't be a short order cook either but if H does not want what we are having (we follow the 'one bite to be polite' rule), she can have fresh fruit, veggies or greek yogurt since they are always in the fridge. Now that she is older, she even can get them herself. Often she will say she does not like something but after her one bite- she gobbles it all up.

rainsthoughts said...

I am a stickler about this with Cadet. The first thing I do is make sure his afternoon snack isn't too filling (fruit or a little yogurt). That way he's primed for dinner. I also make sure that there are no cracker/snacks anywhere to be seen ("all gone"). Because if he sees the Cheerio box, the gig is up! Also, in our schedule, I make sure to schedule a little exercise activity for Cadet before dinner. By the time dinner rolls around, he'll eat anything! He's not starving, but he's certainly hungry.

Thrift Store Mama said...

Everyone chooses their battles, and this is not one of ours. For me, a calm and peaceful family dinner was more important than expanding their repetoire.

Beezus and Ramona each eat about 10-15 dinner foods (protein, veggies, starch, whole grains) and that's it. They will NOT eat anything new. I'm grateful that everything they eat is healthy (whole wheat pasta instead of regular for example).

It does drive me crazy because I'm bored of the same old meals. So while I make the same old boring things for the girls and my husband, I make a nicer meal for me and stretch it over 3 evenings.

I got ambitious a few months ago and was going to read a book about children (as opposed to toddlers) who are picky eaters and try to get more variety in to our diets, but I never got around to it !