Starting Off the New Year with a Bunch of Fail

Yesterday morning, I wrote a post about picking my battles and not taking it as a personal affront when LittleBrother doesn’t want to eat dinner. He eats. The problem is not necessarily the food I am making, as he’ll eat that very same thing for lunch the next day without issue. The problem is dinner; the evening meal apparently seems unnecessary to him.

Yesterday evening, I made chili for dinner.

LittleBrother has always loved chili. When he was not quite two-years-old, he used to pick the beans out of the chili with his fingers, call them eggs, and eat them up. He loved chili that much.

Last night? Not so much.

And so, by dinner time yesterday, just hours after my big ole resolution of not taking it personally, I broke my “pick my battles better” resolution. I went off to our bedroom after I finished my bowl of chili and pouted in bed. Not only am I a January 2nd Resolution Breaker but I am also Not Mature. Fantastic.

It’s not that I need him to clean his plate. It’s not that I need him to tell me that it was the best chili known to mankind and that he is honored to be in its presence and, thus, mine as well. I’m not even overly worried about his health as he eats other meals well (most days) and, despite being built different than his older brother, is a healthy weight. He also loves healthy foods (cucumbers are his favorite) and eats things a lot of kids his age won’t touch. He is a great eater… until lately. And then, only not at dinner.

Despite my desire not to have a battle over this because I don’t want him to associate meal time with negativity, it hurts my feelings when he doesn’t eat my food. That’s right. Back to the Not Mature. I work really hard to find and make healthy and delicious meals for my family. I have not only taught myself how to cook, but I do enjoy it. I enjoy the process of cooking as well as that knowledge that I am doing right by the family budget and their digestive tracts and developing bodies/minds by feeding them good food. Not all of our meals are masterpieces; chili is hardly anything to write home about, even though last night’s recipe was quite delicious. But they all take time, effort and… well, love.

Last night, as he cried, “But I’m hungry,” as he refused to eat the food sitting in front of him, I didn’t feel very loved. I’m sure he didn’t feel the love either when I left him sitting at the table with a disgruntled FireDad and a very slow eating BigBrother. He eventually ate the chili; apparently my husband has more patience than I do. After finishing, he came into the bedroom and apologized for crying at the dinner table. I hugged him. We made up.

But I dread dinner tonight.

I have the chicken sitting out. And despite the recipe being for picky eaters, it’s not any of the ingredients he will have a problem with; it’s the witching hour of the evening meal. But instead of a colicky baby, I have a four-year-old who can argue with the best of them, leaving me, near the end of my day anyway, out of energy and patience and feeling generally put down. I’m eight kinds of tempted to order a pizza — which he’ll eat without complaint, no matter the time of day — and call it a day. For the rest of my life. Also, pancakes are acceptable.

I can’t possibly feed my family pizza or pancakes every night until he grows out of this phase. I also can’t figure out how to grow the heck up and act like a Mature Adult while he figures out that eating dinner is a good thing. Pouting in my bedroom every night hardly seems like a good idea. Neither does yelling. Or bribing. Or ignoring, as he is not a child who responds to “ignore it and it will go away” when it comes to the way a child is acting/reacting to a situation. If we ignore his dinner time antics, he’ll just get up and walk away from the table, happy to have beat us at our game. The advice of “have him help make dinner so he knows what’s in it and then he’ll eat it” falls short as he loves the ingredients; he just. hates. dinner.

Yuck Face

He just asked me what we’re having for dinner. I almost replied, “Nothing.” Because that’s what I feel like making. Or a big ole fat plate of Wish Sandwiches because I wish this phase was already over.

Any tips? Advice? Coupons for pizza and pancakes?

14 thoughts on “Starting Off the New Year with a Bunch of Fail

  1. Has he actually gotten TOO HUNGRY to eat properly, because he’s four and four is just that way sometimes? What happens if you feed him a snack an hour or so before dinner?

    I know I get really petulant and also unable to make decisions when I get too hungry, which is about fifteen kinds of annoying to the people around me.

    1. We call that “Hangry” around these parts. Hungry + Angry = Hangry. And we all get that way. THAT said, he has a snack at 3:30 (small; grapes or cucumbers or crackers and cheese, something small like that) and we eat at 5. At the latest. So, it’s not as if we’re eating late and he hasn’t eaten since noon. When I take away the snack (if we’re not home, as an example) he doesn’t complain of being hungry, nor is the snack anything that should really be making him over full. It’s the same size as his morning snack and he eats lunch just fine.

  2. We have had 2 tremendous eaters and 2 picky eaters. We finally, with baby number 4 (yes, I am slow) decided that dinner was from this time to this. Once time was up, dinner was over. If you did not eat dinner you did not get firehouse popcorn, cookies, etc. I think we went two nights of, “Momma, I am sooooo hungry” whimpers coming from the girls’ bedroom and it was solved. Mind you, I felt like the most neglectful momma in the world, sending her baby to bed hungry, but it worked.

    I was (am) that picky eater – maybe for me it is just karma.

    Good luck!

  3. When I was a nanny (my only experience as I’m not a mom yet), the mom I worked for let her kids leave the table without eating. If they chose not to eat, they were not allowed a small (often dessert-type) snack later. At lunch, she would let them come back when they were hungry which worked okay since it was usually sandwiches, fruits, and veggies. If they chose not to eat dinner, they didn’t get anything else later. Every once in a while they wouldn’t eat dinner, but they were by no means starving. They eventually realized they needed to eat with everyone else. Good luck! (And I wouldn’t say this counts as starting off the year with a fail. It’s a speed bump on your road to becoming a better mom. From my POV, you’re a pretty awesome mom to begin with!)

  4. my 4 yo is exactly the same way. She just now came up to me as I was making dinner and said, “I’m not gonna eat that” and walked away. She’s just not a dinner person. So we gave up, if she doesn’t want to eat what I prepared, she can choose to sit and keep us company, get herself a yogurt, or leave the table. I feel for you.

  5. My experience tells me to tell you to just block the complaints out. EVERY NIGHT at least one of my children sigh and pout and tell me how they hate what I am making. Sometimes it is one kid, sometimes 2 or 3 and every once in a while 4. Don’t take it personal, they were put on this Earth to drive us crazy and hurt our feelings. I don’t really think that, but I do feel that way sometimes!

  6. Ugh. Dinner struggles are the WORST. My boys can both be picky. Xander is still young so I tend to offer him something else (applesauce, yogurt etc) if he refuses what we are having. Jack has to eat what we eat. We make him eat 3 bites (usually one of each item on his plate) and then he can leave the table. If he doesn’t willingly eat at least half of his dinner, he doesn’t get any other snacks that night. And if he refuses to eat his 3 bites, he loses his iPad privileges that night (he’s allowed to watch a show while we clean up dinner).

    It’s hard to not take it personally, but both my sister and sister-in-law had pediatricians that told them not to worry about toddler/preschoolers who don’t eat much. I try to remember that and I know that he eats 2 breakfasts a day (one at home, one at preschool) he eats a good lunch and a snack. He isn’t starving and he will eat when he wants. In fact we had two days last week where he at his 3 bites of food and then that was it. The next morning he ate a TON of food at breakfast and actually said “I’m hungry cause I didn’t eat dinner last night.”

    I guess in my rambling kind of way, I’m saying to try and ignore it. Set a bit of a boundary for him, but then that’s it. Don’t fight too much. Some days he will eat. Some days he won’t. And on the days he doesn’t eat, don’t worry. He’ll be fine.

  7. When I was a kid my mom told us if we didn’t eat dinner that was it. Kitchen closed til morning. I’m the type of person that I can eat only dinner and go the whole next day til dinner again. I rarely eat breakfast.

    I’ve been around kids all my life. Babysitting, nanny, preschool teacher, etc. Some kids just don’t eat certain meals. I wouldn’t fret about it. I do agree that he should still join at the dinner table to be polite but if he chooses not to eat then it’s his choice. He’s at the age where decision making is huge for them. Let him make that choice and let him be responsible for that choice. You’re still a great mom!

  8. Still dealing with a VERY picky 6-year-old. And I take it pretty personally, too. I totally shouldn’t, but when I work hard to make a nice dinner (which I don’t always like to do), and he doesn’t eat it, I feel pretty crummy. I don’t know if I have any words of encouragement, but I wanted to let you know you’re not alone!

  9. I agree with the posters who say that there is a certain amount of time to eat dinner and after that-dinner is OVAH-guess you’ll be hungry for breakfast. I am curious though how you thought he would react if you didnt call him for dinner, didnt get him a plate or anything. Do you think he would feel “left out” and actually ask for dinner?

  10. I have NO IDEA. Right now our tactic is setting a timer. We start it up when dinner reaches …that point. When food is being poked and the word “poop” is being inserted mockingly in every sentence, we set the timer. Then when the timer is up, that’s that, dinner is over, get your annoying butts in bed. We used to be desperate to get them to eat, PLEASE just eat!, but we realized that we were just so miserable throughout the entire meal, we would rather just get it over with. And we hope that eventually they will realize that goofing off at the table means going to bed not very full.
    I hate that dinner is miserable. I really hope that someday not too far away, we can just enjoy our meal and eachother.

  11. Have you given him a say in the meal process? I suggest getting cookbooks out and have him decide what MAIN meals will be. Pro studies and those in my own house have proven that if they have a say in it they will eat it easier. They chose it so they can’t come up with an argument. Because you can go over all the ingredients when they choose it. Heck, my kids are teens now and I still make them choose meals to add to my freezer cooking for the month.

    But as far as meal time goes, it’s definitely a set time. If my kids didn’t eat then it was wrapped up and if they complained they were hungry an hour or so later then they knew where the plate was and learned how to reheat. It will get better, it just doesn’t feel like it now :( Stick to your beliefs or it will take longer to get through it.

    1. He doesn’t have a problem with the ingredients; he’s not actually picky. And he’s a huge helper. He has helped. He’s cut up, tossed in, stirred and still refused to eat it. It’s simply. Dinner. Time. And it sucks.

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