The things that will never make it in the baby books and other musings from a stay at home mom

Friday, October 28, 2005

A recipe for disaster

It is admittedly the area where I have most screwed up this parenting thing. And yet, I'm not exactly sure where I went wrong.

I started out with such high hopes and lofty goals. Breastfeeding exclusively for the first 6 months. Organic fruits and veggies after that. Fruit with every breakfast. A fruit or veggie with every lunch. Veggies with every dinner. A wide variety of tasty, healthy entrees. No juice, no fast food, no empty calories and very little sugar. Dessert as a special treat rather than a matter of course. Both of my kids ate beautifully, enjoying a wide range of healthy -- albeit often microwaved or prepackaged for my convenience -- foods. At first.

Looking back now, I can see the tumble in slow motion, like one of those childhood injuries you watch in horror but are powerless to stop. One by one, we "lost" foods as my children got pickier and refused their old favorites. I knew the "offer each food at least 10 times" adage and tried halfheartedly to follow it, but I got tired of throwing away good food day after day after day after day. To complicate matters, as much as I believe in the importance of a family meal, it's a logistical impossibility in our household. Making elaborate meals that my children refused to eat was even more frustrating than having to throw away untouched frozen green beans. I couldn't bring myself to slave over food that I knew they wouldn't even sample. Pretty soon, it started to feel silly to even nuke a veggie burger that I know they wouldn't touch. I got lazier and lazier. They got pickier and pickier. And pickier.

And pickier.

My pediatrician keeps assuring me that my children are healthy and growing and that I shouldn't worry so much about their diets. "Most kids this age are picky," she tells me again and again. "At least what your kids do eat is healthy." She's right, I suppose. But she's not the one who has to serve up the same meals 7 days a week. For breakfast, there are still some options. Frozen pancakes, waffles and french toast (prepackaged, yes -- my kids won't eat the homemade versions for some strange reason -- but all nutrigrain, high fiber versions with no syrup or butter) all make my kids happy. Evan will also eat cereal. Some fruit -- they love all kinds -- to round things out. Lunch isn't so bad, either. PB&J or grilled cheese or yogurt, all accompanied by fruit again, put some level of variety into their diets. But dinner? I spend all day dreading dinner.

Both children refuse to let a bite of anything not on their "approved foods" lists come within 15 feet of their mouths. For Julia, the approved options are pizza or turkey hot dogs or a retread of lunch. She'll eat peas or corn as an accompanying vegetable. That's it. Evan loves pizza and the lunch options, too, but refuses the hot dogs. He'll eat raviolis, mac and cheese (Annie's organic... can you hear the desperation in my voice here?), and occasionally some chicken. Lasagna, quiche and other "grownup" leftovers used to find favor with him, but lately just get tossed on the floor. At least his veggie repertoire also includes carrots, squash and zucchini. And then, that's it for him, too. Two options for Julia (4 if you include yogurt or grilled cheese again). Four for Evan. And as likely as not, they're going to refuse to eat more than 3 bites of whatever I serve unless it's pizza.

I have friends with children who are good eaters, and it's a delight to serve their kids meals. "More, please," they beg as they gulp down serving after serving. That just aint happening here. Every night, my children whine and beg for pizza. If I give in and yank out another Boboli or bag of Trader Joe's crust dough and some sauce and cheese, they eat happily and I watch them silently, my guilt over my feeding failure filling my belly far as the pizza fills theirs. If I insist they eat something else, they whine and cry and pick at their meals if they touch them at all. Again, my belly is full, this time with frustration and anger and yet more guilt. And this time, theirs are empty.

Before I had children, back when I was still naive and foolish enough to be judgmental of other parents, I used to be terribly disdainful of the fact that my nephew ate only buttered noodles. I have offered up many the mea culpa to my sister in law over the past few years for my ignorance and lack of understanding. She routinely points to her 12 year old when we have these conversations. "She eats anything now and eventually your kids will outgrow their food issues, too," she tells me (the 7 year old is still eating those noodles). I'm grateful that she doesn't hold my pre-parenthood judgments against me and I appreciate her reassurance. But if I have to slap pizza and a smile on the table every night for the next 8 years while I wait for my kids to outgrow this phase, I'm going to go smack out of my gourd. I know that they feel my frustration. I know that this is a power struggle. And as I am painfully reminded every night as the sky darkens and I am forced to think about dinner again, my kids are winning that struggle hands down.

There must be a better way. But I can't seem to find it in the aisles of my local grocery store. What am I missing?


At 3:51 PM, Blogger Gretchen C. said...

Sweetie, you aren't missing a thing. Because crunchy granola mom over here could have totally written this post. Trader Joe's turkey jerky for breakfast. Vegetables? What are those? These kids, these good eaters you talk about? From Stepford. I know it. Check the backs of their necks.

At 8:04 PM, Blogger Steph said...

As far as I can see, you're not missing anything. I serve the same meals day in and day out. Mine are chicken nuggets, gardenburgers or pizza, so not much better. Actually, a little worse, since they love to gobble up those chicken nuggets (especially - hiding head in shame - the McDonald's variety). They do eat veggies and fruit, at least. I, too, am looking forward to the end of this phase.

At 8:22 PM, Blogger Phantom Scribbler said...

My kids eat pasta with red sauce for dinner every night. EVERY night. Unless we get pizza. Hell, my HUSBAND would eat pasta with red sauce for dinner every night if I'd let him.

Your kids eat peas and carrots? Mine eat pickles and ketchup. What? The pediatrician said they are vegetables!

Your kids *will* grow out of it. But, in the meantime, I wish I could take the pressure off you a little -- I think you're doing a great job.

At 6:49 AM, Blogger chichimama said...

Hey, we don't even have pizza and yogurt any more. A has no protien source other than soy milk.

You know Dr. S...she would tell you if you were doing something wrong. She would do it very nicely and wrapped up in a long story about another patient, but it would be there.

Plus, I always envy you your kids ability to sit through a meal. They might eat the same thing, but hey, at least they are sitting down and being polite about it.

At 2:09 PM, Blogger Suzanne said...

I don't think you are doing anything wrong! Like you, I had high hopes. Now, my son eats next to nothing -- noodles, bread, cheese (and then only under extreme duress), mashed potatoes, and bananas. That's it as far as food that can be categorized as a meal. My daughter is better, but even she barely touches vegetables and fruits that she once loved.

And I see no point in preparing food I know will be spurned and need to be thrown away.

Guess I don't have any advice, since we seem to be in the same boat!

At 2:49 PM, Blogger Kristy said...

I'm not really sure how I missed this post on Friday...ha! see! I don't hover over your every word ;-)

Anyway, you know I'm not one to offer advice. I've got the odd-balls over at my house. You're normal, they're normal.

Go buy stock in Boboli.


Post a Comment

<< Home