By: Shannon Ralph
I come from a long line of eaters. Hearty eaters. Robust eaters. A fair share of overeaters, even. I have inherited from my family a healthy appreciation of eating in all its forms. Food comforts. Food celebrates. Food unites. Be it your grandma’s cornbread or your auntie’s baked spaghetti or your cousin’s pot pie, food binds us together and makes us a family.
And to make it all the more binding, I am a Southern girl. Food is akin to religion in the South. The smells and sights and sounds of my childhood are all wrapped up in the food my mom put on the table every night. Fried chicken. Biscuits and gravy. Chicken and dumplings’. Beans and cornbread. These are the tastes of my childhood.
When I became a parent, I was determined to introduce my children to the food I grew up eating. I no longer live in the South, but the South is still a part of me. And food is a huge component of my sense of belonging. My sense of self. Food is family, as far as I am concerned.
Imagine my surprise when, coming from such a storied line of great cooks and even better eaters, I discovered that my own children generally dislike food. I know, as a rule, kids can be picky. Kids like to graze rather than eat at set meal times. Kids often go through spurts of heavy eating followed by periods of bird-like eating. Kids and food are a complicated combination. I get all of that and fully expected to have some minor bumps in the road on the way to a healthy adult relationship with food.
What I did not expect, however, was to create three children who do not like pizza.
Or macaroni and cheese.
Or peanut butter.
Or any ethnic food (Mexican, Chinese, Indian, etc).
Or a single vegetable.
Or any fruits that do not come in berry form.
OR GRAVY AND BISCUITS! WHAT THE HELL??
My children are not toddlers. They are not preschoolers. My picky children are tweens. My daughter likes some food. She likes snacky foods. Sugary foods. Fatty foods. My sons, however, really have no interest whatsoever in food. They don’t really care for eating at all. And when they do eat, they certainly take picky to a new, disturbing level.
I used to wonder what I did wrong to create the little food haters that inhabit my house. It had to have been me, right? Did I not introduce enough foods? Early enough? Often enough? Did I try offering my children each and every new vegetable exactly 12.7 times before giving up and moving on? Should I have forced the new food? Backed off? Should I have given them my undivided attention while they ate? Ignored them completely? Started with veggies? Started with fruits? Offered new foods at the beginning of the meal? At the end of the meal? Rid my house of all sweets? Indulged that sweet tooth more often? Mixed their food together? Used a separating plate to keep everything apart? Required them to clean their plates? Allowed them to eat only what they wanted?
The advice on the topic of children and food is varied and exhaustive. And trust me, I’ve read it all. I have obsessed. I have fretted. I have cried. I have begged. I have spent days of my life that I will never get back worrying about my children’s eating habits. As the mother of three incredibly—freakishly—picky eaters, I have some advice for other parents dealing with the same issue. I am by no means as expert, but here are my top 7 tips and tricks that may—possibly, maybe, conceivably—help.
Photo Credit: Bruce Tuten
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Originally published on The Seattle Lesbian
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