Raising children is so much more difficult than I ever expected it to be. There are books and blogs and Twitter posts and memes to warn you, but until you’re in the thick of it, you just can’t grasp the enormity of it. From the beginning, you’re taking care of this completely helpless creature. They can’t move, feed themselves, communicate (except with that horrible tornado siren impersonation), clean themselves. You have to teach them to talk, roll over, crawl, walk, feed themselves, bathe, unlock your iPhone, and become functional members of society.
The part that I get hung up on, at this stage in my child-rearing journey, is feeding themselves.
Good gracious. I have a 5-year-old girl in young-fives kindergarten, a 3-year-old boy who could live on pizza and corn dogs, and a 1-year-old girl who likes to wear her food combed through her hair. Packing lunches for my 5-year-old is an exercise in tedium, since she only eats the same five or so items, ever. Until she decides, “Mommy, I don’t like white cheddar popcorn anymore. I’m tired of it.”
You don’t say.
Well, now we’re down to four items.
Step 1: Give in.
When she was first eating solids, my sweet Samantha loved, and I mean LOVED, beets. She looked like a lioness who just enjoyed a nice juicy zebra after every meal. I prematurely congratulated myself on raising a foodie.
But before Miss Madam turned two, I was what people used to call “great with child.” My feet hurt, my back hurt, and my brain hurt. I knew that soon I would have a squalling infant and very little sleep, and I made an ill-fated decision to stop fighting food battles… just for a little while. To give myself a break.
Friends, I have never gained back the ground I lost.
Step 2: Be lazy.
Let’s face it: It’s just easier to grab a NutriGrain bar and hand it to Baby than it is to fix a real meal. And honey, I have failed spectacularly every time I have tried to meal plan. We are a family that enjoys all sorts of last-minute meals, because even when I have freezer meals, I forget to pull them out and thaw them.
On the other hand, I’m really good at throwing together some mac and cheese from the fabled blue box, or cutting up an apple and opening a cup of yogurt. I can microwave pizza for my three-year-old with the best of them. And can I ever make a circle of Ritz crackers on a child’s plate! I’m gifted.
A gourmet meal in our house is when I actually cook pasta and warm up bottled sauce. Side dishes? Only if I have a Birds-Eye vegetable in the freezer and think to stick it in the microwave. Sometimes I think ahead and make some of Pioneer Woman’s The Bread.
Step 3: Let them influence each other.
You know what the really fun part of having three children is? Knowing that the picky eating is going to trickle down.
Samantha loves to make sweeping statements, and she loves even more to speak for her brother. “We don’t like that, do we Tanner! Tanner, don’t eat that!”
Yes. Thank you, Little Mommy. Having one picky eater is just not challenging enough! What I need now is peer pressure.
Luckily for me, Child #2 eats pizza, hot dogs, and various kinds of mac ‘n cheese, which makes it a lot easier to take him places. And for the moment, Child #3 will eat almost anything you give her (unless you mention the c-word… CRACKERS!), which is fabulous, as long as it lasts.
Step 4: Give them vitamins.
Thank heavens my crazy critters love gummy vitamins. At least I know they’re getting some essential nutrients. And they come in so many fun shapes – princesses, superheroes, Minions, Mario Bros., and so many more. (It helps to let them pick their vitamins at the store, but it does sometimes still backfire. Tanner was super excited about Spiderman vitamins, but he didn’t like the taste. So now we’re back to our “old reliable,” the Minions.)
Step 5: Ask for help!
Fellow moms, I have tried just about every trick in the book. I’ve Pinterested it, I’ve appealed to mom friends on Facebook, and I’ve gone down every avenue short of full-on food therapy. (It’s a thing!)
If you have older children and have been in my boat, please share with me how you have survived this! (If your child is 18 and still only eats NutriGrain bars, maybe just a little empathy?) Please comment below with your tried-and-true tricks and ideas and whatever else might come into your head!
We can make it through this stage, right?