My Kids Are Picky Eaters and It Is Making Me Want to Give Up
Yesterday, I took all of my kids in for their yearly check-ups. As usual, I braced myself for the nurse-practitioner to chart my son's height and weight on the growth chart. And as usual, she did a double take on the numbers, because they've been the same since he was born almost five years ago: completely off the charts.
My son is growing, healthy and strong, at a rate that has me buying clothes every other week (last week, I had to buy him all size 8 clothes — size 8! At age five!). And I swear to you, he already has more muscles than I do after years of working out. But here's the thing:
I honestly have no idea how he's growing at all. Because the boy refuses to eat anything remotely healthy at all. It's been a constant struggle his whole life and it makes me feel like a complete failure as a mother. There are only four things my son will eat: candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup.
OK, I'm joking! But only slightly. We call my son a real-life version of Buddy the Elf, because he really does love syrup. He survives by eating a lot of my homemade waffles and syrup, a lot of fruit, and a lot of cheese and eggs. Precisely zero vegetables, protein, or anything resembling a health food in his life. I've tried and I've tried so hard. Really, I have to try hard to get him to eat anything at all.
But it never works.
I've tried talking to his pediatrician about it and his only suggestion? “Just don't feed him. He'll eat when he's hungry enough.”
Um, thanks, doc. I don't believe in starving my kids. Thanks. I want my kids to go to bed with full bellies and I want them to grow up with a healthy appreciation of food. I don't want to make food an emotional issue or struggle. Or make them feel like food is anything but the fuel and sustenance that their growing bodies need.
It's a tough balance to strike, to make food a way to nourish their bodies without making it a power struggle between us. But oh my gosh, am I tired of the fight.
My solution thus far is to stop fighting it. Between my four children, who range in age from almost three to nine, there is not a single meal that my husband or I can cook that they will all eat. Not a single meal. Not even take-out pizza! My oldest will only eat pizza from one restaurant, which the others do not like. My son will only eat breadsticks and pizza if it's cheese. And there isn't even any repose in breakfast. What kinds of kids don't like cereal and pizza??
My kids, apparently. So I've given up. They are all offered the dinner we make, they have to try it, and then they are free to make themselves one approved “go-to” options. Which is usually a bowl of cereal or scrambled eggs. It makes me want to weep bitterly that I've become precisely the type of parent I thought I never would be. But there it is. My kids are picky eaters and maybe that makes me a bad mom, but I'm doing the best I can.
All I can do is hope that by continuing to not make a huge deal out of food, offering them healthy food consistently, and not making them feel ashamed about food, I can set the groundwork for what healthy eating should like.
And in the meantime, I guess there's always syrup.
Are your kids' picky eaters, too?