You’ve heard the demands growing up, and I’m pretty sure we’ve all used them a time or two:
- “Clean your plate! There are kids starving in (Insert Country of Preference Here)!”
- “Eat your vegetables so you can grow big and strong!”
- “No dessert if you don’t eat your dinner!”
- “You’re not leaving this table until your plate is clear!”
I grew up with a single mom, as are my kids, and our meals were never extravagant or even adventurous. I was happy that food was on the table and ate what my mother could provide for us. Sure, we ate a lot of spam and egg noodles with butter. Grilled cheese as well as the tried and true bologna sandwich always was available. My mother never forced me to eat something I didn’t like, nor did she make us “clean our plate” because of starving children in another country. I think this was partly due to my mom having aversions to different foods, and that she grew up being forced to eat food she couldn’t stand. To this day, she refuses to eat macaroni and cheese.
And while I would never begrudge your parenting decisions and methods, I cannot for the life of me bring myself to be THAT parent. I deal with so many extra battles with my kids as a single mom and a mom to a child with ADHD that I have to choose my battles carefully. I am not going to fight my children when it comes to meals and dinnertime. That’s why I’ve gladly taken on the moniker of “Short Order Cook, aka MOM.”
The Early Years
When my youngest son was a baby, I was determined to make sure he had a variety of food, all of which I handmade. My older son was beginning to be a picky eater, and I mistakenly thought it was because I gave him limited types of food (1st baby, I was fearful of allergies and everything they warn you about). I did not want my 2nd son to be as picky, so I made sure he had a variety of foods and flavors.
If we had taco salad, I ground up everything and added water and made it into baby food. If pot roast was on the menu, then he got pot roast, potatoes and carrots! This child had anything and everything that we ate. I was so proud of myself for giving him such a diverse menu. This child was definitely going to be my prized eater!!
The Struggle is Real
Well of course, he’s the pickiest eater now! How in the world could this happen? I did everything I could so he would be an adventurous eater when he got older, but despite my best efforts, that is not the case today! This child would be content eating cheese pizza, cheese quesadillas, cheese and bread cooked (a.k.a. grilled cheese) or hot dogs or chicken nuggets each and every day. Vegetables? Nope. He’ll eat a wayward carrot and ranch dip on occasion, but not as a rule. The consistency of mashed potatoes makes him gag. Corn is a struggle to get into his mouth without spitting it out. He’s better with fruit (of course, it’s sweet!) and will eat strawberries, watermelon, grapes, apples, bananas, and oranges.
Now, my older son, the picky baby, has a much broader list of foods he will eat. He will eat meat (steak, hamburgers, chicken) and even will eat shrimp on occasion. Vegetables are limited to corn, mashed potatoes and raw carrots and celery (with peanut butter of course). Same with fruits as my younger son. He’ll eat a ham or bologna sandwich.
Bacon is a staple in their diet….but isn’t that a given?
Neither of my boys will eat casseroles of any type. They don’t like foods with sauces or meat and sauce mixed. Occasionally, they’ll surprise me with something they’ll try from my dinner, but that’s few and far between. For me, the most important thing is that they eat. Food. Of any type. I used to worry about my kids not getting the proper amount of vitamins and nutrients or that they would starve if they didn’t eat what was on their plate. Not anymore.
They Won’t Starve or Become Malnourished
I will gladly make them what they want to eat, despite having to make another meal for them. Most of the time, I attempt to menu plan for the week and on the days I have my boys (I co-parent with their father), I will intentionally plan something that either they will eat, or if that’s not feasible, something easier (or made ahead of time) that I can accommodate making something extra for them. I have to follow a special eating plan and have various food restrictions. I don’t expect my children to have to follow all those restrictions as well. So, I’ll be their short order cook and make them food that I know they will eat.
And please don’t think I’m all for junk food non-stop or that I allow my kids to eat cake and ice cream three meals a day. That’s just absurd! They do not drink soda on a regular basis (and if they do, it’s diet and caffeine free). They have a vegetable or fruit at every meal. I bake a lot and make homemade goodies where I can control what goes in them. I’m not a TOTAL “bad mom” when it comes to feeding my children.
If you want to give your child the allotted servings of vegetables and fruits and follow the food pyramid every day, go for it! I would never speak ill of you and I’m not going to judge you for that. This parenting thing is HARD. I do the best that I can with the resources available to me, and that should be enough. I’d rather my kids have a full belly, with food they enjoy and will eat.
In order to maintain my own sanity and control of my household, I choose to be a short order cook for my family, especially my children. In all honesty, an extra 10 minutes is not going to put me out or ruin my day. If they want some cheese quesadillas instead of the chicken cordon bleu casserole I make, so be it! If they are fed, happy, and healthy, it really doesn’t bother me. Again, I have to choose my battles, and I’d rather tackle discipline issues like not beating up on each other or sharing their toys with the neighbor, or learning respect. You do you, and I’ll do me! I would just prefer to teach my boys manners and respect than to force them to eat something they really don’t like.