Saturday, January 07, 2012

I HATE dinner time.......

I have what you would call "fussy eaters" in my house and I'll be totally honest with you when I say that I dread each and every meal time.
But before you all but in with your tried and tested Super Nanny advice (can you tell I'm over it?)
YES, I've tried.....
  • Not having a battle at the table
  • Saying they must try at least one little bite
  • Hiding food within food
  • Just cooking sausage rolls for a week, hoping they will get sick of them. Trust me, they don't!
  • Making them go without
  • Making tiny portions
  • Making smiley faces
  • Letting them choose what they want. Tomato sauce please mum...yummo!

been there, done that and bought the self help book to boot!!

As modern parents of today, we are bullied and bombarded with a ridiculously huge amount of info with regards to children's food issues and obesity/anorexia/bulimia e.t.c As a result, we are so scared silly of getting it wrong, that I actually think we are nurturing new food problems for our children.

this got me thinking about my childhood.....................

In the good old days (my day) our parents gave us no food choices. It was, sit at the table, use your table manners, eat up, shut up and don't complain, and we got told most nights "do you know there are children in Ethiopia who have nothing to eat" Sounds like tough love, but i'm o.k now and I eat most things that you put in front of me. The only issue I have with the "old fashioned" way is the idea that you must eat everything on your plate. I believe everyone should have the right to say when they are full up.

But back to reality and I really do think that I have exhausted every trick in the book. And do you know what my conclusion is?

it's all my fault...............

I know, I know, you are all queuing up to be nice to me, to cyber cuddle me and be the lovely supporting mums that I know you are, but I have to realise that after 5/6 years of battling over the kitchen table, three times per day with my fussy cherubs, that I should have been much stricter from the get go.

first foods
Now don't get me wrong, I started off being the model parent. When I first introduced food to my little ones, they were served up with only the best money could buy. No ready meals in a jar for my beauties thank you very much. NO! I spent hours loving preparing first taste foods from extremely expensive organic fruit and veg. I cooked up a storm in every shape, colour and texture you could posibly imagine. And they loved every mouthful.

Next came second tastes, where again I lovingly made mouthwatering, homemade meals from scratch, distributing them into Tupperware dishes and labelling and freezing them in batches. Just like a good mum should! I was determined that my crew would eat food even Jamie Oliver would be proud of!

going pear shaped.......
The next stage is where, I believe, it all went a bit pear shaped to say the least. At that time I worked as a fitness instructor. So as my hubby came home from work at 6pm, I would race past him and head off to teach a class at the gym. I had to be very organised as my hubby was a bit useless at getting the kids ready for bed (mmmm....still is come to think about it??) The kids were fed, bathed and PJ'd up all ready for story and bed when he came home. JOB DONE! Well almost, when I got home from work, I would then have to cook my hubby's and my meal.

YES!! I know, I know, madness!!

What we should have been doing was sitting together, eating the SAME meal and chatting about our day (you know, just like the Walton's do!!) But tell me how we manage this as modern parents living in todays world. Work, after school clubs, gym, FB obsessions and not to mention a love for HOT curry that the kids won't even smell!

the light came on..................

It wasn't until I was out recently with some friends that the subject of food and kids came up. Now when you are in the toddler phase of parenting, you are mixing with mums every day and discussing your issues, mainly food. But as the kids grow, the issues change and so do mums discussions. And by the age of 5, most parents have got their fussy food eater under some control and are now thinking about school and how many worry lines that topic can give them. Many, trust me!

So back to the meal out with my friends. As the discussion continued, I was shocked and rather embarrassed to hear about the way these very competent (no kids with food issues in THEIR houses, thank you!!) ladies had their little ones, or rather big ones now, on the most strictest of routines. Home, schoolwork, dinner at the same time every night, bath, story and in bed for 7pm!! 7PM!!!!! That has never happened in my house, or ever will sadly.

My first reaction was ARMY. Where was the fun, the cuddling, the chilling out watching Octonauts together. My little darling had been away from me for 61/2 hours and I'd missed her. But my next reaction was that they were of course right and I had...

been doing it all wrong..........................

I didn't have the best of childhoods and so I think that mothers guilt plagues me a little more so than others. From the very start I wanted to be the BEST mother. I, to put it bluntly, had a rubbish mum and I certainly didn't want to be one of those.

But you can't be the BEST mum.  But you certainly can try your very damn best. Being the best mum is an impossibility and will only lead to you wrangling and tearing your hair out with mothers guilt as you come up against each and every step and obstacle when bringing up your children. So I realised that I had to stop trying to be the perfect mum. I was letting the children basically rule the roost and it had to stop! I had to make some changes to the way I was mothering.

things were about to change big style.........................

So I went home a little shell shocked, but energised (kids fussy eating can wear you out like nothing else known to man!) I went home and decided that things were about to change BIG STYLE in my household. There would be a strict routine implemented. The kids were going to sit at the table at the same time every night, with me (hubby works until 8 most nights) use their table manners and we will all eat the same thing. Come what may!

now does this sound a bit similar to you?

Too right! It sounds just like the good old days! Maybe our parents generation did know a thing or two and maybe we should be putting the many self help books down, stop trying to sneak goji berries and wheat germ  into out kids food (!!!) and just go back to cooking basic meals, make the effort to sit together, teach our kids some manners and then let them go and run off some energy at the park!

my kids like chicken korma........hooray!!!!

And do you know what?? It was/is still very, very hard to get my kids to do all those things, but within a couple of weeks of the new rules, I had both my children eating things like chicken korma and chicken byrianni. Now that's a miracle.

What do you think? Agree that if we tweak the old ways a little, they are better for our children? How are meal times at your house? A battle or a scene from the Waltons? Would LOVE your feedback.

Cheers - Ali xx


  1. mm I have one of each in my home. 1 who will eat anything if he's bribed to do so. 1 who is so picky she says "I'll just go to bed I'm tired" no matter what you put in front of her and 1 who eats EVERYTHING. So I don't think its exactly your fault. Seems like you have it figured out though congrats on that. Like you say it is exhausting. Thank you for sharing this with us as being a mother to a fussy eater or 2 can seem like a pretty lonely place sometimes :)

  2. I totally agree and thanks for commenting. Living with fussy kids can feel like the lonliest job on the planet. You never know if you are doing it right and worry that you are turning your child into a future child with "food issues" My eldest now asks in the morning what we are having for dinner and then spends the rest of the day worrying about it. That just can't be right??

  3. I hate dinner time too. I just wish they would TRY new things i serve up! Even when I do serve something they are likely to eat, it takes them forever to eat it, very painful. I now cook quite plain meals with meat and veggies but it gets boring. In saying that, I think we are not alone and a lot of children are fussy eaters!

  4. Hey Ali, Sienna and Bayleigh are and Always have been great eaters as they get no choice. Tanner is shocking only eats it if it is pasta or rice. Most nights he goes to bed with very little in his tummy but has a monster breakfast.. I do and always will cook them what we are eating. Some nights the kids decide and it is usually risotto which is still ace I say. Good Old Fashioned ways work most of the time I say.... Good luck with the rest of the Journey.

  5. I know where you are coming from. My eldest can sit there for an hour while we wait for her to eat the smallest amount of food. It drives me insane. We've tried putting a time limit on her (again the mothers guilt kicks in, thinking you should never force a child to eat fast)We've tried saying if she doesn't eat it within a certain time then she will get nothing else. This never works as I truly believe that this child could live water alone.

    I'm going to stick to my guns Donna and will just put the food in front of them and not give them options. But my God Donna, it wears you out when it has been 3 x per day for 5/6 long years!!

  6. My kids couldn't be more opposite. When Finn was a bub he wouldn't breast feed and would projectile vomit after every bottle, while Ella wouldn't leave me alone and was constantly breast feeding. She would eat from 5pm until 9 pm when she would flake out and be put to bed.
    Finn loves his curry and sushi, most veggies and most things. Ella seems to only eat things that are beige ?? Bananas, chips, bread, pasta etc. I'm sure should eat her own weight in chocolate if given the chance.
    Finn is extremely skinny and small while Ella is build like a brick S**t house, weighs nearly as much as him and can floor him if she gets the opportunity.

    We eat at 5-6 pm every night around the dinner table. The only meal I make that Ella will stay at the table for is pasta. Other wise she will have one mouthful, if I'm lucky, and then disappear. If I want to get her to eat veggies I have to feed her it mashed with a spoon (she's nearly 5). And while our doctor has told us not to feed her, if I want her to eat healthier foods this is what I have found I have to do.

    I don't have a clue what the answer is to fussy eaters but I do think that eating earlier helps to a certain extent.

    Good luck Ali

  7. Oh you don't know how lucky ypu are Nicola with regards to Finn and his great eating habits. I've been talking, reading and listening a lot about this subject recently, especially today with everybody's comments and posts and I'm coming to the conclusion that you can try your best (eat together at the table, don't pander to fussy eaters needs e.t.c...) but at the end of the day I think if your child is going to be good eater then that's just the way he is and if he's going to be fussy, then it doesn't matter what you do and however hard you try, he will just be a fussy bugger!!

    Ella will get there lovely. I still feed Greta a lot of the time. Mainly because she's damn lazy but also because she has such low tone tht she struggles co ordinating.

    Here's to yet another day of food battles!

  8. What a great subject and love your honesty.

    None of the "rules" seemed to work for me either. I essentially gave up cooking proper meals for my daughter when she was around 2 (she's just 3 now). It seemed the more effort I put in, the less she ate. Like yours, I'm sure she could live off fresh air (and some days it seemed like she did). I was in a constant state of agitation with regards to food and one day just thought "I can't do this anymore". I started letting her please herself where, when, what (within reason) and how much she ate. Now she does most of her eating whilst running around the living room but at least she eats a decent amount and doesn't wake up at 3.00 am asking for breadsticks.

    If she doesn't eat much during the day we take breadsticks upstairs at bathtime and she munches them while we're running the bath. At least that way she goes to bed on full tum.

    All hail the breadstick.