What my husband, daughter and I eat is not acceptable to my son. The limited options of my son’s diet is not acceptable to us. There is no middle ground. No give and take. No compromise. The temporary answer used to be to make my son something edible by his standards so the rest of us could eat in peace.
But that’s not the answer. That’s just convenience.
Library card in hand, I searched for guidance. The armful of books offered suggestions a-plenty.
1) Make up names for the food.
We’ve been making up names for food since the kids learned how to talk. My son developed an early love for space and all things extra terrestrial. We still have lunar crackers, one of the key staples in his diet. Creatively naming vegetables in the same genre didn’t make it past his keen criticism.
2) Hide vegetables in the sauce of food he will eat.
I tried hiding vegetables under the cheese, in the sauce on his pizza. One by one, miniscule morsels of foreign vegetable-istic debris was discovered and rejected on the tip of his extended tongue.
There was a time when he would eat mashed sweet potato mixed with carrot and squash, seasoned with cinnamon. One Christmas, my mother made an off hand remark about how horrible that must taste within his earshot. He never ate it again.
3) Let hunger motivate him.
Draconian tactics, such as serving the same uneaten plate of food at each meal continued for seven consecutive meals. The result was having a plate of food that remained uneaten. Not once, did the boy ever mention, hint or otherwise indicate that he was hungry.
4) Eat meals together as a family.
This is physically impossible. Hubby doesn’t get home until 45 minutes before the kids’ bedtime. I’m still waiting for parents to pick up their children when dinner is being served. Peers nor parents have yet to encourage my son to try anything new.
5) Set a timer for the meal.
Sounds good in theory and we did this religiously for a while. “You have until the hand reaches the six.” This idea was revisited on a trip to Disney World when BOTH kids voiced their displeasure with the holiday. What child doesn’t enjoy the magical illusion that is Disney? Apparently, mine. There was one reality even Disney couldn’t disguise, and it was located on the wall above the kitchen table. “There are too many clocks here.”
6) Make mealtimes relaxed.
Food is a huge source of stress and I admit, we are not very good at hiding this from my son. His limited diet affects his mood, his behaviour and his ability to focus and concentrate. Their last wellness check up revealed that he is now iron deficient. While this is not surprising, it is disconcerting and makes it that much more difficult to force a pleasant smile when he pushes a plate of food away and refuses to eat.
There is a new mealtime mantra, which is a little bit of fact mixed with a healthy amount of distraction, mostly for the parents. This is not an issue for my son to tackle alone. It is something we must navigate as a family. Failure is not an option.
This latest suggestion sounds interesting and is next on the list of ideas to burst our bubble of hope. I call it:
Complain to someone who cares.
This new rule includes scripted responses to the expected barrage of complaining.
“I don’t like this”
There is no law that states you have to like the food, but before you can have an opinion, you have to taste it first. Did you hear the one about the duck who walks into the bar?
“I want something else”
This is not a restaurant. I am not your waiter and no one handed you a menu. I make the food. You eat the food. A funny thing happened on the way to the park.
“I’m not eating that!”
You can make that choice, but there is nothing else to replace it. The funniest thing happened today…
The idea is to make the table a fun place to be and shift the focus from the food to the family. After all, it doesn’t really matter if the seasonings meet the approval of the world’s best known chefs. Watching the little boy at the table enjoy a meal that has been served will be its own kind of sweet.