I Don’t Like It! Toddlers and Frustrating Food Battles
Over the years I have struggled a little with the fussiness of both of my daughter’s, more so with the three year old than the eleven year old in recent times. I was heartened to read that the science people have discovered that being fussy about food could be genetic, so perhaps it isn’t my fault after all? (Is Your Child a Fussy Eater? Guardian Article) I’m a bit torn on how I feel about fussiness and I think that children fall into two distinct camps.
1. I don’t like it – I have tried it, I think it tastes horrible, I don’t like the texture
2. I’m not even going to touch it – I have decided that I do not like the look of it and I will never ever let it pass my lips!
I would say that both camps are related to fussiness but (like my mother before me) it drives me mad when either of my girls say they don’t like something without even trying it. On the other side it can be just as disheartening when you’ve made a fabulous meal they take one bite or spoonful, put a face on like you have tried to poison them and declared something is disgusting or as both as my girls have said ‘sgusting’. I have fallen into this trap a number of times whilst my daughters have been attending nursery. I go to pick them up and the nursery nurse declares very enthusiastically that my child has eaten not one but two bowls of chicken curry today. I go home, dig out the most child-friendly chicken curry recipe I can find and present this fine gourmet experience to the waiting child. They either look at it and say they don’t like the look of it or taste it and we get a repeat of the ‘have you poisoned me mummy?’ face. I soon came to realise that in order for this to work, I would need to hire in a group of 15 three year olds each time I served something new. They would sit with my child eating with great gusto and declaring how yummy the dish was. Nursery peer pressure is a wonderful thing. Eventually my eldest even stop eating nursery chicken curry, having declared that it made her shoulders go up and down so she better not eat it again.
Each time the girls have refused a meal or to even try a taste of something, I have to admit a little tiny piece of me dies inside. Part of this is because it makes me feel like I have failed in some way. As parents we want our kids to have healthy balanced diets, but sometimes the little tinkers don’t play ball. There can also be some real competitiveness between parents as some mums and dads seem to wear it as a badge of honour that their children will eat anything. It’s as though having a child who doesn’t turn their nose up at a mere morsel is down to fabulous parenting (which the research mentioned earlier may be casting some doubt on). I have lost count of the amount of times I have listened to tales of ‘Peregrine’ who not only will eat absolutely everything, but is practically on his way to his first Michelin star. In response I nod, smile sweetly and gently try to hurry up my daughter who is happily eating a Dairylea sandwich ( tuna is too fishy and ham is too bouncy ok!!!)
I can honestly say that food is one of the most stressful areas of raising children for me. I don’t get stressed at mealtimes as I’ve adopted a policy of not turning mealtimes into a battlefield as that can lead to problems too. I do however, find myself worrying from time to time about the narrow nature of their diet and what I could be doing to improve it. I’ve tried all of the fun things that making vegetables look like faces and sandwiches like teddy bears, but all to no avail. Maybe my kids aren’t even truly fussy, but it’s true to say that there is an awful lot of pressure out there about what we should and shouldn’t be feeding our children. In reality there are tons of things that they do eat, but I always home in on something they don’t like. Raisins have always been a personal bête noire for my children. So much so that I have renamed them ‘smug’ raisins. That’s because if I’m out and about in the presence of other mums and kids and we all get our snacks out, you can guarantee I will be in the minority with my Pom Bears and all the other mummies have ‘smug’ raisins. They scowl at my factory produced non-organic snack in almost as much contempt as if I was feeding my child roadkill, whilst they extol the virtues of their organically produced, baked under a Californian sun, shriveled up grapes. Even after over 11 years of raising children I still always keep a hopeful pack of raisins in the cupboard, just in case. I mean you never know, do you?
It has occurred to me that we fail to apply the same logic to kids as we do to adults. One of my friends (who is 42) doesn’t like peas and I accept this, I never try to force her to eat them, so why am I trying to do this to my 11 year old? The husband doesn’t like sweetcorn, but I don’t insist on serving them up 30 times until he likes them. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t encourage our kids to enjoy new tastes and textures, but sometimes we have to give in and accept that just like us there are things that they don’t like and maybe never will. Instead I need to focus on the fact that both of my children like a wide range of other vegetables and move on. As a child there were plenty of things I wasn’t so keen on. I missed out on pizza for quite a few years because I mistakenly thought that the base was made from omelettes and I didn’t like them. I’ve never been able to eat anything with dried fruit in so fruit cake, mince pies and Christmas Pudding have never featured in my diet. They actually make me wretch so I reckon that’s a good enough reason not to eat them. Bizarrely though I love scones, Eccles Cakes and stollen?! Don’t ever offer me Pea and Ham soup though, it seems as though we are never destined to be friends.
In the end it probably doesn’t matter as most children end up widening their food repertoire as they get older,my eleven year old certainly eats a wider range of foods than she used to. Next time someone mentions to you about your child’s supposed fussiness you can smugly refer to the new research and declare that it may well be genetic. I know I’m going to. And if anyone would like 492 snack packs of raisins, I might be able to put you in touch with someone who can help.
Ps. I couldn’t possibly comment on the rumour that seems to be going around about the fact that my eldest may have once contented herself with two Yorkshire Puddings and some Haribo for Christmas Dinner. As if I would let THAT happen!
Note: This a very tongue in cheek look at children’s fussiness, obviously some children have genuine issues with food and that is not what I am referring to in this blog post 🙂
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