We start dinner at 5 p.m. in our house. Every day, I plan to eat at 6 p.m. so that the kids, my husband and I will all be together. However, if the children do not feed at 5 p.m., they turn into Gremlins and try to eat the dog. So, dinner at 5 it is.
My son, who went through the typical “Screw you and this meal” phase that most children do at some point, has cleared that hurdle and now willingly eats his vegetables. He even asks for them. “More cucumbers, please!” he shouts. My 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter, on the other hand, is going on a year strong of only eating applesauce pouches, cheese sticks and bacon.
So, we start dinner at 5 p.m., my son happily feasting on carrots, chicken and salad.
My daughter curls her lip and gives me the stink eye.
“I can’t like carrots.”
“Please start with your chicken,” I say. I know that if I can get her to take one bite, she’ll remember how she used to love chicken and eat it with gusto.
“I can’t like chicken.”
“Please try a bite.”
“I. Can’t. Like. It,” she says through clenched teeth, locking her eyes with mine, scowling her little mouth and slowly pushing the plate away from her with one hand.
We do this dance for a good 15 minutes. She wanders away from the table at least once, acting like there is something SO INTERESTING on the wall next to the couch. I drag her reluctant little body back and plop her in front of her plate.
“See how your brother eats his carrots? Mmmm, yummy carrots! Try the carrots!”
“You can have a special treat if you try your carrots! Look, look at the special treat! A cookie! Yay for cookies! Try the carrots try the carrots try the carrots.”
My son finishes his dinner, grabs his special treat and eats it while dancing in front of my daughter. She growls, verging on Gremlin mode and eyeing the dog. I know she’s hungry. She asks for an applesauce pouch. I promise her one if she will just TRY THE CARROTS.
My husband comes home, and he gives it a try.
“Little girl! Look how fun it is to eat carrots!” he sings as he dances and throws carrots into his mouth.
“Just take a baby bite, sweetie,” I plead, cutting the sliced baby carrot into even smaller pieces, then cutting those in half.
I am now begging my daughter to just put one one-hundredth of a baby carrot in her mouth.
Let’s pause here.
I know this is fucking insane (wait for it – it gets worse). We have done the whole “just keep putting it on her plate” thing and the “just send her to bed hungry” thing (by the way, kids don’t give a shit if they don’t eat dinner). I started reading online forums, but they were filled with nasty comments from people saying things like, “Your child isn’t picky, you’re just a bad parent” and “Getting kids to eat real food isn’t THAT hard.”
I’ve done my research into this and tried all the tricks. What follows is currently the only thing that has been proven to work in my home:
“Little puppyyyyy,” I call sweetly. My daughter’s head perks. She climbs off her chair and gets on all fours. She sticks her tongue out of her mouth and pants.
Like a dog.
“Does little puppy want a carrot?” I ask. Puppy shakes her head.
“But puppies loooooove carrots,” I say, dangling in front of her what has now been reduced to a speck of a carrot.
After a few minutes, the puppy caves, and I put that miniscule sliver of orange on her tongue (because puppies have paws and can’t do it for themselves, duh).
Some nights, she chews. Others, she spits.
However, the battle has been won, and we live to fight another day. Tomorrow, it may be carrots, it may be broccoli, or I may just give in and let her eat the dog.