I don’t like to label my kids, but sometimes you’ve got to call it like you see it, and what I see are a couple of picky eaters.
This doesn’t surprise me much—I’m a picky eater too. In my defense, as an adult, I eat a whole lot more than my childhood staples of peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, buttered noodles, sour cream and onion Pringles, and salad. (I use the term salad loosely because I’m not 100 percent sure that iceberg lettuce drowned in Hidden Valley Ranch counts.) And for my kids’ part, they both eat foods that as an adult, I still steer clear of.
Even so, I feel the need to offer a disclaimer: If you’re looking for words of advice or practical tips on getting your kids to broaden their palate horizons, you might need a different essay from a different mom.
I can, however, offer you a fist bump or a high five or a hug, whichever you prefer, and some solidarity if you, too, find yourself dreading dinnertime because feeding little people can be hard.
I grew up in the days of the food pyramid; before that, there was a food wheel, and more recently we have the quartered “MyPlate” to provide us with a picture of what a balanced diet looks like. My mom remembers our childhood pediatrician encouraging her to have us “eat the rainbow,” even if over the course of a week. At some point during the newlywed, new-to-cooking years, it was subtly mentioned by a well-meaning person that I shouldn’t serve a meal of foods that didn’t vary in color. I felt the weight of failure as I frowned over my spread of chicken, potatoes, rolls, and corn.
Fourteen years and two kids later, I’m not so concerned about anyone eating the rainbow (unless someone has a bag of Skittles they’re not sharing with their mom).
My oldest went through a short-lived “I love broccoli” phase at around age 3. She gets a kick out of telling the story of how one night at dinner, we bribed her with the promise of more delicious tiny trees to coax her to try the rest of her meal. It’s a funny story, except for the fact that within the month, she did not like broccoli anymore. It’s been seven years, but I think she’ll come back around eventually.
My youngest currently prefers her foods deconstructed: She doesn’t like pizza, but she will eat tomatoes, cheese, and pepperoni from a plate with dividers to keep everything from touching (because that would be disgusting).
They’ve both gone through phases where they love bananas until they suddenly detest them. Prefer green grapes, no, purple ones. Eat waffles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I don’t worry too much about their current aversions or preferences—after all, there was a season when my favorite sandwich was Miracle Whip on Wonder bread.
Deep down, I just want them to eat something, to be filled, to be nourished, to grow, to recognize the gift of groceries and to be grateful for the food on their plate.
And I want them to at least stay open-minded to trying new things, even if that bite gets spit into a napkin from time to time.
My girls know that what I make for dinner is what we’re having, but I don’t mind catering to food quirks by including one thing in each meal that I’m certain they will eat. Everything else has to be at least sampled because Daniel Tiger says so. And sometimes those picky kids surprise me (and themselves) by discovering they do like balsamic vinaigrette, or black beans, or—gasp!—chicken.
When everyone comes to the table, and we’re all finished fighting over who’s sitting where, and trips back to the kitchen have been made to fetch the forgotten glass of water and the 4-year-old’s favorite spoon, I survey the spread. Sometimes it’s colorful, and I give myself a mental high-five for remembering variety. Other times it’s a stack of pancakes, and I give myself a mental high-five for being a cool mom who sometimes serves pancakes for dinner.
The littlest offers to pray, thanking God for the sun and the grass and a lot of other random things, and we serve ourselves and each other.
When it gets quiet, I look up from my plate. Everyone is chewing. And that’s enough for me.
**Rebekah is a co-creator of The Drafting Desk, a wonderful monthly newsletter full of encouragement for women seeking freedom from perfectionism. Rebekah is one of our distinguished Writers in Residence this season and will appear in upcoming episodes of the Kindred Mom podcast. We’re so thrilled to invite you to subscribe to The Drafting Desk to hear more from her!
**Also, Recipes for Families, the newest free e-book from Kindred Mom, is full of meal ideas and practical kitchen wisdom from over 20 moms! Click the image below and subscribe to our mailing list and get your own free copy!
Rebekah Crosby is a former copy editor who decided to give her red pen a rest and do a bit of writing from the desk in her sunny kitchen instead. She shares honest stories of mothering daughters, making peace with imperfection, and embracing grace on her blog, Write the Rough Draft, and is co-creator of The Drafting Desk, a monthly newsletter offering soulful encouragement for fellow recovering perfectionists. Rebekah’s hobbies change on a weekly basis but have most recently included photography, cross-stitch, knitting, and raising monarch butterflies. She lives in Central Florida with her husband and two little girls. You can also find Rebekah on Facebook and Instagram.