Why won’t my kid eat dinner? How to avoid a the food time battle ground

Today has been a day of achievement despite no coffee and less than one hour of sleep.  The children rose at their usual 5.30-ish and by 7:30am we were ready to go to the swimming pool.  I love the pool in the mornings when it’s deserted.   The water is flat and clear and the children are in their best mood, which allows me to cope when I’m not in mine.

Food is never far from my children’s minds so, using the oldest technique known to parenthood, I explained that if they had good behaviour then they could buy their own ice-cream from the cafe at the pool.  And, be still my beating heart, they were very well-behaved – they listened, they learned a bit more about how to kick and stroke and they didn’t fight.  That’s ice-cream enough for me.  So off they ran with their money in their hands to discover that the shop was not yet opened since we had such an early start.  They whined but were happy to devour the sliced apple and almonds that I had packed.

On our way out of the pool gate an older lady commented to me that our town seemed to have a lot of families with three or four boys.  I asked her to feel for such mothers.  She smiled and said “What an opportunity – think of how you can teach them to be good men – to cook, to clean and to be good people.  And think of the three wonderful daughters-in-law you will have one day . . .” I told her I hoped they would be wonderful.  She said I would be able to teach them how to find such a woman.  I pondered this as I watched the two older boys chase seagulls through the town square and squeal with delight.

We got home and while Master 1 slept I was able to fix our leaking fridge (who knew there’s a drain pipe that could get blocked) in between doling out cups of milk, cut fruit and arrowroot biscuits.

When Master 1 woke I continued with my chores and vacuumed and mopped the floors throughout, cleaned the furniture from dried snot and food that had been wiped there by little noses and dealt with four loads of washing.

On a roll, I felt I could do anything, so long as I kept the food coming.  I made sandwiches, poured more milk and cleaned up expected spillages.  I played “schools”, read stories, changed numerous DVDs and allowed some YouTube time.  I jumped on the trampoline with all the boys.  I pushed them in the hammock so they could swing “to Jupiter”.  All the while I double-backed to re-do what had been undone by Master 1 who is my constant shadow.

I put the older boys to bed for an afternoon nap while Master 1 and I wandered around the garden, watered plants and hung out washing (I hung it up and he stole pegs).  During this time I decided that it might be nice to have dinner outside tonight since Master 4 has been asking to have a picnic on the deck like we have done in the past.  I thought this might change his pernickety habits towards dinner.  I thought I would change my approach.  So rather than me wanting to throttle him for sitting there whining I would change the scenery and make dinner a picnic event.  Oh how much fun that sounded.

So you might be thinking, Dear Reader, that with all the eating that goes on throughout the day, my boys would not be hungry at dinner time.  Nup.  They would eat food anytime anywhere.  In fact at one year old the oldest two were excellent eaters too, anything that was put in front of them.  But Master 4 has been in a ‘phase’ for about 6 months of moaning and groaning about his food that he doesn’t like it even when it’s his favourite.  And constantly reckons he needs help to eat, when he’s been able to use utensils for ages.

So, emboldened by my successful day, I embarked on pan frying wild-caught barramundi (thank you Mr Magentafrog) in butter and thyme and teamed that with leftover spaghetti, dinosaur trees (steamed broccoli) and cheese worms (grated cheese) on the side.  This is a meal that all boys love.  All boys were excited.

Master 4 set up the deck with his doona as the picnic rug (why not).  Everyone sat down politely and waited for their plate.  Everyone started eating.  Then suddenly Master 4 decided that his fish was “spikey” (thyme) and that his spaghetti “smelled funny” (he ate some of it while holding his nose and I nearly choked with laughter).

Dinner went downhill after about one minute.  Master 4 got up to swing in the hammock.  Then Master-nearly-3 ran off to get a water bottle and cups.  He had a drink of very cold water and spilled it all over the already spaghetti covered doona.  Master 1 was happy to crawl between plates and flick food in all directions.  I have given up trying to put him in his high-chair or trying to feed him.  He stubbornly refuses to open his mouth unless he is wielding the spoon.  So I endure the mess.  Masters 4 and nearly-3 began fighting in the hammock.

Source: Magentafrog publications

I decided to pack up the plates and took them to the kitchen as no-one was going to sit down and finish and I’ve long given up fighting with my boys about eating.  If they don’t eat at meal times then that’s it.  There is nothing else on offer.  And guess what?  They’re not starving to death.  I’ve been through offering endless dishes or cereal or bread.  It doesn’t matter what you do, they just want control, so be warned parents – do not enter the game!

When I turned around Master 4 had dragged his doona back inside and scattered spaghetti and fish from the deck, to the verandah and onto my nice clean floors.  I went into overdrive to find every piece of fish (rotting fish flicked and squished into flyscreen doors is not good) and sticky spaghetti.  While this was happening Master 1 and nearly-3 emptied a box of tamarinds I had been collecting from our tree onto the deck and stomped on most of them making a further sticky mess.

After picking up all the mess by hand I then closed the boys inside our sliding doors and hosed off the deck.  They thought it was funny when I sprayed the glass where their faces were.  Soon we were all laughing.  Then Master 1 fell off the chair he was standing on and bashed his head on the glass on the way down.  He cried but then got up and ran after his brothers who were then daring me to spray them as they ran around the corner of the house.

Then they asked for water play.  While it was late in the day, I thought this could double as bath time.  They could have fun and be washed at the same time.  They fought; they hosed each other in the face and chased each other with bubble foam.

Source: Magentafrog publications

I watched them play together, I watched them help each other and annoy each other.  I felt confident I could shape them into good men and dreamed of beautiful relationships for them . . .  It felt like my heart stretched between them and somehow did not beat inside my chest anymore.  Then Master-nearly-3 put the hose down to climb out of the tub and it squirted all over me.  Yelling at him to stop and grab the hose, the spell was broken.

After the towel-teeth-pyjamas-story-drink-toilet-bed and stay there malarkey I tackled the dishes and thanked the God of Dishlex and blessed myself with a Touch of Sea Salt.

Source: Magentafrog publications
Source: Magentafrog publications

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