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Dinnertime Follies

One the Greater Ironies of my Internet career (or perhaps my Biggest Bullshit) is that I am routinely asked for advice on picky eaters. And I give it to people! When in reality, my track record for non-picky-eater creation is more like one out of three.

I mean, Noah will absolutely eat what you put in front of him (thanks to this book, and a lot of occupational therapy), but I guaran-goddamn-tee you that when he grows up and moves out he will exist exclusively on boxed mac-and-cheese and dry cereal. And he will love it. His harrowing post-mommyblog memoir will be titled This Post Is Brought To You By Kale Salad, or How #BlueApron Ruined My Childhood. 

And Ezra, honestly, was just born a good and adventurous eater. Anything that I might have "done" early on that "helped" and could have possibly gotten up on a high horse about (blah blah homemade baby food blah blah restaurants blah blah exposure) was proven to be a load of shit by Ike. Who got all the same food and exposure and hardcore division-of-responsibility stuff as his older brothers, and who has spent almost seven years' worth of dinners sliding out of his chair onto the floor because "this food made my bones fall out."

Eventually, he'll eat. After an hour, anyway, sometimes two. He'll grudgingly admit that the food tastes good. Some previously rejected food might even get a thumbs up, but almost always at the expense of something else, and after all manner of attention-seeking and crazy-making antics.

"This chicken tastes weird," he says of the chicken he's eaten a million times, eyeing me with suspicion.

"This pasta is too slippery," he says, pantomiming an informercial-worthy performance of not understanding how forks work.

"These nuggets are the wrong shape," he says on the nights when I'm like, have some processed garbage, my precious lambs, I'm done. 

For the most part, our only consistent strategy is just to ignore ignore ignore. Which eventually leads to him moving on to annoying his brothers. who will dutifully holler "I AM IGNORING YOU, IKE" while also stretching his name into seven distinct syllables because lo, they are so not actually ignoring him, OMG.

We've tried extra positive attention. We've tried extra one-on-one special Ike time. We've tried having him help shop and prep and cook. We've tried sending him to bed early and sending him to eat dinner alone in the kitchen and a visual timer and a three strikes rule and no snacks and no dessert and no screens and I-don't-even-care-go-hungry and NONE OF IT MATTERS.

Night after night, Ike comes to the dinner table, surveys the offerings on his plate, makes a face, melts to the floor, needs to go to the bathroom, needs to get more water, needs to whine about juice, needs to chase after a cat, etc. etc. etc. 

Last week, I took Ezra out for a fancy French dinner. We've been trying to take him to more challenging restaurants for his special one-on-one outings (they all get them, for the record) -- places without kids' menus where he can try the sort of food he sees on his cooking shows. (It doesn't help that since we moved, our restaurant options shrunk significantly, and the kids' menus are -- for the most part --goddamn pandering garbage. We took them to a Mexican restaurant and I was like, okay, at least try a taco? But they were all like OH LOOK THEY HAVE HOT DOGS AND FRENCH FRIES! instead.)

I did not take Ike, who was absolutely distraught. He proceeded to then throw a fit because Jason offered to make him whatever he wanted for dinner instead, but would not permit him to fill a bowl with grape jelly and dip graham crackers in it. 


Ezra and I (and Hobbes) had a delicious meal and a lovely time together. 

The next few days, after pondering YET ANOTHER "how do I get my kid to eeeeeeeeat" dilemma in the advice column queue, I decided to try YET ANOTHER trick on Ike. The self-serve dinner-as-buffet trick. (Basically, don't portion out dinner for your child. Put everything on the table and let them serve themselves, giving them the illusion of control in a world full of chaos and broccoli.) This is a trick I tried on my older children with zero success, as Noah crumpled under the decision-making pressure and it just sort of back-fired on Ezra, who started limiting his choices instead of expanding them.

But I thought maybe, just maybe, it might appeal to Ike, since 99.9% of his mealtime behavior is an attention-seeking stunt rather than having anything to do with the food itself. Maybe he'd relish a little bit more control over his plate vs. trying to control the entire meal with LOOK AT MEEEEEE antics. 

He can never know that I wrote this, seems to work? Actually let's pretend I didn't write that. Because I've been here before, blowing up my life for the sake of content, sweet content.

(I also give advice on how to make your baby sleep! And potty training! Like I was some kind of ninja at either.)

This week, I promised to take Ezra out again to a local hot pot/shabu shabu place where you cook your food right on the table.  (His interest was peaked by the Rutabaga the Adventure Chef book series, which I highly recommend to any other little foodies or wanna-be chefs out there.) Ike begged to come along this time, and Ezra agreed that was okay with him. 


Things Ike Ate: noodles, two different kinds of meatballs, sausages, brisket, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, broth and a spicy peanut dipping sauce of his own creation. 


Things Ike Did Not Do: literally anything besides eat and talk about what he was going to eat next. He LOVED it. The stirring and the boiling and the cooking and the make-your-own dipping sauce station!  We ate until we were all ready to burst.

So I guess we'll see how things go tonight, when the menu is back to something less exotic and interactive. But for now, for this moment, allow me to waste 1,000+ words telling you what a genius I am, right before he changes all the rules on me again. 




Your ad provider seems to be intermittently serving ads for a BDSM site. Unexpected!


Oh kids and eating!!!! One of the most frustrating parts of parenthood. I have a 7 and 5 year old and it's such a fun game to see which one is going to sigh loudly in disgust or burst into tears when i set a home-cooked plate of food in front of them. I am lucky they both love raw fruits and vegetables (with ranch) no matter what, but the main dish part is what gets me every time. Also they hate when anything is mixed together (sauce on noodles, casseroles, soup, etc). lolz

Sue W.

Mmmmmm...shabu-shabu! My wonderful Japanese mother in law taught me how to make it. Well, the dashi for the pot and thc soy sauce, sesame oil and vinegar dipping sauce for the veggies anyway!! Then just add your own meat and veggies and pig out! Now I'm gonna have to add the ingredients to my grocery list for next week!


We tried Satter with our first kid who was always and still is an INSANELY picky eater at almost-7. Our youngest will, without fuss or prompting, eat just about anything, even most green veggies if there is dip. He eats meat, soup, casseroles, and on and on. My oldest will eat bread, cheese, and fruit. Sigh. I guess they are who they are from the start, aren’t they?


My intermittently picky eaters also delight in making their own creations. Usually disgusting - pickles in cereal, meatballs on ice cream, ketchup stirred into milk. They do it at school too for the gross-out factor. I let them do it because it all gets mixed up anyway, and at least they are eating. But...I don't want to watch! Gag.

Carolyn Allen Russell

Time to buy a fondue pot, it sounds like! (And also, I just have to point out that the last photo of Ezra at the French restaurant looks like a mini Gordon Ramsey!)


I totally recognize that restaurant, and we *love* it. My 5 year old went absolutely nuts being able to cook her own food at the table, too. You might check out for more restaurant recommendations. He hasn't posted in a while, but there's a lot of content still to look through, and most of it is still valid. :)


Zojirushi Gourmet d'Expert® Electric Skillet
You can make shabu shabu at home.
Just saying.


Rhia (the first poster): They type of ad you see is based on your personal internet history. Right now, my ads are all climbing gear and sometimes West Elm. If you're seeing BDSM, it's because of somewhere you've been before. Good times!


My youngest, after a year and a half of general OT and nine months of feeding therapy, will gag to the point of vomiting over eating anything other than eggo waffles, mcdonalds chicken mcnuggets, strawberries, or cereal. Uncle. We are dropping the feeding therapy because I'm sick of throwing good money after bad and he can live the rest of his life at risk of scurvy because I used up all my fucks and I'm exhausted and I just can't anymore.


One picky kid, one kid who is lucky he wasn't born a month later, because Alton may have become his name! That child channeled all the Food Network his parents watched and BEGGED for cooking lessons (which he had for two years, thank you, Young Chef's Academy!)

The great equalizer between picky and adventurous? Fondue. We have multiple fondue pots, so we'd do a court bullion and a cheese fondue, and 5 or 6 items to dip. It's amazing what a kid with texture issues 95% of the time will eat, when he can dip it in cheese. The budding foodie got to choose which herbs and spices went into the broth, based on the dippables.

Yes, prep is a pain in the tucchus, but fondue once a month was a most anticipated meal.


BTW, my ads are Alegria (my favorite shoes, hands down) prominently featured top right. Next up is some sort of This is SPARTA type exercise thingy that I am medically restricted from doing, Amy's Amazon pics, Amy's Pinterest images, Buick ads (my heart belongs to my 4th VW), and another THIS IS SPARTAAAAAAAAA ad.

I'll take the shoes and ditch the rest. :)


My ads are for a kids coding camp - my youngest is 19 years old. And Faith Based Counseling. Neither of which I have ever expressed any search interest in. Go figure.


Have you taken them to a Tapas place yet? Tiny dishes. Could be a hit. Plus Sangria.


My ads are nothing but places to rent on Hawaiian islands. Guess what I did on my lunch hour. DREAAAM dream dream dream DREAAAAM. But I love this post about kids eating. Because the struggle is real. And how is it I gave birth to 2 children who don't like artichokes?


Your comment about kids' menus spoke right to me. Why do restaurants think that kids won't eat anything but hot dogs and chicken nuggets? There should be Mexican items on the menu at Mexican restaurants and Italian items at an Italian restaurant, and so on. Almost every kid I know likes cheese ravioli (cheese and pasta, yum!). Why is it so hard for Italian restaurants to figure that out. I personally think you should be able to order a kid version of everything (just smaller portion). Maybe we wouldn't have so many picky kids if everyone didn't just assume kids are supposed to be picky. I have two really good eaters who will gladly eat all my tomatoes (that's my picky food).


My ads are all for
If you like shabu shabu (and who doesn't?) you might also try Korean BBQ, which is a similar 'you do the cooking', but with more fire involved. My 5 year old fairly picky son loves Korean food and there are a lot of really child friendly options (rice balls stuffed with things and plain-ish meats). He can just avoid the spicy stuff on the side.

Cheryl S.

My daughter sounds somewhat like Ike. If it comes from a restaurant, she's all for it -- chicken, pork, pasta, salad, soup, whatever. If I cook it? Not so much. She's 13 and she's still alive, so I'm calling it a win.

My brother (who is now 6'4", 43 years old and has kids of his own), survived on grilled cheese and hot dogs for most of his childhood. I've decided to do my best and not worry about it!

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