Mealtime Battles

When Grady started eating solids, he pretty consistently rejected new things and then started eating -and loving- them pretty quickly. Between the ages of one and two, he ate whatever I put in front of him. He would eat shepherd's pie, broccoli with homemade cheese sauce, spaghetti with meat sauce, without complaint. He would snack on black beans and homemade fruit leather and plain, unsweetened yogurt. You guys, I was so smug.

And then, in the months leading up to his second birthday, I got sick. I cooked a lot less. Grady was introduced to boxed (organic!) mac & cheese and flavoured (read: sweetened) yogurt. And other convenience foods that didn't require a lot of prep or effort. Food that was toddler-friendly. Food that was easy.

And he turned two. He started developing opinions and preferences and the voice to make those opinions and preferences known. And to a certain degree, food became an area of tension.

I say to a certain degree because I refused to battle. I would get annoyed but I refused to force Grady to eat anything because a: I don't want to fight with him at every meal and b: I don't think forcing him to consume certain items is setting him up with healthy food habits.

Let me just take a little intermission here to say that I don't judge anyone for the way they approach food with their kids. Kids are tough, man. Food can be particularly tough because it's something that affects us every day, multiple times a day. When I say I don't do something, it's because we've decided it's something that doesn't work for our family, not because we think no one should do that thing ever. You do you. We cool? Cool.

So! Food battles. I wasn't interested. I figured we would continue to offer Grady a wide variety of foods and he could pick and choose what he wanted to eat. I thought that the list of foods he would accept would slowly but steadily grow but instead we've seen the opposite happen. The list of acceptable foods has slowly but surely shrunk and mealtime has become less "here's a plate of healthy, appealing foods. What would you like to try?" and more "HERE IS A PLATE OF FOOD. EAT SOMETHING PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD."

And it sucks. I love food. I love to cook. I love to grocery shop. I love to read about food. I love to look at pictures of food. I love to try new recipes. Cooking for people is my love language. It's something I want to share with Grady. I don't want mealtimes to be a battle of wills and that's what they've become.

This morning broke me. I made waffles and blueberry sauce from scratch. I made a fruit plate with four different types of fruit. I made crispy fried eggs. Grady ate a plain waffle and balked at the fruit and the yogurt cup I put in front of him. I gave him his choice of fruit. We went back and forth for an hour before he agreed to eat one apple slice. One apple slice which he chewed for a good ten minutes until it was liquefied and then made him gag when he tried to swallow. The apple slice in which I had invested 70 minutes of negotiations ended up spewed all over the kitchen counter.

Now, I know I did not handle this morning particularly well. I do not normally play into the power struggle. Usually I let it go. Eat some fruit or don't eat some fruit, whatever. But we've been making real progress in the poop doula department and I want to continue that momentum. For some reason, this morning, I just needed Grady to eat the damn fruit. And he didn't. It was like he could smell my desperation.

We both had a good cry. And we hugged it out. And I don't think any lasting damage was done. But I'm spent. I can't fight about food at every meal but I don't know what else I can try to get Grady to eat. I've tried including him in the cooking process. I've tried taking him grocery shopping to pick out food he's interested in eating. We've read books on digestion and how food helps him grow. I don't know what else to do.

So please, all-knowing internet, tell me: how do you make your picky eater eat?