Saturday, February 26, 2011

I'm not a restaurant

Some people assume that just because I've been a mom for a while now (going on 20 years if you count Anthony, which I do!!)  and because I have more than the "normal" amount of children (thus, more practice, I suppose)  that I must have this whole "mom thing" down, and well...for the most part, that would be a little true, in that I know all the ins and outs of newborn care, and I do pretty good with the diaper thing and potty training stage, and I can handle a two year old's temper tantrum without breaking into a sweat.  But there are still things that I remain clueless about.   And here's one of them:

What do you do  when you've made a meal for the family dinner, and you have one child who does not like what you've served?  Do you ....

a) make that kid a special meal all for herself?  Or   
b) let that kid look in the fridge for something else to eat, even if it's cold cereal?  Or 
c) do you say  "Tough.  This is what we are having tonight, and if you don't want to eat it, that's your choice.  But I'm not a restaurant."

While I do NOT make a "special" separate meal for the picky eater...I have up to this point allowed him or her to go look to see what else they might like to eat.   I don't want the kid to go to bed hungry.  I mean, afterall, we all have our own likes and dislikes...and if when I was little my mom served FISH for dinner, I could not eat it without getting sick to my stomach (I hate all forms of sea food)  so would it be fair of me to expect one of my children to eat something that they do not have a taste for?

This is how I used to think.  But lately, it is becoming a problem.  Tonight for example.  I made chicken enchiladas for the first time.  They came out really, really good.  I only had one kid look at it (before tasting it) and said, "Ewww."  This was Andrew.  I told Andrew not to say "Ewwww" because that's RUDE...and to please TRY IT before you say you don't like something.  So he took a bite, and then a big smile spread across his face.  He loved them, and actually had a second helping.

All the kids loved this meal, which made me happy.  All except Avery.  She took just two bites and then said she didn't like it.  Not at all.  Not even a little bit.

"Can't I get something else to eat?"  she asked.  "I'm so hungry."

So I told her yes, to go ahead and look in the fridge to see what else there was.  The rest of us went on to eat the enchiladas.  Soon Avery joined us, with two slices of pizza on her plate.  This caused quite the uproar from two or three other kids.

"What?  How come SHE gets pizza!"
"I want pizza, too!"
"No fair!"

Pizza, by the way, is our family's most favorite thing to eat.  All around, everyone loves pizza.
Avery, of course, had taken the last of the left-over pizza.  But that wasn't what got me frustrated.  What got me frustrated  was that had I made a special meal, and THIS was our dinner tonight -- not the two left-over pizzas in the fridge; not the cold cereal in the pantry; not the granola bars or the canned peaches, and not a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I just want to make ONE dinner and that's IT.  

When someone gets a special meal all to themselves, it creates a problem.  Inevitably, one or more of the kids all of a sudden will claim that they do not like the dinner I made, either...and will ask if they, too, can get a special something else to eat.

So, then, do I just lay down the law that they ALL eat what I serve...or go hungry?  I just have a very hard time doing that.  I can understand if I had two or three things on the table (such as meatloaf, corn, and mashed potatoes)  -- if they don't like mashed potatoes then they have the other two  foods to eat.  But with the enchiladas, that WAS the meal.  There were no side dishes.  It's like if  we have spaghetti one night, then that IS the meal.  There are usually no side dishes with spaghetti, either.  And so if Andrew claims not to "like" it -- do I let him eat something else, or does he go to bed hungry?  If he gets to eat something else, then I run the risk of others claiming they don't want the spaghetti, either.  I can't play favorites, right?  What's good for one should be good for the others, right?

But yet...I am not a restaurant.  And I don't want to be a restaurant.

You'd think that I'd have this all figured out by now, right?  But I don't!  It's one of those things that I go back and forth on, not really knowing how to handle it.  I don't want to be the "EAT IT OR BE HUNGRY" mom...but then again, sometimes I feel like I'm being maybe they don't really care for the meal, but they could eat it just fine.  We all have our favorite and our not-so-favorite meals, right?  So in that case, they need to just deal with it   and eat the meal that I've prepared.

But what if they REALLY don't like it?  Is it then fair to make that child go hungry for the night?  

How does everyone else handle this situation?  I'm curious to know.

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  1. maybe you should have a 'default' meal for the times when a kid does not like something. like, if they do not like what's being served, they can have a pb and j sandwich, a banana and milk (or whatever they like to drink. the meal is still mostly nutritional and good but basic enough that it won't fill the other kids with pizza envy ! :). the default meal might also help the kid who doesn't like the meal weigh their options...'so should i just stick it out with these enchiladas or have pb and j and a banana?'

  2. In my house with only 4 children if you did not like what I cooked you had a sandwich; usually cheese. There were no other choices.
    I remember feeling like a restaurant before I came up with the rule and I worked in one back then so I certainly did not like coming home to one.
    I am a new visitor and follower via Java.
    You have a beautiful family!

  3. Oh my goodness! I have nowhere the mom experience you do, so I don't know that I could contribute any input that might be valuable. We've tried all of the above, as well as "even if you don't like it, you have to at least have it on your plate. (Our oldest would prefer not to even see the food he dislikes). We also, do the "at least try one little bite".

    Just know that my oldest does the same, and in the MBL household, pizza is THE favorite food, hands down.


  4. What a wonderful family.

    Stopping by from the over 40 blog club.

    Stop by my blog if you like.

    Silver's Reviews

  5. This sounds like our home as well. We have various food allergies so that always throws a wrench in the fan! Our youngest is by far the most picky eater and only has a handful of things that he will eat at this point. He has such "texture" and "taste" issues. I'm an extremely laid back momma so we just let the ones who don't like the meal find something themselves (except for the little guy of course who has to have help in finding his alternative meal--usually chicken nuggets). Pizza is our favorite meal as well and I generally don't have to worry about there being leftovers!! :-)

    You have a beautiful family and blog!! Looking forward to getting to "know" you better! :-)

  6. I have 2 kids and we have this problem at times. I try to do 1 of 2 things. I do not allow them to get up and get something else.

    First, I always try to put something on the table that I know everyone at least likes a little (especially when it's a new meal). Sometimes it is homemade bread, sometimes it's salad, sometimes it's noodles, rice, potato or another side. That way if someone opposes the main meal, there are other items on the table they can choose to eat. If they do not WANT those items, then they are out of luck. (and I need to add that often it is a lack of WANTING the food rather than LIKING the food)

    The second thing I try is when I make a meal that I know this or that person does not like (such as when I make fish for me and the hubby) I try to make something special that I know the others will and DO like. It's not an out of my way thing it's just something put on the table that I know they will like and be able to get full on. When I make fish, I make chicken nuggets for the girls. They each have to take a couple bites of fish then can have chicken nuggets ( will stop making them take a couple bites after they have really tried several different fish...not being mean. We never ate it until this last year and it's kind of an acquired taste ;) ). When I make red sauce items (my youngest does NOT like red sauce) I try to either make it a mixed sauce night (make alfredo too) and have plain noodles and they can pick sauce OR I add something (like french bread or corn on the cob) to the meal that I know she will eat and not whine about not getting lasagna.

    I have the same memory as you of food being served for dinner that I REALLY did not like. I hated it. I know even as an adult there are foods I do not like. I have tried them and my taste buds do not like them. I try to avoid making those foods for that reason but not all the time. There are meals I do not like but I still make because either my kids or husband do or because I want to make sure they have had the opportunity to TRY the food. However, if food I do not like is being put in front of me to eat...I eat it. I try to have my kids try foods enough that they KNOW they don't like it. After that we try to work with it but it is what it is.

    My kids don't get the option of finding something else or me changing the whole meal because they do not like it. Mainly I do this because I go out of my way to make sure items are on the table that they can and are willing to eat and that they can get full on and not go to bed hungry. It's much easier than the fight of "why didn't I get to eat that instead too?" or them going to bed hungry.

    Sorry so long...I have dealt with this and I constantly am dealing with what is the right answer here. Just because it's my answer doesn't mean it will be right for you (especially since I make for a total of 4 people and your crew is about 3 times that size)

  7. My mom always did the default of healthy cereal if we didn't like dinner. As in, no Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, etc. Only Cheerios, Shreddies, etc. (Which may or may not be considered healthy to you, haha!) Basically, the default meal was decent, but nothing to get excited about, so we ate the "real" food unless it was something we totally couldn't handle.

  8. Hi Katrina! - We do the default peanut butter sandwich. I can remember hating some stuff my mom made, and really, it's not a battle I want to fight. They either eat what I make, or they eat the peanut butter. I really only have 1 picky eater, and he is picky to the point that I sometimes have to supervise him - and a few times actually sort of force feed the boy! I don't want him skipping meals, as he really doesn't eat enough as it is. So, PB and a piece of fruit, glass of milk. That way, no one else gets jealous.

  9. My rule is that if anyone doesn't like dinner, they may help themselves to cereal or peanut butter sandwiches, after they have tasted the family food, and as long as they also have some vegetables to go with the sandwich/cereal. My mother-in-law had a good rule when my husband was a kid. Each of the kids was allowed one 'hate food.' On the night she made that food, they were allowed to have something else. But otherwise they were required to eat the family dinner.