toddler tales: ironman eating

by ck on February 2, 2013

Dinner time at my house has turned into a series of long-distance eating races. It consists of playing, followed by songs and/or bad jokes and is finished up by several rounds of bargaining. This is usually accomplished without break and in that order.

The playing starts as we push the girls towards the table. A table which I’m starting to suspect was made out of kryptonite. Because the moment their chairs stop moving they’re both reduced to fingerless amoebas physically unable to hold a utensil. Suddenly these professional snackers need to be fed in order for the food to make it successfully to their mouths without first detouring all over their chairs and/or faces.

This leg of the race comes to a close as either my husband or I point out that their feet don’t belong on the table and that they’ll fall on the floor if they continue to stretch their hands beneath their chairs. And we reserve the right to laugh at them should this occur.

The second part of the race, when they’re forced to start moving food from their plates into their person, is usually when they break into song.

TWO’s verbal shorthand sounds like, “Mama-abablablablaabablablabla-Mama!” I like to think that she’s singing a Homeric tale of my cooking prowess.

ONE leaves no room for interpretation: “Cous Cous are not my favorite. Sometimes I eat them, but not today…”

If ONE is feeling particularly inspired, by say, spaghetti or something else she deems edible, she’ll break into free verse joking.

ONE: How did the plate get on top of the other plate?

ME (sighing): How?

ONE: By using its tongue twister!


ONE: Funny?

ME: Sure.

ONE: Then aren’t you supposed to laugh?

After a few forced bites, they bring bargaining to the table. ONE will sit and play with her food until everyone else is done eating and then start with the, “If you sit with me instead of cleaning I promise I’ll eat all my dinner…well, can I play my computer then? You know I eat better when I’m playing the spelling game. Or how about coloring? Crafts?”

TWO waits until all eyes are on her sister and then bargains with her hands. Since she’s still completely uninterested in a counter-offer, if I don’t catch her, her plate will fall on the floor. Right next to the dog.

Winning is clearly not the objective of this race, as ONE is very eager to help her sister. “Want me to feed you, TWO? Want me to help get the food to your mouth?” Apparently the air around the kryptonite table is a word vortex, because my suggestion to “eat-by-example” is always ignored.

The Ironman Trieatathon is a grueling event that pushes the parents of its participants to the limits of endurance. It’s also a great tool in forcing said parents to make dinner reservations and book a babysitter. Because unless they do, the closest they’ll come to tasting and/or enjoying a meal will be smelling the food while it cooks.





parenting BY dummies June 9, 2009 at 8:19 am

Withholding snack works wonders on my dudes. Why? Because snack often consists of something with a high concentration of sugar that is worth shoving green beans and/or squash down your pie hole for. I figure, snack bag of M&Ms in exchange for 2 tablespoons of broccoli, good trade. I like to bribe my kids. It’s pretty much my favorite past time. Sadly, #3 has yet to fall prey to my expert bribing techniques. He simply screams (@ the TOP OF HIS LUNGS) when he’s finished (aka eaten 2 bites, thrown plate to floor) and he is immediately removed from his high chair. Some how he still winds up w/a snack??? So, have you considered bribery? It’s not as bad as it sounds:)

Yvonne Moss June 9, 2009 at 9:01 am

Wow, when it came to dinner, I just wasn’t that nice. I LOVE my food! I make darn good tasty food, unlike MY mother… who fed me (no lie) canned corned beef with a hard boiled egg plopped in the middle with creamed spinach on the side. That was when we weren’t eating Campbell soup for dinner. AND THIS WAS EACH AND EVERY WEEK!
I read once that kids use food to express their personality. It was important for them to have it known WHAT they like and don’t like.
SO, I… in turn would respond to “I hate broccoli” with “Thank you for telling me. You don’t have to like it, you just have to eat it” After hearing this for a while, they finally got it that they had to eat food they didn’t love. It WOULD go down. It WOULDN’T kill them! And dinner time wasn’t so bad then!
But HEY, were it not for this, you wouldn’t have such funny, funny blogs!

Futureblackmail June 9, 2009 at 9:09 am

My kids are lucky if I plop a pop-tart down in front of them.

You got room at that table for 2 more?

Jessica June 9, 2009 at 9:10 am

We are totally in the “I’ll eat on my own terms” phase. It is EXHAUSTING. I usually tell her she needs to take 2 more bites, and she either has a holy massive meltdown or she picks up EVERYTHING off her plate, grips in her fists and shoves it down her throat while pushing her plate forcefully away. I appreciate scenerio two best.
BTW, kids and moms and dads eat together in your house? How odd.

D June 9, 2009 at 9:31 am

The plate on the floor always sends me over the edge. I can stay pretty calm until that happens.

Casey June 9, 2009 at 9:37 am

Meal times are the bane of my existence. Seriously, there is screeching, food throwing, head banging, more screeching. It’s enough to make me pack up my things and leave my family. Ok, it’s not THAT bad but it’s close.

momto3 June 9, 2009 at 10:04 am

This is why I probably eat so fast. I can’t stand sitting there and telling Q over and over again to eat, it’s good, remeber you ate this last week and you loved it. Ugh. It’s always changing, I can’t keep up. I wish I could serve KD, hotdogs, and pasta every night, then at least I’d know he was eating. I try to make meals healthy which of course to him=Gross. lol. I’m trying to remember that before I know it I will have a house full of teenagers who will then eat me out of house and home.

Jacqueline June 9, 2009 at 10:07 am

Always like that for this mom here, however my husband is a human vacuum, so he gets to enjoy a hot meal most of the time. Lucky Bastard. We’re still working with our son on his oral aversion, so He hardly eats… Not looking for that day… Promise.

The Mother June 9, 2009 at 10:21 am

Bargaining is NOT an option. Dinner is NOT negotiable.

Everyone sits down. Everyone eats what they want. Seconds of the good stuff will not be served without at least a portion of the icky colored things we call veggies.

Everyone clears after dinner, which is over when the parent/dictator declares it to be so.

No child ever starved to death because he didn’t like what was served at dinner. Promise.

Twila June 9, 2009 at 10:25 am

I lucked out in having good eaters. But when Eldest starts being picky I let him “cook” with me. I give him a butter knife and his own cutting board then some veggie slices to “cut” for me. It takes a little longer to get things done but he always ends up sneaking tastes of the veggies and loves the idea of eating what he has prepared. It’s amazing how it changes his attitude.

TheKitchenWitch June 9, 2009 at 10:35 am

Dear Heavens, have you been eating dinner at my house? That’s pretty much the play-by-play of my TOTALLY relaxing and successful family dinner night!

ONE is quite the savvy bargainer; that girl is GOOD!


TheKitchWitch (Yeah, you know, the lady who has an entire website dedicated to her failure at family dinners)

Jill June 9, 2009 at 10:53 am

I think our kitchen table must be made of Kryptonite too! But my favorite is when I finally give up fighting the 4yo and five minutes after he gets down from the table he asks for a snack. Are you kidding me!?!?! So, I started leaving his plate on the table and if he asks for food, he has to eat that. My husband is a total softie, though, because he thinks that if kids don’t get snacks whenever they ask for them they’re actually going to starve, so it doesn’t always work.

Keyona June 9, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Hey, I think if they get hungry enought they will eat what is put in front of them. Not alternative options. None.

Unknown Mami June 9, 2009 at 2:59 pm

I’m sure you don’t need all the advice, but I can’t seem to help myself. I say you take more of a Mommy Dearest route and sing in a very creepy voice:

“Cous Cous, is not your favorite,
but if you don’t eat them today,
you’ll be eating them for breakfast

Don’t complain ’cause I can’t hear you when I sing

You could also end with a joke:
Why did the daughter eat her food?
Because if she didn’t , Mom would give her a tongue twister.
And then laugh maniacally.

Oh, come on just do it. I’d love to see their reactions.

mafiamom June 9, 2009 at 3:34 pm

wait, is this MY house and kids youre talking about?????

TheKitchenWitch June 9, 2009 at 5:14 pm

ck, I gave you an award! Check out my blog to pick it up!

Country-Fried Mama June 9, 2009 at 5:15 pm

I actually feel bad for my kids sometimes since they have very little say in what they eat. But, inevitably, my sympathy disappears the second Miss D. tastes something I cooked and says, “Yuck.”

faemom June 9, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Ah, Evan just goes on a hunger strike; while, Sean tries to Evan’s food, after he’s done with his. We’ve tried everything. Now I feed Evan as healthy a lunch as I can and then let Evan strike. He’ll eat eventually. Right?

wild4words June 9, 2009 at 10:29 pm

Yep, this is our house too. The little one will eat but the big one won’t – not unless it’s a hotdog or hamburger or something else that is nutritionally questionable. He USED to eat vegetables, now it’s a big drama. Thank god he’s at gramma’s house during the days all summer – she has fresh fruit and veggies out of the garden, plus homemade bread.

And I get protein bars and steamed broccoli.

Zeemaid June 9, 2009 at 11:55 pm

omg I so hear you. Once after a particularly grueling meal preparation, juggling crying baby while separating the older two from fighting all while working really hard to put this really really nice meal on the table and the oldest walks up looks at the food and says ewwww yuck. I literally put my head on the table and cried, like really cried.

Daddy gave them a big guilt trip that mealtime I tell you. Sigh dinner’s just not fun unless it’s crap food.

Veronica June 10, 2009 at 2:44 am

Sounds like dinner time here.

'cuz I'm the mommy, that's why June 10, 2009 at 5:24 am

I have tried several approaches with the kids over the years. On the oldest, she got all picky until she had to eat a peanut butter sandwich for dinner. Every night. For about 2 weeks. That pretty well cured it. The middle one has always eaten pretty well, but when the drama comes out I just tell him he doesn’t have to eat dinner if he doesn’t want to. He can go without. And see dinner again for breakfast (or lunch, or dinner the next night…). He’s outgrowing picky now. The little one is in prime picky phase right now. I fix him something (usually hotdog slices with ketchup and diced fruit or yogurt). Sometimes he eats it, sometimes he doesn’t. If he does and wants something else, he generally gets it. he also mooches bites of my food, which is fine because he’s trying something new.
I try to remember what I liked as a kid and fix similar meals (mac & cheese, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, spaghetti, chili, green beans, stroganoff) plus whatever else I know the big ones like (bratwurst, broccoli, and of course the occasional pizza).
When we were kids mom & dad set a timer (half an hour) for us to eat. If we were still screwing around at 30 minutes, the rest of the food got put away. No snacks. Usually only took one or two nights every couple of months to remind us (except for liver *ugh*). Missing a meal now and then won’t hurt your average healthy child. Also, we would feed them early, then banish them to play so that we could eat in peace when they were especially disruptive.
And yes, there were nights I fixed two dinners (sometimes even 3) but they didn’t repeat often.
No snacks after 3 pm. They’ll eat when they get hungry. Mine does. Eventually.

'cuz I'm the mommy, that's why June 10, 2009 at 5:24 am

Wow, that got long. Hope you don’t charge by the word!

insider53 June 10, 2009 at 6:58 am

Double teaming you at the dinner table, I feel your pain.

Naptimewriting June 10, 2009 at 11:14 am

Don’t you wish you could just hook up IVs and leave them alone in a sterile room that the housekeeping staff would clea up later? Except that there’d be nothing to clean because they’re getting IVs…
At least the dog gets something out of the deal.

KathyB! June 10, 2009 at 12:45 pm

I highly recommend this approach:

“Oh, you don’t like your dinner? I’m so sorry. No, you don’t have to eat it if you aren’t hungry… but breakfast is at 7:00 and the kitchen closes in 15 minutes….”

I PROMISE they’ll gain a new respect for your cooking.

Alexia June 10, 2009 at 3:25 pm

I’ve learned that if you starve the children all day long…they inhale anything and everything in sight by the time dinner comes. (I actually didn’t starve them, they just refused all the “healthy” snacks they were offered LOL)

The dog and cat eat alot of the boys’ breakfast and lunch.

Erica June 12, 2009 at 3:55 pm

Sorry I can’t offer any words of wisdom on this. I have the exact opposite issue with munchface. He eats EVERYTHING!! In fact, I’ll probably have to take up a part-time job with this paycut just to feed him. :|

Gibby June 15, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Ah, the old dinnertime. But in my case, my hubby is just as bad. When I married him, he was pickier than my kids are now. I resolved to change that, because really, I can eat ANYTHING. Oh wait, I do eat anything. I got so sick of the beloved starches of Hubs and the kids at our meals that I now make whatever I feel like eating. I am the one cooking, after all. If anyone else would like to cook, go right ahead and I will eat what you make. It makes for long dinners. For them. I, however, am super happy, as I eat happily.

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