Dinner time, well any meal time with little ones is a ball ache. I learnt this very early on in my induction to parenthood. The theme is there when you first bring your beautiful new baby home. Meals are now best served cold. Fact. When you want feeding so will your little one and as such your partner will be the one cutting your food into tiny mouthfuls so you can shovel it in with one hand and feed the baby with the other.
The theme continues, weaning is a farce. You’ll stress that they will choke, you’ll puree everything to within an inch of its life and if you do give them non puree food you’ll spend more time picking it up off of the floor than you do trying to get them to eat it.
Eating out with toddlers is equally shambolic and stress inducing, you try to tame them all the while mindful of other diners. They probably won’t sit or eat, so it’ll be an unnecessarily expensive hour of hell. Eating in the safety, and privacy, of your own four walls has the added fun of cooking i.e. putting food in dangerously hot places whilst trying to parent small and danger oblivious humans. Oh and of course washing up – everything, plates, floors, cupboards, it gets everywhere. Then there is the joy of meal times when potty training. Take my word for it, they will always want a poo as you seat to eat. Always.
The latest drama to hit our house, now it is stocked with a two and three-year old, is the battle of getting them to eat damn veg, or anything relatively nutritious actually. You may be one of those lucky ones whose children (yes plural) will eat everything. Lucky you. Obviously I am not.
It is particularly aggravating because we’re not really a ready-made meal family, everything, ok almost everything, is made from scratch. Except the Dolmio jars, sos but I did explain the two and three-year old situation right? Making bolognese sauce from scratch isn’t on the agenda just yet. Perhaps when they’re at school. Anyway, my point is Mr Tammy and I eat very well. Lots of veg, fruit, good balanced diets and meals. Yet my children would quite happily exist on chocolate, sausages, ‘dish dingers’ and toast.
I spend ages preparing freshly cooked meals, chopping veg, cooking meats, fish, all the usual suspects for it to remain on the plate. The other day, a pretty standard example of dinner time in our house, I *lovingly* de-seeded and chopped peppers and courgette, cooked peas and sweetcorn, diced olives and sun-dried tomatoes and grilled chicken all to be mixed into a bowl of cous cous. A guilt free dinner, until it is put in front of my three year old.
‘Mummy, I don’t like peppers, you take them out’
‘Mummy I don’t like peas,, you take them out?
‘Mummy I don’t like courgette. you take them out’
You get the idea.
She was left with a bowl of cous cous and chicken.
‘Mummy, can I have sauce?’
So that’s a bowl of plain cous cous, chicken and tomato flaming ketchup. Wonderful.
‘No like’ – THE ENTIRE FUCKING THING.
Then I hear a thud, yep that is three thousand grains of cous cous on the floor. Brilliant.
If I do want to sneak some veg into their food, I have to grate it into bolognese or chop mushrooms so finely and pray they don’t notice. They still like their sunday dinners mashed into puree and drenched in gravy as though they are 12 months old. New foods get quizzed, dark marks, or just seeds or grains on food are declared dirty and obviously not acceptable. Lunch time, will often just be quavers or yogurts because all else is refused, and probably thrown on the floor. Meals they like one day they will inevitably hate the next and every morning I battle, negotiate and argue over the fact that choc choc toast cannot be eaten everyday.
I know it’s just a phase right? I was a fussy eater and now I like all the food. The good and bad. Yeah maybe in a few decades time but our house is also a home to a 16 year old, who actually is as fickle as the toddlers.
There are no debates over choc choc toast for breakfast when it comes to the teen, as breakfast is apparently not necessary for 16 year olds. Those one serving sachets of Nutella however do make for an acceptable start to the day. Lunch time is an equally nutirious affair, the handbag full of sharing bags of Malteasers and tubes of Pringles says it all. That is of course assuming food is consumed before 4pm, which you cannot guarantee it will be. A meal is also not a meal unless it comes from some form of fast food establishment. Obviously the meal the family is eating will not be welcomed by a teen. Lasagnes, stir fry and salads are not nice, jacket potatoes are not liked, a roast dinner will consist of 2 yorkshire puddings, some roast potatoes, cabbages (yes you read that right, a vegetable) and potentially some chicken. Maybe. Equally food a teenager likes one day they probably won’t the next, especially if you have prepared it with them in mind. Not liking and not wanting is a seemingly very fine line.
Serve up a plate of waffles, chicken dippers, sausages and beans however and you can feed all the kids in the house and they will eat it. They probably won’t even throw it on the floor. Probably.
So my advice? Well I’ll be fucked if I have any. Wait until they’re 30 and give a shit about eating right? Assuming they don’t get scurvy beforehand. If however you have any advice on getting decent food, in a relatively stress free manor into children, of any age, I’d be happy to hear it…don’t all rush at once…