Children and food: the never-ending saga of eating, snacking and complaining

Children and food. When did this become such a big preoccupation for parents?

I don’t remember having had so many opinions about food…I don’t remember having had any opinions at all. If I didn’t like what was served I didn’t eat it and that was that. So I was a little hungry that day…the next day something was served that I liked and I ate twice as much of that. And it was rare that someone asked my opinion about a meal, unless it was my birthday.

I’m currently preoccupied with a 5 year old and her rather vocal, argumentative nature when it comes to eating pretty much anything nutritious these days. This is the girl who was a great eater up until just recently. So, what gives?

Although it’s summer and we’re all in low-key vacation mode, we still try to eat at home most days. But she has a complaint about every single meal I put together for the family. And yet she still expects all the summery treats that prevail at this time of year.

What she will eat is pretty much anything made of white flour, white sugar, or frozen, artificially flavoured and coloured water (aka popsicles and freezies). This severely restrics her options since we have practically nothing like that in the house (the odd time maybe a hotdog bun is made of a partly white, partly whole wheat flour, or a certain type of cracker). DH is on a paleo diet so he doesn’t touch anything made of grain, I try to reduce my wheat intake by switching to rice products more often for health reasons, and Benjamin, well, he’s actually doing rather well in the food department. He should probably eat bigger portions than he does, but he is mostly eating everything we put in front of him, so I’m not going to complain about him today.

Sonja is another story all together. She likes her white carbs, and most dairy, especially the ice-cream kind. And since she does eat raw fruit and vegetables, not all hope is lost.

But properly balanced meals, home-cooked ones I make almost daily, they get ignored, or played with, or complained about. Protein is practically impossible to get into her unless it’s ribs (and even then, she doesn’t finish the bone she’s chewing on). Frankly, as much as I like ribs, I just don’t want to make, or eat them every day. Serving hotdogs, chicken fingers or frozen fish sticks regularly doesn’t resonate well with me, and I tend to reserve these convenience foods for those days when I have less time to cook due to activity or school-related obligations, not for days when the harvest is overflowing with local produce. And don’t get me started with the good carbs…last night she refused the potatoes I made especially for her. Potatoes are her favorite food, especially roasted ones, but alas, she had a complaint about those as well last night.

I should have made pasta. Both Ben and I craved noodles…(Sonja isn’t big on pasta, surprisingly. And given her current state in the food department, she probably would have complained about THAT meal, too.)

She is one stubborn girl. When she wants ice-cream, or popsicle (as I’m currently experiencing listening to her stomping/throwing around stuff in the other room) and we point to her unfinished lunch (and breakfast, and half-eaten dinner from the night before), well let me just say the noise level is excruciating. Also annoying.

She screams bloody murder, in high-pitches volumes that brings me to the very edge of my parenting patience level.

At the rate we’re going with her food issues, I will be looking for a full-time bed in a mental institution rather than a job come fall…

Sonja’s extremely high-energy output, similar to that of her brother’s, requires special attention to nutrition. We are spoiled, in some ways, as to the knowledge that exists today when it comes to nutrition, and since both my kids are athletes, we focus heavily on protein-rich foods (not all from meat). And Sonja does seem like she wants to eat. She is constantly asking for snacks. Snacks that she is allowed to have in the form of fruit, most often, if she ate a proper meal at meal time.

But lately, the asking for snack thing is getting out of control. She is always in the mood to snack, especially when we do an outing of some sort.

Take this morning. We agreed today would be a lovely day to take a little bike ride along the bike path down to the lake near our house. I packed water and debated if I should forgo the snacks all together, but it was past mid-morning and neither kid ate a lot of breakfast and usually they like playing out on the pebble beach…so I threw some oranges in my backpack. Even this simple action gave me heart palpitations knowing she’ll complain about ‘it’s only fruit, did you pack any cookies?’ complaint.

Normally, if I state ahead of time that we’ll go to point A before stopping for a water break, it works well enough. But lately, the time before she asks for a break after leaving the house is getting shorter with every trip we plan.

The park by the lake is a 3 minute WALK from our front door (so a 1.5 minute bike ride). The entrance of the park begins with a pond…and then you can bike or walk for quite a while to various beaches, a point where there’s a light beacon, and a marina.

We decided to bike to the beacon. Or, I decided this and announced this while still in the driveway.

We arrive at the pond approximately 5 minutes after we left the house. Sonja stops her bike, wanders down to the pond’s edge, and interacts with the swans and ducks. Then she proclaims it’s snack time.

“Let’s bike a bit further and stop by the beacon”, I said. “We can have a snack while looking out at the marina.”

Well no that didn’t please her. She was hungry now and by the way, what did I pack for her?

Orange slices, I said. She wasn’t impressed. She wanted a chocolate bar, or at least a chocolate-covered granola bar. Or some sort of candy that can be sucked on for a while…

The ride out to the light beacon with her in tow would have taken maybe 10 minutes. It was a level path, no hills to negotiate, and the weather was pleasant (not hot and sticky like it’s been for weeks now). There was no reason why it should have taken any longer, and with practically no one else at the park (which was surprising, where was everyone? It’s summer vacation and there’s no kids there…?) we could have enjoyed a lovely time together enjoying the wildlife and wildflowers.

But no. Sonja was pissed off and she didn’t care who heard about it. She lagged behind, screamed at the top of her voice, complained about how far it was and how tired her legs were, and she was hungry and thirsty and did she mention tired?

It was an ordeal.

Benjamin was being a good sport by biking ahead and staying clear of the noise. I stopped every once in a while because I just wanted to keep her in my line of vision. There’s no telling what this cranky child of mine will do when she’s worked herself up into such a state…

At one point I got off my bike, walked toward her, and gave her a choice: stop screaming and bike to the beacon, or get off your bike and sit at the edge of the walkway where I will pick you up on my way back from the beacon in less than 3 minutes.

NO, she screamed and biked with as much drama as she could muster up.

Seriously, I just wanted to bike for a few minutes before stopping for a snack. Why is this so freaking hard? I debated internally if I should just give her the stupid snack, but then decided a sip of water might help distract her off the impending starvation she was obviously experiencing.

Sigh.

We made it to the beacon and immediately both kids discovered some stone sculptures. They climbed down to the spot and started making their own. I sat nearby and waited for Sonja to complain about her hunger and snack, but that didn’t happen for at least 10 minutes…at which point I gave her the orange slices, which she rejected after two bites, and we ended up having a lovely rest of morning making stone sculptures, watching fish jump out of the water, and talking about the water birds and their nests they built all over the area.

She made it home in one piece and asked for egg salad sandwich (which makes me laugh because there is this whole story about THAT, too), and all was well.

Until the current situation of not getting a popsicle. She had a meltdown, DH put her in her room, and after she threw all her stuffed toys around, she promptly fell asleep.

Wonder what will happen when she wakes up…

Picky eating was mentioned before on Javaline. There’s the crusts on sandwiches post, or the little blemishes on fruit post, or when tiny children say “yucky” to my homecooked meal.

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