My daughter has been a picky eater for as long as I can remember. She never went through that amazing stage the baby development books talk about — where an older baby or young toddler will try practically anything you put in front of them. Nope. At just over a year old, she routinely refused typically kid-friendly foods like strawberries and grilled chicken and buttered toast.
I mean, come on. I live for buttered toast!
When it became clear that my toddler daughter would, if left to her own devices, live on applesauce and goldfish crackers, I decided we needed to get serious about shutting down the whole picky eater thing.
That was five years ago. She’s six now. And she’s still cheerfully eating from a very carefully curated list of about 11 different foods, total.
But before you completely write me off as Worst Mom of 2016, please know that I have tried. Oh, have I tried. Here are some highlights from the battlefront, detailing the lengths I have gone to.
1. I’ve read ALL the books.
The No-Cry Picky Eater Solution, the famous How to Get Your Kid to Eat (But Not Too Much), French Kids Eat Everything … fail, fail, FAIL. I think I got closest to success with How to Get Your Kid to Eat (But Not Too Much), which advocates serving one meal to the entire family, and telling your child she doesn’t have to eat it if she doesn’t want to.
After my daughter realized I really was serious about serving new foods at dinner, we had a few miraculous nights where she would begrudgingly take one single bite and then make a big show of spitting it out. I considered this great progress.
But she’s a smart girl, and she quickly discovered a flaw in the plan. You see, the book suggests offering one food your child likes as part of every meal, so they don’t go to bed completely hungry. By day three my daughter was onto this loophole — she knew dinner would include at least one staple like rice or apple slices. For the next two weeks she’d take a giant serving of that one “yummy” food and ignore the rest of the meal, perfectly happy with her single-ingredient dinner. I finally scuttled the plan, worried she was going to develop rickets or some other weird disease caused by nutritional deficiency.
2. I’ve meticulously meal-planned, and even tried cooking together.
This is a pretty obvious one, right? For a solid month, my daughter and I sat down every Sunday and picked three meals to cook together during the forthcoming week. And I really did let her choose, so we ended up with dishes like tacos, and butterfly pasta with veggies, and one rather memorable attempt at “peanut butter soup.” (For the record, I do not recommend peanut butter soup.)
She refused to try a single bite of anything we cooked together. Not one bite, not of even one dish. To stress how pigheaded and strong-willed she is, she even refused to taste the sugar cookies we baked together one afternoon. The girl sticks to her principals.
3. I even tried to coerce her by watching reality-TV cooking shows.
On the advice of my friend, we watched some shows for children: Chopped Junior, Rachel Ray’s Kids Cook-Off, MasterChef Junior. She found these absolutely fascinating and I thought we might actually have a break-through. We discussed the different — and sometimes unusual — ingredients the children used in their cooking, and talked about things like flavor and texture and the difference between braising and roasting.
Then she turned to me mid-way through an episode of Chopped Junior and said, absolutely deadpan, “I’d rather give away every single toy I own than try one weird thing these kids are cooking.”
4. I gave up and let her prep her own food.
Just tonight, out of the blue, my daughter asked if she could put together her own dinner. I was wary but — let’s be honest — a little lazy, and feeling pretty beat down from our weeks of battling over dinnertime. I told her sure, she could make her own meal, and I didn’t even interfere as she foraged around in the refrigerator and pantry for 15 minutes or so.
And then she brought me this, pride radiating from her little face.
Why yes, you’re correct — it is indeed a sampler platter of pretzels, peanuts, and leftover bacon.
The saddest part is, I totally let her eat it. At least there’s some protein on the plate!