My mother loves to remind me all the time that I used to be a difficult child who wouldn’t eat my food. I mean, she gets a real kick out of it these days.
When I was about 6 years old, she struggled to have me eat my early dinner before she had to hit her late shift at work. This was back in the mid-’80s, when she worked at an envelope factory, not too far from where Harry Houdini is buried in Queens. If I didn’t eat my noodle soup or my spaghetti or whatever she whipped up that day, she would threaten to leave me at his gravesite before clocking in at work. And I’m pretty sure she wasn’t joking, either.
From what I can remember, she pleaded with me and one time almost got on her hands and knees to beg me to eat because if I didn’t, there was a good chance that my Ukrainian babysitters down the street would feed me sugary sweets during my time with them. She would tell me, “I hope your daughter gives you the same trouble you give me,” before dropping me off at their doorstep with my stomach nowhere as full as it should be.
Fast-forward almost 30 years later and she sure got her wish.
No matter how hard I try, no matter what I do or say, every single morning my kids wake up, get dressed, and refuse to eat their breakfast before going to school.
And it’s driving me bat-shit crazy, up-the-wall insane, people.
I’ve been blessed with two children who have been picky eaters since the day they were born. (“Oh, breastfeeding you say? Let’s pretend we don’t want to do that for about a week,” — my daughter, fresh out of the womb.) They look at their plates with complete suspicion unless I slather it with Nutella.
Both of my kids have long days at school and I know how important it is for them to eat a nutritious, protein-packed breakfast before I see them seven or eight hours later, depending on the day. Sending them to school hungry will not only be detrimental in the classroom, but it will also make me look like an awful mom. Both teachers and doctors will tell you: kids who eat a healthy breakfast have better focus, fewer behavior problems, better attendance, and even better grades. It’s not a direct science, but it should be.
So why won’t my kids eat? Is it because I’m rushing them out the door to make it to school on time? Is it because we wake up too early on weekdays? Is it because they are simply not hungry in the mornings? The answer to all of this is yes and I know I’m not the only person who battles with this in the mornings. I’ve gotten advice from a dozen or so moms who have all had simple solutions to my rather complex problem:
“Ask them what they want to eat and make it a game.”
“Bribe them with after-school ice cream.”
“Feed them Cheerios. Every kid loves Cheerios in the morning.”
“The kids won’t eat, huh? Well that sounds familiar.”
(That last one was from my mother).
Honestly, I don’t have the time or the energy to make my kids breakfast that looks like a screenshot from Minecraft. And unlike other blog posts, I really don’t have an answer to why my children won’t eat other than they are my children. But I do want moms to know that you’re not alone. I know your struggle. I feel your pain. I know how heartbreaking it is to see your children stare at their multi-grain waffles and blue agave syrup and say “ewwww.”
I deal with it every. single. day.
In the meantime, I will gently suggest to my children that they try new foods, will probably even attempt to reward them for their efforts and heck, will take them to my nearest Panera Bread drive-thru before school if I have to. I’m that desperate to get them to eat.
But you know what? There’s no answer other than knowing that eventually, they’ll eat that plate full of food. And if not, there’s a certain illusionist that we can go visit at the Machpelah Cemetery in New York City if we have to.More On