For anyone in our house under 4 feet tall to eat food, one of four criteria have to be met:
1. It has to be candy.
2. It has to be a quesadilla with no tortilla. So, cheese.
3. It has to be introduced as a specific animal food after the child selects their spirit animal of choice for the day.
4. Someone else has to be eating it.
Obviously, this doesn’t apply to the cats. Sure, they both fall under the maximum height requirement, but they don’t care for candy or cheese, and they are their spirit animal.
Any meal is a colorful event in our house since having kids. I’d say at least a dozen times a week we get wee protestors shoving finger-painted signs up demanding more selections from the sweets group and less balanced nutrition. Even when they choose their foods, they protest themselves. “I want Cocoa Puffs for breakfast, but I won’t eat them because I had a dream that milk tasted funny.”
So, why can’t they just eat their nine grapes and grilled cheese? Because they’re kids, and kids are all about excuses. Here are 22 reasons my kids won’t eat:
1. I need to save it for later.
This is code for “Later, I will ask you for something else that isn’t remotely close to what’s currently on my plate, like popcorn.” I often find that if I present the saved meal at a later time when a snack is requested, it tends to get eaten earlier on so they can have a real snack.
2. I don’t like food.
(as they reach for a bag of sour gummy worms)
3. I just want milk.
The strategy behind the “just milk” excuse is that if you drink enough glasses of milk, you’ll walk around feeling like you’re the same size as the cow it came from (or almond, whatever). Then you’ll be too full to eat.
4. My breakfast is gross.
When you sit around long enough, cereal gets so soggy it starts changing states, and there’s nothing not gross about watching a solid liquefy. This is a life lesson: Eat your cereal while it still crunches. Nobody likes a Fruit Loop that melts in your mouth.
5. My dinner is gross.
Everything that isn’t a sour gummy worm is gross. Also, when you put ketchup on everything, it loses its luster. Ketchup isn’t like whipped cream; you can’t eat it with anything. So, yeah, I wholeheartedly agree that your dinner is gross, but I wasn’t the one who dipped their broccoli in ketchup.
6. I don’t like carrots anymore.
It’s common for most kids to pull this one to get out of eating, but keep in mind, toddlers and food have an at-will agreement. They can quit vegetables any time they want without a reason. It’s also safe to have a backup plan, like blending vegetables into their fruit smoothies.
7. I’m not hungry.
One of the many mysteries of life is a toddler’s ability to function for six days off a single seedless grape. Your child can, and will, go for days without eating more than a single peanut half or two bites of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. They will still be propelled by more energy than you or I will ever have again.
8. I don’t care if I eat.
They don’t. They also don’t care if they wear clothes or poop on the couch. The toddler lifestyle is very laissez-faire.
9. I only like the mac and cheese with the straight noodles, not the fat bendy ones.
Because we all know the fat bendy noodles smothered in cheese sauce taste like potting soil.
10. I just want to play outside.
Where the threat of eating anything out there is low — except for grass. And, hey, if their spirit animal is a dog or a rabbit, I’d roll with this one.
11. I’m busy.
12. No, thanks.
This is probably the worse possible excuse a kid can use for not eating, because the reality is, it’s not an excuse. It’s a statement. This one never works for my kids, despite continuing to try it. After all, they think, If Mom can’t even get our names straight, there’s a chance she could forget she just offered us a full meal.
13. I just want peanut butter.
Protein is a parenting win. Don’t fight this one.
14. The bread is too white.
And the wheat bread is too brown and has dots in it. The hot dog bun is made out of hot dogs, and the hamburger bun has bumps. The nice thing about most things you eat with bread is you can remove them, and it’s an appetizer.
15. I don’t like this.
“This” being anything you are serving them. Unless it’s sour gummy worms. Or grass from the yard.
16. I’m just eating yogurt from now on.
Yogurt is great for you, but the M&M’s you’re eating mixed with it, not so much. I love M&M’s as much as the next person, but the only person in this house who gets to eat whole meals of chocolate is me.
17. Peas are super bad for you.
The only person peas are bad for is whoever is in charge of cleaning the kitchen, because once released, peas can roll forever.
18. My toast is too crunchy.
If you’re like us and your toaster’s lowest setting still toasts bread, this can get complicated quickly. I often find it’s best to trap your child into choosing between actual toasted bread and simply bread. Regular bread has a lot less crunch. Unless it’s stale — which could make for a fair third option.
19. This isn’t chicken. It’s not dinosaur-shaped.
This is usually when most kids appreciate a short lesson in science when you tell them how this chicken is a much, much smaller version of its ancestor the pterodactyl. These tiny pterodactyls are too small to turn into a nugget. (It doesn’t have to make sense; they’re 4 and 5).
20. My fruit is touching my sandwich.
My parents would have said, “And if you don’t eat it, my hand will hit your butt.” But we’ve evolved beyond that approach. Instilling the fear of God into your child doesn’t work at meal times. You need to save that for when it matters — like when you catch them swinging from the clothing racks at Target. Instead, we just take the sandwich and try to resolve the issue by removing the offending piece of fruit and tearing off the damaged portion of bread.
21. You don’t have green beans on your plate.
“That’s because Mommy’s not going to grow taller, just wider.” Besides, I’ve earned my position in this hierarchy. When you get old enough to do the laundry and dishes, you don’t have to have green beans either.
22. My cereal is cold.
I rarely hear this excuse because most of the time my kids have sat for so long in front of their bowl that the milk has started to ferment into cheese. Still, it surfaces from time to time. Only they act like it’s so cold I might as well have shoved a bowl of Fruity Pebbles in front of them filled with liquid nitrogen. My advice is, “Eat it fast” (see No. 4).
Like naps and timeouts, I have no idea why my kids make such a big deal about eating. I love eating — and naps. And I’d love to take a few hundred timeouts just for the silence and the chance to sit still. I have to give them credit though. They’re much more persistent than I was as a kid. I would declare my dislike for food, announce that I would not be eating it, and stare at my plate until it was time for bed — it was neither creative nor effective.
So, maybe these aren’t the worst excuses in the world. Still, eating would just be easier for everyone if they just did it. After all, we’ve whittled down the foods in our house down to the bare basics. There are no surprises in the grilled cheese sandwiches around here. Maybe if you eat one, you might get some sour gummy worms.