My Kids Are Picky Eaters -- Does That Make Me A Bad Mom?

by Celeste Yvonne
A picky eater kid sitting at the dining table and refusing to eat the sandwich placed in front of he...
Anders Andersson / Getty

Dinnertime. A chance for family camaraderie. A mother’s opportunity to nourish her children. A reprieve from the daytime rush and chance to sit down and slow down….

With toddlers? Nope.

In fact, is there anything more thankless and depressing in a mother’s day than the disappointment that is dinner time?

I’m so over dinner.

I’m sick of putting the time into a meal for my kids to look at me like I’m feeding them slugs with a side of misery. I’m done rushing through the grocery store, skimming the produce section for the freshest and shinest ingredients to go into a wishful-thinking stew, only for my one-year-old to stare at me in disgust as he hoists his plate up and over, dumping the food to the table.

My three-year-old gets in on the action, reacting with giggles and before I know it they’re throwing carrots slices and green peas to the dog and glancing back at me to see my mixed reaction of horror, frustration, and dismay.

You know the worst part? The very next day I start right over with that ridiculous Pollyanna attitude, ready to pour my afternoon into another nutritious meal that will eventually and undoubtedly wind up in my dog’s belly.

But seriously, what’s a mom to do? I tell them dinner’s over and I take away their plates and retreat to the kitchen like a wilting flower. There is little doubt the kids will beg for a snack 15 minutes before bedtime. Bonus points if they ask after brushing their teeth.

Do I submit and give them a small nutritious snack or make them go to bed hungry? I seriously don’t know which is worse… and believe me, I’ve tried both and a half dozen more ideas carved by desperation.

I hear the other kids’ moms say “My boys love salad.” Or “My son always asks for seconds.” Or my favorite, “My kids only eat organic.”

Oh, how nice. Let me build you a podium for your mommy medal.

But all kidding aside, what am I doing wrong? Is it my cooking? Is it my inability to enforce rules and watch my kids go hungry? Or are my kids just pickier than other kids and it’s just life?

Yesterday I said “eff it,” and slid a frozen pizza in the oven. I lowered my head in defeat as my kids gobbled up the dinner of champions. They won the battle and, oh man, did they know it.

And while there’s a part of me that is angry and bitter, my ever-hopeful Polyanna whispers “Fed is best…” A greasy half-eaten slice of pizza is better than an untouched kale salad. I mean, I grew up on Taco Bell, Diet Pepsi, and Happy Meals, and I turned out OK.

All in all, this is not the battle that will win the parenting war, anyway. This is just one more bump on the road of parenting. Next month it will be something totally different (let’s hope), and by the time these kids are in their pre-teens I will be yearning for the good ol’ days when all I worried about was unnourishing junk food, growth charts, and my kids’ tendency to climb onto the kitchen counter.

I’ll keep trying, of course. After all, I’m a parent of two and therefore under-rested, overcaffeinated and 100% strung out anyway. Tonight I’ll try hummus-crusted chicken and tomorrow I might dabble with my Instant Pot. But the frozen pizza is on standby. I may be optimistic, but I’m no fool.