To The Mom With The Toddler Who Won't Eat

Dear Hot Dog Mom: I Get You

To The Mom With The Toddler Who Won’t Eat
poplasen / iStock

To the mom feeding her toddler hot dogs more nights than she’d like to admit:

Don’t you know there are healthier foods to feed your precious miracle? Have you tried these 10 obvious tips for picky eaters? Did you know processed foods are full of chemicals that might cause your toddler to grow a third arm? Maybe these seven unrealistic strategies for problem eaters will help.

You’ve heard all of this before. I know. I get you.

I know that when you fed your sweet baby solid food for the first time, you were excited to be starting this culinary adventure. Quinoa! Kale! Amaranth! Swiss chard! Your child would be the happiest and healthiest, eating a wide variety of wholesome and trendy foods. I’m certain it goes without saying that it would all be organic, locally sourced and homemade. Never mind that you had no idea where to locate these items in the grocery store, you planned to find them and feed them to your willing and enthusiastic baby. Then, thanks to your superb early nutritional nurturing, your baby would one day graduate with an MBA from Harvard.

I know you started with vegetables, because all the books said that would help your child be more inclined to eat vegetables as they got older. I know that you have had peas, green beans, kale and carrots spit in your face more times than you can count. Baby didn’t care that it was organic or homemade. I know you even tried mixing those nutritious vegetables with applesauce so he’d become familiar with new flavors. He detected the hint of spinach and wanted nothing to do with your flagrant flavor betrayal or your tainted apple sauce. I get you.

I know you’ve read countless articles on strategies for picky eaters and attempted to implement each and every one of them. I know you offer healthy options at every meal, only to clean them off the floor and walls when your toddler throws them, taking great offense that you would even present such an abomination as edible sustenance. Despite the continued failures, you keep trying. You keep trying, because on the 106th try, he did finally taste a carrot before he threw it with disdain. I get you.

I know you’re exhausted. I know you are tired of making meals that are greeted with complaints, whining and tears. I know those tears aren’t always your toddler’s. I know that you are frustrated. Every meal is the same—you thoughtfully prepare the food, knowing your child will reject your consumable labor of love, but the glimmer of hope exists that maybe, just maybe, today will be the big breakthrough. Every meal passes without change. I get you.

I know that your eye twitches a little when your friend tells you that her child will eat spinach and lentils, chia seeds, frittata, and you stopped listening here, but the list probably included Brussels sprouts and Indian food. I know it feels like you are doing something wrong. Maybe it was because your baby’s first food was sweet potatoes and not green beans. Maybe it was because you didn’t try baby-led weaning. Maybe it was because you didn’t rock him to sleep every night. Maybe it was all the blue raspberry Icees you had when you were pregnant. I know it feels like your fault. I get you.

I know you’re embarrassed that you have to bring your toddler’s food (consisting only of cheese, crackers and blueberries) whenever you enjoy a meal elsewhere. Otherwise, he just won’t eat. Strangers and friends say, “He’ll eventually get hungry enough to eat other food.” But he doesn’t. His will is iron-clad, which reminds you that you’re worried his iron levels might be low. You’ve tried everything, and at this point, you just want to keep him alive. I get you.

I know you aren’t lazy or uneducated about health and nutrition. I know your friend didn’t create her good eater any more than you created a picky one. She got lucky, and you get to pull your hair out three times a day. I know you loathe mealtimes and trying new recipes, so I’m not judging the hot dogs or the nuggets or the cheese sandwiches. It’s food. You can only feed a willing child, and yours is less than willing. Your child is growing and seems reasonably healthy. So I raise a fist to you, Hot Dog Mom, in solidarity and non-judgment, as I preheat my oven for another batch of chicken nuggets. I get you; you’re not alone.