Mealtime Battles

Lottie Manns

Hope you lovely folks have been enjoying food week and have gained a few useful bits of info to help you navigate the trials and tribulations of dinnertime. If however, you are still tearing your hair out at attempting to get your kids to eat anything other than party rings (that will be me) then here is a bit of light reading about mealtime battles from Rachel at Staying Sane As A Mummy Of Three to make you laugh. Maybe grab yourself a cuppa and an aforementioned party ring or two.

I love being a mummy. Genuinely love it with all my heart! There is not a day that goes by where I don’t have a little sentimental moment where I look at the three of them and think ‘chuffing hell, we made those!’ and well up with a mixture of bone crushing levels of love and pride. However, parenting also comes with some considerably less joyous bits, which can be quite frankly, a bit sucky!! Here is the first in a series of blogs on my least favourite bits of this crazy journey we call parenthood!

1. Food wastage and meal times in general!

If, like me you were raised in the 1980’s, there’s a strong possibility that you were forced to sit at your dining room table (probably surrounded by dado rails and peach floral fabrics) for hours on end until you’d eaten every last morsel of your spaghetti bolognaise. The reason given for this torture was because ‘there were children starving in the world!’

God I hated those hungry kids! They were bloody welcome to the last half of my pork chop- I’d happily have parceled it up and sent it over! But now I totally get it… I hate wasting food! And I realised I’d reached the pinnacle of being a mum when I angrily grumbled at my kids the other day that there were kids starving in the world as I scraped their untouched shepherds pie into the bin.

If you have never cooked for small children, the process goes something like this.


1. Declare that today is the day that we are going eat properly with actual fruit and vegetables and nothing that comes out of the freezer with a picture of a questionable but distinguished looking Sea Admiral on the front, a peppa pig motif on the can or a beige tinge to it!


2. Go to the shop, brave 46 tantrums over how many kinder eggs one child needs, buy aforementioned kinder eggs along with some hearty nutritious goodness and ponder why you never have any money while the kids paw over £45 worth of crap magazines and litter your car with plastic rubbish!


3. Spend an afternoon attempting to prepare said vegetables and hearty nutritious goodness while holding a baby on the hip and attempting to play ‘mummies and daddies’ at the same time (see blog on abhorrence of make believe games- Role Play? I’d rather not!)


4. Put nutritious hearty meal in the oven. Prepare to answer the question ‘is it ready yet?’ at least every 3 and a half minutes whilst reminding them that they are in fact ‘not starving’ and telling them that no ‘they cannot have another bloody kinder egg!’


5. Serve food up. Take care not to miss out the very important pre-stage of ascertaining exactly what colour/design plate they would like their food served on. Inevitably, you will put the food on the wrong plate, despite clarifying 48 times which plate met their exacting standards and will end up decanting food onto less offensive tableware a minimum of twice!


6. Call children to the table. They will arrive on the 65,874th time of being called. Be sure to ratchet up the pitch and volume of your call each time till you reach the point that only dogs can hear you.


7. Try hard not to swear when the children tell you that they do not in fact like carrots, sweetcorn, broccoli, chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy or the plates you’ve put it on. Yes they know they liked them yesterday but today they are horrified by the very existence of a chicken dinner and mortally offended that you would even consider putting such ‘horrible yucky poo poo dinner’ on a plate in front of them.


8. Spend an hour, negotiating, begging, pleading, bribing, blackmailing, threatening and deal making. By the end of this time, one of them will have eaten three kernels of sweetcorn. This is a monumental victory.


9. Rant hysterically about how long it’s taken you to prepare this meal and that there are ‘children starving in the world!’


10. Show where in the world said children live on the globe… Yes you’re cross but an educational opportunity is still valid!


11. Tell them that there is absolutely nothing else to eat in your most stern mummy voice! If they don’t eat the hearty chicken dinner goodness you’ve spent hours preparing, cooking and putting in front of them, they can’t be hungry and/or want anything else to eat! List the things that they will be missing out on as a pudding option!


12. Remember that if they go to bed without eating any tea, they will wake up at 4 am and demand rice krispies.


13. Cave on all parenting principles and warm up peppa pig pasta in the microwave while topping them up with kinder eggs!


14. Take plates and slide food directly into the bin. If you have a dog, they come in handy at this point and are generally a lot less fussy than small children.


15. Open wine.

Repeat this process every day for the next ten years.

If you want to avoid stages 1-14, I’d strongly suggest preparing a meal of fish fingers, smiley faces and sweetcorn or baked beans (as a token gesture so that you can gloat that they’ve had one of their five a day!) Sausages can be used to substitute the fish fingers but this may cause angry outbursts if the moon is in a certain phase, it’s a leap year, the sausages are served on the wrong colour plate or there is a ‘y’ in the day of the week. The only guarantee of a meal constituting no food waste is to either feed them every meal from a box which comes with a small toy and a happy clown on the outside (warning- may cause childhood obesity!) or to get them to eat every meal at nursery where they generally eat every morsel of food put in front of them and have seconds of the very meal that they declared only the night before was ‘poo poo yucky yuck!’ at home!

Oh and for the record- yes I did baby led weaning, yes they ate absolutely anything when they were babies and no it didn’t make a jot of chuffing difference!

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Lottie loves teaching her girls to be cake baking and crafting supremos. It may be messy but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
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23 Comments. Leave new

😂😂😂 Just so spot on Rachel! I remember when my BLW’d infant merrily demolished a near adult-sized portion of a homemade monkfish Thai curry – mange tout and all – and thinking “wow I’ve NAILED this!”. Pahahaha! Ha ha. Ha. Fast forward 1.5 years and the other day Phil and I were quietly high-fiving when she ate a fish finger, surreptitiously giving each other the “did you SEE that?!” look like it was some kind of incredible victory. Which it kind of was as her diet is…. limited… at best these days.

And the cutlery particularity. Give me STRENGTH. I try not to indulge it but god forbid I expect The Toddler to dine with the incorrect combination of Nanny/dolly/flower/monkey/Minnie spoon or fork, a preference which changes hourly.

I really try to follow steps 1-3 but 9/10 times it results in steps 7-8. Why do we do it to ourselves?? I feel the same way about Mums who cheerily, dismissively comment “oh yes he eats EVERYTHING!” as those who’ve spent every night since 2013 continually awake feel about people who merrily declare their child is a great sleeper (sorry, guilty of the latter). I’m envious, incredulous and desperate to know what they’re doing that I’m not.

I like to think that we all get our fair share of highs and lows and it all balances out fairly, getting food into Fern has been our cross to bear since the early days of reflux hell, yet she’s an amazing sleeper. If we got to choose the challenges the day they were conceived, I know I’d have gone for “crap eater” over “terrible sleeper” optimistically thinking “how hard could it be?” We’ll it’s hard. REALLY hard, but at least I face every flung plate and flat refusal to even taste something – that was heartily guzzled last week – on a decent 7 hours solid sleep. Those with crap eaters who don’t sleep either? Ah man I feel for you. I hope you have one of those (mythical?) children who happily plays independently for hours or similar win.

I prey to a god I don’t believe in that this can’t last forever surely? One day she’ll enjoy a broad spectrum of nourishing foods? In the meantime I’ll continue to oscillate between steadfast insistence and defeated acquiescence – inconsistency which I know is only adding to the problem but parenthood is EXHAUSTING and it’s the best I’ve got.

Great contributor, RMF, looking forward to hearing more from Rachel!!

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Ah thanks for those lovely comments! Yes we also went through a cutlery phase- Esme insisted she needed ‘the special spoon that nana bought her’ with every meal (it was actually a freebies sellotaped to a pack of petit filous!) but it’s been replaced with plates and bowls that they basically fight to the death over at every meal time!! X

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Lol. Your reply made my morning. At the moment, I have a toddler who won’t eat but sleeps and a baby who eats but wakes at 5…EVERY.MORNING. I’d like one of them to turn into that mythical creature that does both…Is that too much to ask?

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I definitely think you’re right on the highs and lows. My 3 year old daughter is the one that pushes me to the brink of insanity and back hourly- for months ‘the thing’ that caused us masses of stress was getting dressed! Getting her in an outfit that was weather appropriate and that vaguely coordinated was an absolute nightmare! The other day I noticed we’d had a couple of mornings where it had been much easier but mealtimes had ratched up 12 notches on the challenge scale! It’s like a ying yang balance!! There’s a blog on my site called ‘dressing doodle’ which goes into more detail on her infuriating clothing choices and my most recent one ‘wetting the babies head’ is all about highs and lows and how we can’t be thankful for all aspects of parenting because some are rubbish!!!

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Oh…I’m going to have to go look for it. Dressing is mental with the toddler too! She will only wear 5 dresses on rotation. The washing machine is constantly on the go and ..freaks out when her tights have a wrinkle :) They are nuts!

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It’s infuriating isn’t it! We have 3 dresses on rotation at the moment- one that is lovely but got caught in the tumbler so is tatty and torn on the sleeve and then two horrible cheap things that I bought as an emergency in a supermarket when she’d spilt something in the cafe! One is striped and she looks like a tube of refreshers! And they are a size too small so they are a nightmare to get on and off! 😡 Oh and on the rare occasion I can get her to put something on her legs- we have the same issue with tights!! X

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My granddaughter (the aforementioned Doodle) could have her dress problems sorted if she could wear sparkly clothing 24 hours a day, including footwear! I’m talking enough sequins to blind someone if caught in car headlights. 7 identical dresses, trousers, tops and shoes would sort it and you’d know who was coming from 100 yards away!

I was a monumentally fussy eater as a child- terrible. If it wasn’t beige I wasn’t in. And I promise you it wasn’t a power play- it was a deep reflex. Apparently a friend’s mum once tried to force me to eat salad tomatoes and I threw up everywhere and was a total tear stained mess when my Mum arrived- I can’t imagine how she didn’t lose it- she’s still angry and I would be livid if someone did that to my child. I still can’t eat some things- like raw tomatoes, or bananas- they make me retch to this day. The smell, the texture, ugh.

But there’s hope- I’m so much better and eat a wide range of things now.

And I never put pressure on S to eat. It’s up to her to eat what’s put in front of her or not, but I’m not pushing her and she’s not having anything else either. I never ever want mealtime battles like we had.

Hope that doesn’t sound sanctimonious! I truly believe (like labour, sleep, everything…) it’s pure luck. And people claiming luck as virtue is the worst!

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Rachel thornhill
11th May 2017 12:20 pm

Yes I totally get this. I’m definitely a lot less stressed about it 3rd time round- as a new parent I worried that not eating a meal would lead to them wasting away! I do think part of it with my middle one in particular is that she gets bored and can’t be bothered to sit and eat! My new phrase is ‘you don’t have to eat it’ but I then try to stick to my principle of there not being anything else as an option. This seems to distinguish between ‘genuinely not hungry’ and ‘being a bit fussy/can’t be bothered!’ We keep trying new things but I always make sure there’s something on the plate that they like as a back up e.g mashed potato!! My oldest son has just turned 5 and he seems to be coming out the other side and being a bit more adventurous so there is hope!

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LOVE THIS. Very much my feeding experience so far. Often my two-year old will raise a chubby index finger to me, look sternly and say: ‘no, Mummy, don’t WANT it.’.

My husband’s mum went so far as to have pictures of said starving children ON THE FRIDGE. Scarred for life.

My sister once managed to get a wee break during spag bol dinner once, managed to secrete some dinner into kitchen roll, took it upstairs and threw it out of her window. Later that evening my Mum went to the shop, past her window and came back to query why the tree directly below the window was now growing spaghetti. God loves a trier, but not my sister’s sharpest move.

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Laughing a lot about the pictures on the fridge!!! I hated meat as a child and remember sneaking a bit of lamb into a pot plant wrapped in toilet roll! Maybe out of the window was the way forward!!

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Haha. This is very funny. And totally spot on! My two year old is basically a berk at mealtimes. She is so hit and miss it’s like a rollercoaster. Yesterday, she refused the lunch I made for her and because she is a little bit under the weather and I am a pushover, she dined on yoghurt and crisps instead. But in the evening, she ate a massive portion of homemade bolognaise and a side of veg! We’re just entering the stage of Juliet exerting her will in every situation and it is growing tiresome already..

Anyone else think they tell tales at nursery regarding food consumption, just to justify the £40 a day price tag??

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Yes totally!!! Seriously “Boston Bean Hotpot” is apparently always all eaten. By the girl who even disregards green pasta in case in might bear some relation to a vegetable.
Love this article!

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Oh my word we are totally going through a party ring phase! My daughter is obsessed and I have to keep her company! We’re going through multiple packets a week- I just can’t understand why the baby weight is not just melting away this time round!?

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Thanks for the lovely comments! Oh and we are totally going through a party ring phase! My daughter is obsessed and I have to keep her company! We’re going through multiple packets a week- just can’t understand why the baby weight isn’t melting off this time round!?!

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Hahaha, this (and all the comments!) really made me laugh!! I too was so smug that my weaning child ate everything, oh how naive… I swear nursery makes it up, surely toddlers don’t reserve all meal hatred for home?! We had tomato sauce on the ceiling a few weeks ago, and all over me. Let’s just say I left the room to have a small sob while my lovely husband started clearing up the mess. Not my finest moment. But what are we actually supposed to do when a meal is refused? Are you supposed to feed them pudding (i.e. yogurt or fruit, not an armful of party rings :) ) or deny them all future food until the next allocated snack/mealtime? I’ve read so many conflicting things, we offer pudding but then I wonder if I’m rewarding the meal refusal?! Aargh!

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Rachel thornhill
11th May 2017 2:59 pm

i usually offer something else! I know this probably sends mixed messages but ultimately you don’t want your kids to be hungry or unhappy so caving in feels like the right ‘wrong’ thing to do! My daughter is a real grazer and often comes back to a meal that she declared hatred for an hour later and finishes some more off! I’ve learnt not to give it to the dog until she’s gone to bed (after many tantrums that Stanley ate her refused dinner!!) ultimately I think it’s a phase that we have to weather- I don’t know many adults who exist purely on a diet of party rings (even I throw pizza and wine in for balance!) or fish fingers! Just take the victories when they happen and take sanctity in the fact we are not alone perhaps?!

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Oh goodness how this made me laugh.

Thank you for brightening up my afternoon !

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I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. This is my three year old twins. If it’s not bread based or beige they will not touch it. I try to put variety/vegetables on their plates but before the plate has even touched the table it’s “don’t want that” and they pick it off. Again, they ate brilliantly as babies but reassuringly (kind of) they also eat terribly at nursery so it’s not just for me. You actually missed a stage of arguing over which table they want to eat at (the family table or their little red one), which room they want their table in, and how they want to be sat at said table. Add to this the fact I have a 10 week old as well…oh and don’t get me started on the potty training fails that are ongoing!!!!!

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Rachel thornhill
11th May 2017 7:00 pm

Woah Hayley you’re hard core!! 3 three and under?!? Three under 5 has me rocking in a corner!! We have a breakfast bar in the kitchen- my big two argue over which of the two (completely identical) stools they are going to sit on at every meal!!! If we sit down at the family table then the most complicated seating plan in the world ensues where we have to try to plan exactly who sits where according to the strict criteria in each of their heads which are usually completely different and incompatible with each other’s! Heaven help me when baby Ted gets an opinion too!! Hearing all these responses is starting to make me think we may be more normal than I thought!! 😂

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🤦‍♀️ The stills will not be identical, the kids will be aware of some microscopic difference in their atomic particles or something. If there’s a difference, they’ll know it.

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What an excellent post, Rachel! It’s written so eloquently and funnily, I really enjoyed reading it! Oh and am dreading that part of parenthood!

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Rachel thornhill
12th May 2017 9:20 pm

Thanks Anja that’s so kind. I get lots of comments about the humour in my posts but I have to pass on the credit and say I’m blessed with very entertaining and amusing children who give me lots to write about! My 5 year old son asked me earlier if Poland was where polar bears come from?! They crack me up (when they are not actually sending me crackers!!) x

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