For the second time in recent memory, Carla woke up at 4:00 am last night and crawled into bed with me and my husband. She did not fall back to sleep, but stroked my back and hair in a nice but un-restful way until I finally scooped her up and put her back into her room. The whole time I was tucking her in, she was sobbing about how hungry she was.
And I wasn’t surprised! She barely ate anything for dinner last night. The other time she woke up in the middle of the night, hungry, she’d eaten nothing – literally not a single bite – of food. That time, I’d carried her down into the kitchen, refusing to turn on the lights, and plied her with a yogurt pouch and an applesauce pouch and then put her back to bed.
I am trying to be very zen about the eating thing. I tell myself that Carla eats a good breakfast and a good lunch (according to her teachers), so if she picks at dinner, it’s not a huge deal.
But it’s getting more difficult to feel okay about that plan, especially if her empty stomach is waking her up in the wee hours.
To add to the trouble, my normal “she’ll almost always eat this” go-to foods aren’t working that well anymore.
We typically cook a separate dinner for Carla. This was long a function of timing – she and I would arrive home at six, and I couldn’t get a proper dinner on the table quickly enough to stem the post-school crankiness and hunger. But it’s also a function of Carla’s out-and-out rejection of 90% of the foods my husband and I enjoy.
I have long been a picky eater – even the idea of certain textures and tastes turn my stomach – so I have a hard time forcing Carla to eat things she isn’t interested in. We’ve been trying to encourage tasting – one taste, and if you don’t like it, fine. But most of the time, she won’t even try something new. Won’t even LICK it. So I do plenty of offering – asparagus, zucchini, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, chicken, steak, hamburger, pork – but rarely get any interest. Sometimes I will put these things on her plate – especially if my husband and/or I are eating with her at the same time, so she can see us eating and enjoying them – but they inevitably go uneaten. Or worse, pushed off the plate onto the table or the floor. (We are working on that. Drives me batty.) And I HATE wasting food.
She also shares my dislike of foods mixed together – albeit to an extreme degree. (She will eat tacos, but only if they are deconstructed: meat in one pile, shell in another, tomatoes in another, sour cream somewhere else.) So chili and spaghetti with meat sauce and lasagna and soup and ravioli and casseroles etc. etc. are pretty much out.
So I fall back on these stand-bys:
- Fish sticks
- Chicken nuggets
- Peanut butter and jelly
- Taco meat
- Any and all chips of any kind
On rare occasions, she will gobble up a piece of salmon or a bowl of chickpea curry. Some days, she will gulp down a bowl of green beans or broccoli. Noodles and rice are usually a good bet (although macaroni and cheese has been ignored a lot recently). She sometimes eats corn. She usually eats pickles (but never cucumbers – I get it; I’m the same) and sometimes baby carrots. She’s never met a berry she won’t eat by the truckload, and eats lots of other fruits – although she goes through phases with bananas, sometimes eating two a day, other times eating a bite and then maddeningly throwing the entire rest of it into the garbage before I can stop her. Cheese is a mystery – I can never tell when she’ll eat it or not; the same extends to grilled cheese sandwiches. She seems to eat hot dogs if I send them in her lunch, but won’t touch them at home. She used to LOVE yams, but hasn’t given them a second glance lately.
Driven by a desire to instill some sort of “well-rounded” eating habits, I offer her protein and veggies for every meal. (I don’t know how “breaded meats” fit into “well-rounded eating,” but we take what we can get.)
Now, though, Carla claims she is bored with these foods. And who can blame her! But I have, it turns out, no imagination when it comes to kid-friendly dinners. And I just don’t know if moving to a full-on “we all eat the same meal” will… work.
I’ve tried to google “kid-friendly foods” and have even looked on pinterest, but the number of options so overwhelms me that I find myself right back where I started, offering fish sticks that she used to devour but that now languish coldly on her plate.
My kind mother tells me, when I fret to her, that my cousin ate only noodles and butter for years and he turned out okay. So I know – I KNOW – it wouldn’t be the end of the world if she ate only peanut butter sandwiches for the rest of her childhood, but man. I don’t know if I have the stomach for it.