The food is not the point

I started reading the picky-eater book with a very defensive attitude. It had been recommended, and I felt ready to maybe tackle this thing again, but I didn’t want to. At every page turn I saw obstacles and roadblocks, reasons why I couldn’t do this, why it would never work for us. My inner monologue went something like this:

– But we can’t do that. He won’t even sit at the table.

– I don’t want to feed everyone together. I can’t get all that food ready at the same time.

– Think of the washing-up! All those serving plates! And we can’t fit all the food on the table in dishes as well as each person’s plate. We’d have to eat in the other room, where the table is covered in homework and filing, and where you have to walk a mile around the counter to bring everything there.

– How can I get us to sit down together? B comes home at 6 and the kids are yelling for dinner from about 4:30 on.

– This will never work. I don’t even see why I would want it to. What’s so great about sitting at the table? Sure, there are studies that say families that eat together every night have kids who are better behaved, more academically successful, more wonderful in every way… but my kids are pretty good already. Kinda. Why would I give myself all these headaches just to be “good”?

/Heaves giant sigh of put-upon-ness./

On the other hand, I have been starting to feel lately that, well, sometimes living here is like sharing a flat with short ungrateful people who never do their share of the cleaning up. What’s the point, really? When do we get to be a family, if we’re just the people who live in the same house as them and bring them to the places they need to be?

And I’m really sick of people announcing that they’re hungry, again, right when it’s bedtime or time to start their homework, or just when I’ve put away everything from dinner. All the separate dinners.

So maybe – just maybe – something wasn’t working so well after all. Maybe it was worth trying to make a change.

As I said yesterday, I really liked the fact that the authors said you can start a bit at a time. Going all-out with a totally new way of doing things is great sometimes, but I feel like that would be doomed to failure, for us. But small steps, when it’s easy-ish; I can maybe do that.

And the more I read the more I understood that what I’ve to aim for isn’t for Dash to be an adventurous eater. It’s not even, necessarily, for him to branch out much. It’s for us to all sit around the table and have a pleasant time. At the moment, that’s a big enough end-game to hope for, and also makes it seem a little more possible that this isn’t all a wild flight of fancy. Eating at the table is a social skill that both my kids lack right now, much as I pretend they don’t – and maybe it’s within my power to change that.

So I started out very small. I’d noticed that when Mabel goes to her friend’s house after school they have a snack at the table. I asked her how she’d feel about doing that at home. I figured if she was on board that would be a start, and maybe Dash would join in if there was no cooked food in the room with us at the time. She said it would be okay, she supposed. She sounded a little bit, secretly, happy about the prospect, even.

We had a snack at the table, served family style, sort of, as much as you can with apple slices and pretzels. Just me and her, and her brother for half a second before he flitted off. Since then we’ve had dinner at the table twice, the girl and her two parents and no brother, and snack at the table a couple more times. Dash says he can’t eat a sandwich at the table. It feels too weird. He runs away from french toast. He’s like a skittish kitten around humans for the first time. Maybe we’ll try pancakes over the weekend, because he likes those. (Not waffles. Won’t touch a waffle even though he knows the batter is practically identical.)

But the thing is, I think I get it. Mabel really likes it. I like it. It’s nice sitting at the dinner table having a conversation. It’s nice having Mabel there. It would be fun to have Dash there too, because he’s entertaining company. The food is not the point. I’m starting to understand.


8 thoughts on “The food is not the point

  1. Tric Kearney

    I think if you grow to love that time and enjoy it socially it will become a thing. Even if dash never gets it Mabel will. I’m actually really hopeful you’ll grow to enjoy it as much as I do.
    It’s one thing we ve always done (and I had one out of 4 who was a mega picky eater so it certainly is no cure) and personally it’s one of my favourite parts of every day despite my dislike for cooking.
    Btw they don’t all eat the same food but for me it’s not about food.
    Good luck.

    1. Maud Post author

      Thanks, Tric. I know I’ve been here before, and you’ve said that before, and here I am again reinventing the wheel, but if I keep trying maybe one day it’ll stick.

  2. Jill

    I really like hearing your honest reaction to this book; I tend to err on the defensive and ‘there’s no point’ attitude if it feels like something is too hard. But it’s great that the book emphasises you don’t have to do it all or nothing, because you don’t want to be scolded by a book that’s purporting to help you.

    It’s not about the food, but hopefully there might be some food related side effects. Best of luck.

    1. Maud Post author

      It’s not a scolding book at all. Mostly it makes me feel like our problems aren’t so terrible in the grand scheme of things.

  3. Angela O'Donovan

    I love this thread and you express it all very well. You are so right about the pleasure of eating together at the table not being about the food – it’s about the people and the bonding, the break from whatever, to sit around, turn towards each other for a real feel good experience. Good Luck!

  4. Rosemarie Mullin

    Following with bated breath, thanks for sharing your progress. All our meals are served family style and 2 of our 3 participate with gusto- best moments of the day. Kills me that my super smeller hyper sensitive youngest cannot abide it but little steps. Really hoping this works for you and thanks for inspiring me to keep trying.


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