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Family meal time

Family meal time

September 27, 2006

Melissa asked earlier this week for photos of family meal time. She wrote about how studies have shown that families that eat togther stay together or something like that. I don’t know I was too busy carefully orchestrating my family meal time photo to read carefully.

Family Dinner

Family Day is an effort by the Center to promote family dinners as a way to reduce substance abuse among children and teens. Personally I think family dinners lead to an increase in parental substance abuse, but what do I know.

But I decided, since I had it on my brain, to answer one of the most frequently asked question that I get over on my other blog. How to deal with a picky eater.

And I also come clean about my own picky, which I prefer to call highly selective, tendencies.

I am a picky eater. There I admit it.

I have always been a picky eater. When I was a kid my mother would frequently make meals that I wouldn’t finish. She would make me sit there from dinner time until bedtime staring at the plate before she would wrap it up and put it into the refrigerator. Then it would come out for breakfast, and lunch, and dinner, and breakfast… the food cold, congealed, and still unappetizing. Imagine that. It would go on for a couple of days sometimes. It was a test of wills, a stand off in which neither of us ever won anything.

Like so much of the way I parent my own children, my views on picky eaters is colored by my childhood and the complete lack of empathy that my own mother showed towards me. From my mother I learned how not to parent.


This photo was taken at my aunt’s house. I look so sad and lonely, whcih is the way that I often felt growing up. I was four years old and what do I remember of the day? That I was not allowed to go to the playground and play with all the other children because I refused to finish my dinner. I have other photos from this day in which you can see me clearly upset, sitting in front of a HUGE heaping full plate of food. I also couldn’t have any dessert. I never want my children to have memories like that.

Anyway, go on over and read a much MUCH less depressing post about picky eaters and how I deal with them.

Posted by Chris @ 4:22 pm  

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  1. Susan says:


    That reminds me of several of my childhood holiday photos, since my dad always made a point to ruin holidays. I can’t tell you how many Christmas photos I have where my eyes are swollen from crying.

    One thing I’ve learned is that some of us who had the most challenging childhoods have learned what *not* to do with our own children, and to make their childhoods as healthy & normal as possible.

    Some good had to come out of all the crap, right?


  2. Woman with Kids says:

    My oldest son is the same way. When he was little, I shamefully admit, it became a test of wills. He was so small, needed to gain weight, etc. I quickly learned that in that battle, no one wins. I eased off, he eats what I serve when he’s hungry. Meal times became much better. And now he eats like a horse.

  3. Novaks8 says:

    I also learned a lot of what NOT to do.

    I was shuffled around and had no stability.

    I sacrifice a LOT to make sure that my kids have some.

    I remember sitting in front of a plate of liver for HOURS at the age of 10.
    My uncle finally broke.
    I was a stubborn little biatch.


  4. Liz says:

    My mother encouraged us to try everything, but never forced us to eat anything we didn’t like, since she had definite food dislikes and didn’t see why we wouldn’t, too. She’s a smart woman and a great mother. Much like you. :)

  5. Maddy says:

    Our kids have enough horrid things to remember about their childhoods, (ie: 9/11 etc.) without adding meal time horrors to the batch. I hated meat and boiled to mush vegtables as a kid and would sit and sit with my cheeks full of stuff I couldn’t swollow.

    I’m with you, don’t force the issue and if they are hungry they will eat.

  6. Heather B. says:

    Ok, I looked at the picture and then got confused because you said “when a different kid is up”, so I’m assuming that means that only one is allowed up at a time?

    Which to me is a fantastic idea. It’s what we did when I was a (gasp) girl scout camp counselor. Only one girl from the table at a time lest you want chaos to ensue.

    Or, maybe the other kid just went to blow his nose or something. Whatever.

  7. Six Monkey Jungle says:

    That is so sad. I think our mothers were sisters. I also definte my childhood by the lack of empathy.

    What I really want to know is who is the sick person who took your picture while you sobbed over your peas? When I’m looking for photogenic moments, my kids angst is rarely the cause. Ok sometimes. But rarely. Ok really what I mean is I wouldn’t take a picture of them being punished. Of course unless by punished you mean “being told no and snapping a photo of the tantrum that ensues in which subject opts to cover himself with sand at the beach rather than compose himself”. In that case, guilty as charged. You know what I mean.

  8. Jennifer says:

    I want to hug the little you in that photo. I had the same memory while being forced to read a “Little House” book. I still hate those books.

  9. Cathy C says:

    (((hugs))) to you. I read this post, tried not to cry, then served a picnic style (very) early dinner to my 2 kids in the family room. We never eat dinner there. My 2 yr old barely ate anything, but he was so happy to be eatting somewhere different.
    Sadly, my mom did the same thing to me and my sisters, but she usually broke on the second night. To this day I won’t eat steamed cauliflower, broccoli, or peas (I’m 32 yrs old, but they still make me gag).

  10. Daisy says:

    We went through a tough time in the day care biz when our “elder” employees pushed for a Clean Your Plate Club and those of us youngsters (at the time in our twenties)had more recent training and stood our ground. Ayiyiyi…the fireworks!

  11. cassandra says:

    Chris, I must say, that I love you. Not in a scary stocker way but in a very respectful way. But I need you to change your photo at the top of the web site. Whenever I log on my 3 year old freaks out about leaving shoes at the beach. We do not leave shoes at the beach. Don’t you know this? Please return said shoe to owner and end the frustration. Thank you. P.S. I will not judge your pickey eating if you don’t judge my spelling.

  12. Nicki says:

    It reminds me of a plate full of coleslaw, countless hours sitting at the table, before my mom decided to circumvent my father and throw it in the trash.

  13. melissaS says:

    Two things: I think I said, “Families That Eat Together, End Up Eating Each Other.”

    I also learned exactly what not to do by growing up with my parents. I wish, with all my heart I had only learned what *to* do.

  14. Lisa says:

    I remember my dad forcing me to eat brussles sprouts. We went to his office in the back of the house and sat on the floor. I must have blacked out because I don’t remember if I finally ate the sprouts or if he caved - obviously someone gave in because we’re not still sitting there! And there was another incident with escargot…the funny thing was, I wasn’t a picky eater! I don’t know why he battled so hard on those things! BUT, like others have said, I learned what NOT to do in those situations and therefore, don’t force my kids to eat things they have tried and genuinely don’t like.

  15. Fold My Laundry Please says:

    My mother used to do the same thing to me at meal times. I would sit there for hours listening to my family have fun watching TV or whatever until bedtime, the whole while staring at the last two bites of whatever on my plate and feeling completely miserable. Is it any wonder that I have eating issues now? I used to love when my aunt came over for dinner because she would swoop past my plate with a napkin when my mom wasn’t looking and my food would conveniently disappear! Thanks Aunt Joyce! I wish my mother would’ve had the opportunity (or the desire for that matter) to take one of those parenting classes that talks about how children will not starve themselves to death if there is food present so it’s not entirely necessary to make them clean their plates.

  16. eko says:

    I never force my kids to eat, only ask them to try. It is usually a battle of the wills between DH and I, as he who would rather they eat everything - he is getting better.

    I had to wonder, too - who would have taken the picture of you? Though I took lots of pictures the other day and my 10yo asked me to stop, and I took one more and his face, oh his face clearly showed I had taken one too many. I learned (again) to listen… :-(

  17. Brigitte says:

    I’m glad, NOT that you had to go through that terrible childhood, but that it made you determined to raise your children in the opposite way.

    On the lighter side, I think I had the pants that matched that dress!

  18. nabbalicious says:

    Ugh. I go to Weight Watchers, and most of the women there were forced to clean their plates as children, including me. My parents and I would have some epic battles when I was little! And then I stopped having a “clean your plate” problem and got a weight problem instead. Fun.

  19. onetallmomma says:

    Your mother and my father are cut from the same bolt of cloth. “Cold for breakfast” was commonplace at my house.

    And if I could just get my kids to stop eating I would be a millionaire!

  20. Jennifer says:

    My mom was scarred for life by her mom forcing her to eat foods she hated (liver and meatloaf are the big ones I know about), or go hungry. She got the “there are starving children in Africa who would love to have that food…” speech all the time.

    Thankfully, because of that, my mom tolerated my own extreme pickiness pretty well. She was understandably frustrated when I would refuse food she’d made, but she always let me have a bowl of Graham crackers or Captain Crunch for dinner instead. I’m very thankful for that. I don’t think being forced to eat things you don’t want can do anyone any good.

  21. Robbin says:

    Having a parent for a picky eater is a good thing. Here I am the picky one and my husband not so much. They get to try the “foods” he likes and if they don’t like it, I can empathize. You do look so sad in your picture! I was so struck with how some of your children look so much like you as a child.

  22. Darren McLikeshimself says:

    I bet if they had been serving that chip dip you would have eaten it! Mm, mm, MM! That’s some good eats!

  23. maria says:

    “Personally I think family dinners lead to an increase in parental substance abuse, but what do I know.”

    Perfect, perfect, perfect;) There’s a reason to serve wine with dinner - b/c there’s so much WHINE

    My kids know they have to try everything but I will ultimately let them have PBJ or left over mac & cheese, etc if they really don’t like it

  24. Teri says:

    This brings back memories of my sister and me sitting at the kitchen table at 9:00 at night with bowls of Dad’s homemade vegetable soup in front of us. We despised it! We finally got smart and would dump it back in the pot when noone was looking!

  25. Mama T. says:

    We have the exact same IKEA kitchen table! Love that thing, but just a hint, battery acid leaves a mark that won’t go away. :(

    I posted on the other site about the eating battles we have with the 9 year old. On the other hand, my 14 1/2 month old will eat most anything. Although, she’s getting good at pulling veggie she doesn’t like out of her mouth even when I try to disguise them in something else. And then she’ll put the something else back in her mouth, so it’s not a complete lost cause.

  26. Robyn says:

    In our house we always sit and eat together, both my husband and I were raised that way as children and we have continued that. It is nice to be together at the end of the day and connect, we also have alot of funny “famous dinners that didn’t turn out the way they were intended” stories that we love to retell. My beef stroganoff is at the top of the list. I don’t know what happened that night, but even the dog wouldn’t eat it! Then there’s the fuel burgers….. let’s just say that you should squirt the starter fluid on the briquets before the food is on there…..

    Your blog story about being forced to eat everything on your plate is so sad, I can’t imagine a parent doing that, and you know having an eating disorder because of it. I’m not surprised when I hear in one of the comments that some overweight people were forced to eat everything on their plate as kids.

  27. Mary Tsao says:

    I never force my kids to eat. It’s up to them, and I actually think kids are smarter than adults when it comes to eating.

    You are a tiny little thing. Even back then you knew when you were all done!

  28. Kris says:

    How sad, Chris. I’m sorry you experienced that. Thanks for the reminder to always consider the kids’ perspectives and feelings.

  29. Anne Glamore says:

    My parents did that. Ugh.
    But on the YUM side, love the color of your kitchen. What is it??

  30. Renée says:

    That is really sad. :(

  31. Erika says:

    aw girl thats the worst. Im sorry you had to endure endless food torture. I too don’t force the issue with my kids. They eat till they’re full. Thankfully lily will eat just about anything. So if she doesnt want it, we know she really doesnt like it. Your such an inspirational parent.

  32. Kristi from Small Things says:

    Well, you did a great just with the “orchestrating!” The first thing I thought was, “what a great picture! what a beautiful place to eat! I should take a picture! Oh, wait, first I’d have to scrub the messy table, sweep the gunky floor, paint the window moldings . . .”

  33. Belinda says:

    Snap! Had the same mother I think. I used to hide food up my sleeve, in my socks and my poor darling sister would eat my food for me.

    There was no joy about food.

    In this house food is to be enjoyed, not used
    as an instrument of torture.

    I also have a sad picture like that, brings tears to my eyes to look at it.

  34. Tania says:

    That photo of you makes my heart ache.

  35. jessica says:

    You ROCK!!!!!!!!