Tales from the Crib

Mealtimes are turning into a frenzied food fight in Emma Milner’s kitchen and she seems to be the main target

What is it with toddlers and food? One minute they’re stuffing it down and the next they’re turning their noses up at it.

Sam has always been a good eater. Until now. When I first started to wean him, he ate everything. Peas, carrots, lentils, risotto. You name it, he ate it. And weaning was so exciting. I looked forward to it so much. I counted down the days and when he got teeth at five-and-a-half months I was thrilled! I started him there and then with a tiny spoonful of baby rice that went down a treat.

I bought all the weaning books, got the pots, filled ice cube trays full of perfect-size portions and froze the smallest amounts of food to fill his tiny tum. I watched in pure delight as Sam, with an open mind and an open mouth, happily filled his face.

I did not watch with delight, however, as my 22-month-old spat out his food when we went out for lunch the other day.

He spotted something more appealing than the bread basket he was previously fond of and his first response was not to swallow what was in his mouth. Oh no. It was to brace himself with both hands on the side of the table, lean over, open his mouth and just let the food fall out. It. Was. Horrible.

Mealtimes have gone from having it all, to literally nothing. Some nights I wonder how he can sleep as he must be starving and in desperation I give him warm Weetabix just so he has something in his belly.

Nowadays, even the basics like peas are off the menu as Sam thinks it is hilarious to flick them at me. The first time he did it I laughed (schoolgirl error). So now that’s it. No more peas. In fact, no more round foods.

And pasta, which he once loved, gets spat out with force, and carefully prepared stew, Bolognese sauce and home-made burgers go everywhere but in his mouth. Even a simple plate of fish fingers, mashed potato and broccoli is pushed to one side, unless it’s from Ikea. Ikea’s fish fingers and chips are Sam’s new best friend. But rice cakes get crushed or dropped into drinks and bread sticks or other similar snacks get broken up into tiny pieces and flung on the floor. Last week Sam left a trail of bread from our home to the mall, Hansel and Gretel style. I think he was worried I might get lost and stray into a clothes shop.

Out of desperation for him to eat something I bought him a treat – a Swiss roll (a favourite of mine as a child). But Sam was having none of it. He simply unrolled it, tasted the cream, sneered and squashed what was left in his hands. If I don’t have treats as a bargaining tool, I have nothing.

We have even bought him a set of plastic food and cooking pots to play with. He munches happily on plastic pizza and avocado, but give him the real thing and he looks at me like I am trying to poison him.

The most worrying thing about Sam’s sudden aversion to food is what effect it is going to have when I start weaning Joe. What sort of eating hang ups will Joe develop when he’s trying to savour the taste of Brussels sprout puree and instead gets an eyeful of lamb casserole or a handful of mashed potato rubbed into his hair?

I can’t even envisage what clean up time will be like.

I have heard time and time again that it is just a phase and he will get through it, so I will sit back and see. The more neurotic I get, the worse he will get. The more I laugh, the more peas will ping past my face.

It would be easy at this point to believe that I have failed with Sam and food. That Joe now is my only hope. But I am sure one day Sam will find somewhere deep down, the desire to eat proper home-cooked food again.

Until then, Ikea here we come.

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