The Battle of the Tomatoes

There are people who wax poetically about the beauty of gathering their clan and sitting together at a table, enjoying the bounty of the earth.

And there are people who admit that it, mostly, sucks to sit down and eat dinner with children under the age of ten. As my friend Steph admitted: ‘it’s not fun…at all.’

Which pretty much sums up how I feel about dinner time these days.

The Gort is going through a phase where he announces his intense dislike of absolutely any meal I’ve prepared: before he’s even taken a bite.

If I serve him cheese and crackers, he will not utter a word of complaint. Ditto for hummus and pita bread. Or salmon and potatoes. But pretty much anything else will be met with: ‘I don’t like that’ or ‘I’ll try it, and if I don’t like it, I’ll tell you.’


To his credit, I can almost always convince him to eat three bites of whatever ‘disgusting’ food I’ve set on his plate. Which is fine by me. As long as he tries the food I feel a modicum of success.

I cannot give the same credit to my Hen.

He’s picked up on his brother’s new habit, so everything I set before him is immediately pushed aside with an ‘I don like dis!’ The only time he doesn’t make this comment is if it’s a muffin or cake or candy.

Otherwise it’s huff and puff and push the plate away.

To make matters worse, he won’t try the food at all. Nine times out of ten, when he does take a bite of a particular food, he realizes  that it doesn’t taste quite as awful as he imagined and eats a few more.

But it’s nearly impossible to get him to take a bite.

Which means instead of life-affirming dialogue, I basically have steam coming out of my ears most meals. With a side of bad attitude.

At the beginning of last week, I tried using a bath as bribe. ‘If you don’t eat a bite, you can’t have a bath.’ Because the kid loves to take a bath. It didn’t work at all. He ended up howling in his crib  about wanting to take a bath, resolute in his refusal to even sniff the food, much less taste it.

And then we got to Sunday. I’d made stuffed shells with tomato sauce. I hadn’t even pulled the pan from the oven and both boys had already told me they didn’t like it. Seeing the food on the table didn’t improve their opinion, either.

But the Gort ate his portion and patiently stayed at the table. The Hen refused to try it. ‘Take one bite,’ I ordered-pleaded. He shook his head and barked ‘no’. And then his dad decided to take it one step further.

He buckled the kid in his booster seat and said: ‘you’re not getting out until you take a bite.’

A move that might work on most kids. But I’m quite confident that the Hen is the most stubborn child on the planet. I mean, he has gone to bed without any food whatsoever more nights than I can count. Simply because he refused to even try whatever was in front of him.

So we sat. And we waited. And the Hen refused to budge. Finally I scooped up some of the sauce and told him it was tomato soup. Because he does actually like tomato soup. (And cake and muffins and candy.)

And then he opened his mouth.

‘Dis yummy’ he pronounced.

And he polished off a shell. And another. And would have eaten a third if his brother hadn’t announced a movie showing in the basement.

One meal down. Five thousand to go.

12 thoughts on “The Battle of the Tomatoes

  1. I never really understood why children refuse to eat. Is it because they’re naturally stubborn? Shouldn’t nature have given kids an instinctive hunger because of their increased energy needs?

  2. I have horrible memories of me having to sit at the table until I finished my plate. I still, to this day, refuse to eat stuffed peppers because my mom would not let me get up until I did. I was in middle school when that happened. I love bell peppers raw, but the idea of eating them with something that was stuffed in them (can’t remember what it was)…ugh. It didn’t look appetizing and I was a very picky eater. I don’t consider myself very picky anymore but I remember going to bed hungry many nights when I was younger. I’m proof that they grow out of it, even if it’s after they move out! At least you stick to your guns and don’t get up and fix something else, cause that would be a habit that you would never want to start…. WAY TO GO!!!

  3. Avery does that all of the time. You at least haven’t given up and are content to let them eat earlier (and you’re probably a better planner) a kid-friendly meal. I”ll sit down with my food later and she’ll give a huge YUCK!! complete with grossed out face and a pretend little gag thrown in for good measure. “I’m not asking you to eat it, so unless I ask you what you think of it, shut your pie hole!!!” I usually leave the last part off, and then go complain on facebook. That particular night was after a loud day, they just were loud and messing with each other and complaining and screaming and __________. Ugh. Well, time for breakfast. Here’s to more fun!

  4. My daughter just proclaimed to not want to have the apple pancakes I made because she doesn’t like them and “Mommy do you have any plan ones?”

    I have some pancakes you can eat Abby.

    3 APPLE pancakes later she declared herself full and the PLAIN pancakes were really yummy mommy.

  5. Woody Allen told Terry Gross, “I mostly ate alone. I enjoyed the solitude and my mother preferred the company of her friends.”

  6. My mom has a friend who, if her kids didn’t eat what was put in front of them, would give them that same plate of food at every meal until they ate it. Another woman at the Gort’s school told me she started feeding her suddenly picky daughter rice. For breakfast, lunch and dinner. Until she got over her picky-ness. Sheesh, I just want my kids to try a couple of bites. Solitary dining sounds like a peaceful alternative. But Woody…..he’s a little odd… maybe not.

  7. Yeah, Woody spent the rest of the interview saying things you wouldn’t want your boys growing up saying. His whole life is hard and pointless so take what pleasure you can bit.

  8. I think the moral here is clear: if you want to reduce risk of raising the next Woody Allen, keep up the good fight, eat with your kids.

    1. Yes – what a great memory you have. Though I will say, I’ve upgraded them slightly as my culinary skills have progressed. Does that mean snowballs aren’t as good as we once thought?


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