Meal Time Torture: Feeding a Fussy Toddler

I often tell Owen that I love him just the way he is, that I wouldn’t change one thing about him.

This is a lie.

There is one thing I’d change: Owen’s eating habits.

It never occurred to me that I’d have a picky eater. Both Richard and I will eat anything, no crumb is ever wasted. We’re foodies through and through.

So I just assumed our offspring would be miniature gourmands like us.

My plan was to feed our children everything and anything, force them to try it all at a young age, not just the classic kid-friendly foods. They’d grow up with adventurous palates like little French kids, running around eating smelly cheeses spread on baguettes while playing at the park. They’d politely sit at the table while happily (and neatly) consuming thai chicken curry.

This plan was not based in reality.

In reality, feeding a toddler sucks. I now know why mothers breastfeed four-year-olds. Because getting food into a fussy tot is torture, plain and simple.

The time, the energy, the messes, the wasted food. The feeling of utter defeat when you’ve spent hours making a wholesome treat for your little guy and HE SPITS IT OUT. IN YOUR FACE.

Even if your kid eats anything, there’s still all the pressure, worry and confusion that comes along with baby food. Is he eating too little? Too much? Will he choke on this? Juice is bad. Crackers are bad. Only organic! My kid will die if he eats nitrates. Every meal MUST be nutritious, all natural and well-balanced. God forbid you don’t puree organic, locally grown produce every day for your child. He’ll end up obese.

Owen was a difficult eater from the beginning. He never had the patience or interest for eating solid foods. After 30 seconds in a high chair, he was ready to get out. And his inconsistency is infuriating. One day he likes apples. The next day he hates apples. In the morning, he chows down bread. In the afternoon, bread is disgusting. And then he looks at you like you’re the asshole for offering him food he obviously never liked.

Sometimes he even rejects donuts. What kid doesn’t like donuts??? (Yes, I’ve given Owen donuts. Sorry, Dr. Oz.)

Let me paint a picture for you. Here’s what I go through three times a day, every day.


Owen is hungry. AGAIN. Seriously? Didn’t he just have breakfast?

I check the clock. Ugh. It is lunchtime already! I swear I just finished cleaning up the bananas off the floor from breakfast. WTF. Feeding this kid takes up every hour of the day.

Owen is ready for lunch NOW. He lets me know by pulling at my pants and whining. Lovely. If this face is any indication of how lunch will go, it’s not going to be pretty.

Some days Owen is fine with getting strapped into his high chair. Today he acts like I’m forcing him into a pit of snakes.

I decide to give him some peanut butter toast and grapes. He’s generally receptive to both these foods and I’m not in the mood to tackle something more challenging like a vegetable. To hell with Dr. Oz and his lectures about kids needing to try new foods 12 times before they acquire a taste for it. Getting broccoli into Owen’s mouth 12 times sounds like a prison sentence.

Despite the dread in my stomach, I put on a happy face. Toddlers are like animals (in more ways than one) – they can smell fear. So it’s best to act positive and confident. If I act silly enough, Owen might not notice that I’m trying to get nutritious food in him.

I jump around with his plate of food and bellow “Lunchtime!!!!” I sound like Oprah giving away a bunch of cars. Owen giggles. My act is working…

But his smiles can’t hide his thinly veiled suspicion – is there spinach puree on that plate of food again? In between his little giggles, he eyes me warily.

Walter runs over and positions himself under the high chair, ready for whatever drops on the floor. He is the only being in the house that loves mealtime.


I place the peanut butter toast and grapes on Owen’s high chair tray, encouraging him to dig in. He touches a piece of toast, picks it up and examines it like he’s never seen bread before (even though he sees it every day), turning it over in his hands and smearing peanut butter everywhere.

He tentatively puts it in his mouth, as if his mother may be serving him something laced with rat poison.

He chews and…swallows! I breathe a sigh of relief. Small miracles do happen!

Owen continues to eat/play with his food. I’m feeling pretty good. Things are going well on the whole. Sure, he’s only eaten about 2 bites. But at least he didn’t outrightly refuse the food, right?



Unfortunately, this period of relative calm and receptiveness is short-lived (a grand total of about 2 minutes). The peanut butter toast and grapes are boring him already. His arms start to flail.

He grabs a big piece of toast and holds it over the floor, smirking at me as he threatens to drop it.

“Don’t you dare, Owen! No. NOOOO.”

He blatantly disobeys me. With a gleeful shriek, the first piece of food falls to the floor.


I quickly try to regain control of the situation before everything ends up on the floor. I grab a utensil and try to distract Owen with it. He grabs it from my hand before I can react. Dang, this kid is fast!

Peanut butter seems to be everywhere. Where is it coming from? I barely put any on that damn slice of toast.

I wrestle the butter knife from Owen and manage to calm him down a bit. He starts to eat again. I relax a tad as he chews on his toast.


But instead of swallowing, Owen suddenly begins blowing raspberries, spitting a fine mist of peanut butter and soggy toast. Most of it lands on me. Why did I bother with a clean shirt this morning? Nobody ever mentions that parents should really wear bibs too.

Owen thinks this is hilarious.

As Owen spits and clicks his tongue, he mashes the rest of his food, swirling it all over his high chair and face and pushing it onto the floor.

I give up. He’s barely eaten anything but I can’t take it anymore. My happy act has long since faded. Lunchtime is over.

I try to wipe off the peanut butter mess all over his arms and face. Owen hates it. He screams like I’m murdering him.
The neighbors are probably calling the police. But I persist, holding him down and managing to get him mostly cleaned up.

Owen desperately wants out of this high chair. Every limb is thrashing.


I struggle to unstrap his squirming body. Finally, he is released.

As soon as his little feet hit the floor, he starts whining again. He’s not satisfied. Apparently, those two bites of toast didn’t fill him up.

All I want is silence. I grab one of those banana yogurt blend food pouches and shove it in his mouth. He’s temporarily mollified. Yeah, he had bananas and yogurt for breakfast, but whatever. At this point, I could care less. I’d let him eat a deep fried corndog if he wanted to.

While he sucks down the banana yogurt puree, I clean up the giant mess on and around his high chair. Nothing within a five-foot radius was safe. Maybe I should start serving meals in the bath tub?

I turn around to check on Owen. He has squeezed the contents of his food pouch onto the floor. Great. My floor looks like a Picasso art project.

I’ve had it. No more food. Until dinner time anyway. Which is only a couple hours away now. Sh*t. I better start making something.

And so it goes.

Sigh. At least I’ve got Walter to help me clean up the floor. 

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3 Responses to Meal Time Torture: Feeding a Fussy Toddler

  1. Louisa, I laughed so hard through this post!!!!! THIS IS MY LIFE!!! I dread each meal now and totally feel you when you say you can’t believe it’s lunch time already!!!
    My “bad mommy” trick is now turning on sprout and letting him watch Chica while I shove food in his mouth! It’s like he’s in a trance for 10 minutes and doesn’t care ( for the most part) what I give him!!

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