dinner time blues

Yesterday was a good day. A very good day. Until dinner time, when it usually goes downhill for us these days.

I am opening my life up to suggestions, if you have any. I feel like I have quite a few different things I could try but I'm not sure which way to go. If any of you have any experience with this I sure would appreciate hearing it. Here's the problem:

James is a beast at dinner time. For the first 3.4 years of his life he ate almost everything. He still does eat a lot of different things, just not at dinner. My first issue is that we never eat as a family anymore. The kids are hungrier earlier than 6:15, when Patrick gets home. I have given them a big snack at around 4:00 and that helps some but it still screws Ruby up to eat so late. Also, honestly, the LAST thing I want to do at 6:15 is sit down and spend another half an hour with my kids. But I would, I suppose, if it all went better. (I am garbled on this...see?) James does eat better when Patrick is here (like he does most everything better with him) but 6:15 is still pushing it, especially on the days he doesn't nap. He's just plain tired and grumpy, wants to play with his dad, not sit and eat. But Patrick still needs to eat when he gets home so the kids are all over him and I just want to escape for 10 minutes and it's sickening. I am frustrated also because I spend this time planning, shopping for and preparing food that gets NO LOVE from James, maybe some from Ruby but she just throws it on the floor if she doesn't like it (she's pickier than James ever was), and gets reheated and eaten quickly by Patrick. (I'm sorry, I'm not even trying to make this very coherent.)

So. I can continue preparing whatever I want and having it ready by 5pm. (I am not really good about the timing right now) Maybe James will be more receptive to whatever it is if it's earlier. I can continue with the line I am taking with him...You have to try what I make. If you don't like it you can have more pasta (always have this on hand) or Yogurt or make your own sunbutter & jelly. If he complains he has to leave the table and go upstairs and I will NOT cook him something else. (Just not a nice atmosphere, though. sigh.) And, I hate that he eats the same thing for dinner that he did for lunch. Is that crazy of me to even care?? (I should add that I get a great sense of satisfaction for cooking & feeding my children good, pretty healthy stuff. It is a challenge for me, with his food allergies, not to sink into a rut of sameness. But, with the current issues, it's very tempting to give in to it. But there is a part of me that very obviously doesn't want to! It's something I enjoy, darn it!)

Pretty much across the board I have heard my friends struggling with this same thing. Seems 3.5 (4 in Dec) is a primo age for eating power struggles...well, just power struggles in general. (but only at dinner! end of the day! tired kids & tired mamas & dadas!) So maybe I should just do whatever is easiest on ME and try to believe that it won't always be this way. I just hate that Ruby isn't getting the same family dinner situation that James always did.

Other options? Just give them pasta every night and cook whatever for Patrick and I to eat later. But that's not really an option. I don't want to not have anything new even available to him. And, I don't really like to eat later. That is SNACK time, not SUPPER time. :)

So now after typing this all out, and re-reading it, I think I should just continue to do what I am doing but have to LET GO of my angst about it. I kind of HATE just giving him another plate of pasta but maybe I do need to just accept it. I will trying having whatever ready by 5pm. And, there are quite a few meals that he will eat so a few nights should not be an issue. (pizza, hamburgers, turkey burgers, sloppy joes, bratwursts, chicken fingers (oven fry), sometimes tacos)

Allright, I am talking in circles and sick of this. You probably are, too! I would love to hear any of your experiences if you feel like sharing. Thank you!


  1. I am sorry you are dealing with this. It is probably one of the many phases he will go through.


  2. Yep, yep, yep!

    I say let go of the angst. As much as possible, try to make dinner time peaceful. If James is only eating a few things, try to make them as healthy as you can (sneak pureed veggies in to pasta sauce, for example). Does he like smoothies? Those are great for getting extra good stuff in him!

    In our house I've started having Iris and Eloise eat together at 5/5:30 and I will eat with them if I'm hungry or will eat with Matt when he gets home between 6 and 6:30. It's the way life is right now. It will get better!

    Can you give James dinner at 5 and then a small snack for him to eat (or dessert?) when his dad gets home?

  3. First of all, I think age 3 is really a make your mother crazy age. The thing about the terrible twos is a bunch of bull if you ask me!

    Here is how it works at my house: I make dinner, we all sit down together. Jack gets some "version" of what Dave and I are having. (He is picky and wouldn't eat a veggie burrito for instance, so I give him the rice and the veggies seperately and cut up some fruit for him.) If he doesn't want to eat it, fine, but he doesn't get to choose anything else. If he sits there acting like a wildebeest, he is told to get down from his chair and go play in the other room while we have dinner.

    I think you have to remember that 1) they are not going to starve to death and 2) even if they did only eat mac and cheese for a month on end they would be ok. (I let Jack choose what he wants to eat for lunch, and lunch only, and he will choose a sandwich every single time.)

    The real problem with them eating earlier (at least in our house) is that then they want your complete attention when you are trying to eat and everyone ends up frustrated.

  4. Thanks you guys. I think you each have good suggestions. I have tried the eat this or nothing approach and am not at all against it. I would have to get Patrick on board so he didn't give in for a snack at bedtime. hmmmmm.

    I am going to try 5pm tonight and it's pizza so it should go allright. Thanks again for the commiseration and sharing. :) I'll let you know what I do. (I know you're dying to hear!) haha!

  5. Late, as usual- but for the record, we try to feed Sophie by 5:30ish. I make dinner for all of us and eat with her, as her consumption and growing table manners are just more important than me eating with John. Most nights she's in bed when he gets home and I'll sit and talk with him, have a beer (oh bliss) while he eats. I'm all for doing what's easiest on the kids before bedtime. It's such a better day for both of us if we end on a good, non-exhausted note.


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