Don’t Say This.


Food is an issue that’s fraught with trouble from the moment a baby is born. It’s constant decisions : what will you feed them? When will you feed them? Do you or do you not have a problem with the powdered cheese in the mac and cheese box? Does it make you a better person if it’s Annie’s Organic instead of Kraft?

Because eating is (at least for many of us) a major social activity, other people’s habits and opinions often bump up against our own when it comes to kids and food. Friends have their own ideas. So do the people at the restaurant near you, your neighbors, your parents and anyone else you run across. It’s a minefield. On this note, I have decided to share my list of the top five food-related things that none of us should ever say.

1. “My kid eats whatever I put on the table.” Mine does too, as long as what I put on the table is pasta with butter and raw bell peppers. Yours is eating sushi. Fine: you’re a better parent than me. Hush up about it. (I’m putting this first on the list on purpose. It drives me bonkers.)

2. “Would you like some chocolate milk/ice cream/giant chocolate brownie?” The best waiters and waitresses will discreetly ask parents whether it’s ok to offer something like this. The worst ones go straight to the kid, setting you up for either a late night sugar meltdown or a five hour conversation about why he or she couldn’t have whatever the ridiculous treat was.

3. “I can’t believe anyone would give their kid X.” I promise you: saying this is a guarantee that the person you’re talking to regularly gives their kid X, whether it’s innocent-looking juice boxes or a jumbo-sized Fun Dip. And now your foot is stuck way too firmly in your mouth for any simple retraction. Just keep quiet and let people enjoy their Fun Dips.

4. “X is yucky.” Truthfully, I’m a pretty picky eater myself. There are plenty of foods that I don’t like. But with a few rare exceptions, I don’t let John know about it. If I do, then I’m arming him with a strong argument about what he doesn’t like. If it’s ok for me not to like broccoli, then why should he eat it? And that goes for pretty much any grown up with any food. So let’s all keep pretending we like everything until the kids are 18 and are off eating pizza in a dorm somewhere.

5. “Three more bites.” Somewhere along the line, I told John how many bites of something he needed to eat. This was a huge and terrible mistake, and I would recommend that no parent ever use a number of bites as incentive to keep eating. Because now it’s the standard by which unfamiliar dinners are measured, and that takes away from the real joy of just eating food together. It’s not a meal, it’s a negotiation. If you haven’t already opened this terrible line of discussion: don’t. It’s too late for me, but it’s not too late for you. Save yourself.

Are there others that I’m not thinking of? Add to my list.

10 thoughts on “Don’t Say This.

  1. This is great. You could write another whole post about sleep-related things not to say. I think there is a special kind of purgatory for all the parents who have ever bragged about their child’s wonderful eating and/ or sleeping habits. Here they will wait indefinitely to move on to something better. The soundtrack is hungry and/ or overtired crying or whining children who will only eat three foods, preferably beige ones. After an average of 7-10 years of this, they can move on.

    • I love this idea and will think of it the next time I’m smiling at some well-meaning but ill-informed person who’s giving me great ideas about how I could be doing a better job.

  2. I’m just jealous that your son will eat raw bell peppers! Your #1 peeve is mine, too. Also, the corollary, “I can’t believe you made an extra meal just for your child! Mine just eats what we eat!” Well, that’s just super.

    • Yeah, the extra meal thing always gets mentioned. Sometimes followed by the oh so helpful: “If he gets hungry enough, he’ll eat it.”

    • Thanks, Kate! And I agree. When people tell me their kids never get sick, it makes me want to find those kids and cough on them.

  3. My kids usually will eat what I put on the table, but I also only put what they like on the table!! I am not above making a different meal for my kids either because I would rather they eat than to not sleep or go to bed whining they are hungry! Great posts!

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