Photo courtesy of Kelly Green

I Forced My Toddler To Eat, & In This Game Of Thrones, I Lost

by Kelly Green

My child eats like a spoiled billionaire. One day, he loves broccoli. The next day, he will throw every tree of it off of his high chair. (The dog pretty much lives in the kitchen now, waiting for mealtime airborne objects and post-meal floor-cleaning.) My son changes his mind about every food we have ever offered him every time he sits down to dine. It infuriates me. It angers me. It wastes my time and my patience and frustrates my innate desire to feed my own kin. So, yes, I force my toddler to eat. And I will as as long as I am able. As long as my two hands are stronger than his little arms, I will try to sneak a spoon or forkful of Goodness through his clenched teeth, in order to show him that I want only the best for him, and that four-cheese tortellini is not a trick I am playing on him. That the foods on his plate are delicious. I am doing it to assist him in developing a palate; so he can one day appreciate the layers in a tonkotsu ramen broth.

I’m guessing toddlerhood is responsible for his behavior at mealtimes? He used to eat like a cute little trash compacter, just accepting everything we put in. Now he will see a color he isn’t quite into at the given moment and turn the plate upside down in a fit of rage. Oh, I’m sorry, King Oliver, did something strike you as less than appetizing? Could I bring something else to the table that you might find more fitting? JK YOU ARE NOT THE HEAD OF THIS MANSE.

Photo courtesy of Kelly Green

Now, I will say that it does not feel as though I’m winning by force-feeding my child. I’m winning. In the moment. But the battle of wills between adult and toddler is wearing on me, like a long-drawn-out fantasy war spread over two seasons by a selfish cable company. What is my long game? I don't know. I will think this over while I pry open his mouth again with the leverage of a spoon filled with sweet potatoes.

I didn’t want some ingrate living in my house, acting like he could order up foods like he was at a restaurant.

Let me state that I am only comfortable forcing the issue because I truly believe he will enjoy the thing I am trying to get into his mouth. I am feeding him the food that I find delicious; I am assuming he will like it once it’s in there — otherwise, the force-feeding would be pointless, right?

It was probably a little after a year of age when my son started exhibiting pickiness when eating, and I freaked out. I didn’t want some ingrate living in my house, acting like he could order up foods like he was at a restaurant. I wanted a grateful, healthy, happy baby, both in and out of the kitchen. Of course, I’d heard that children were picky; children’s menus — no matter what locale they are found in — pretty much all look the same. Chicken fingers, grilled cheese, pizza, pasta with meatballs. It’s like the little princes and princesses can only do carbs with cheese or processed meats. I mean…? Are their teeth not yet capable of cutting through anything fibrous and healthy? WHAT GIVES??

I think what gives is something along the lines of giving in. Because guess what? After I shove things in my baby’s face and he spits them out onto his chest, do you know what I do? I cuss. (Under my breath; I try.) I shake my head violently side to side. I usually toss the dirty utensils into the sink with exaggerated wrist effort and then…? I GIVE IN. I let him have a banana. Or juice. Or milk. Or bread with peanut butter. I give in. I just keep giving in.

Photo courtesy of Kelly Green

Because I may be able to force-feed a bite of food — but I can’t get him to eat an entire serving size of something he doesn’t want. I can’t get him to eat what I want him to eat, and often I can’t get him to do what I want. I’m not going to be able to make him eat the broccoli on Tuesday when he only likes it sometimes on a Wednesday. Because he’s his own person, a toddler, a terror, my best bud, and my arch enemy. The longer I think I control him, the harder he will work to convince me I don’t. This is a battle of wills, friends, and though I’m still fighting, I’ve become aware that fear cuts deeper than swords.