The Mashed Potato Showdown
Trouble had been brewing for months. After a highly successful eight-year “getting kids to eat things” career (I even blogged about it with probably not quite enough humility), my son, at age four, had turned into The Kid Who Would Not Try New Things.
Not any new things.
Night after night, the entire family’s dinner was hijacked by the same battle, as The Kid refused to take a bite of whatever I had lovingly prepared. And Dad and Mom tried to persuade him with every reasonable argument in the known universe:
“Just try one bite. Even if you don’t like it, it won’t hurt you.”
“Mommy makes good food. Look, your sisters like it. Yum!"
“Your body needs this food to be healthy.”
“What’s the worst that can happen? It’s not poison!”
“This has all things you like in it, just mixed together.”
“What do you mean you aren’t hungry? Would you like a scoop of ice cream? (Yes!) Then you are hungry.”
“This is what’s for dinner. You don’t get anything else.”
“In our family, we try things.”
We did the airplane. We re-enacted movie scenes. We played games like Who Can Eat the Biggest Bite? and Let’s All Take A Bite At The Exact Same Time! (These stupid games are not even as fun as they sound. They’d probably be better as drinking games, though.) Nothing worked. In fact, The Kid got worse. He started refusing to try foods he used to like but hadn’t had in a while.
I was worried that if I forced him to eat these things, he would never be able to enjoy them and quite possibly be scarred for life. (This concern was fueled by my husband’s lifelong aversion to beets, brought on by his being forced to try them when he was four. I’m not saying my son’s attitude problem was all the fault of my husband’s stubborn genes, but if you want to draw that conclusion, I won’t argue.)
Anyway, where was I? Ah yes…dinner.
We resorted to yelling, threats, bribery… With Delta Force-level follow through, we began offering ice cream cones and cookies to “people who ate all their dinner.” Inevitably, The Kid was forced to watch his sisters savor delectable desserts right in front of him, while he got none. He wept and screamed about the injustice, but he still refused to try new things.
Casseroles. Soups. Condiments. Meat loaf. Vegetables. Fruits. Cereal.
It all went in the trash.
Then, on October 18, 2016, I took my stand. My husband was at work, and I was left to do battle alone. I made mashed potatoes—a food so delicious that he was sure to like it, yet so devoid of nutritional value that, if this showdown went south, at least he would always hate something stupid. I mean, it’s better than sacrificing broccoli or kale or blueberries. Am I right?
I called the kidlets to dinner. Then I took a deep, bracing breath, planting my feet on the tracks of Good Parenting as the tantrum train barreled toward me. We all sat around the table, and The Kid took the first disgusted look at his plate. Viggo Mortensen in my head proclaimed, “There may come a day when the strength of Mom fails. But it is not this day. This day we fight!”
And, Momnesia peeps, It. Went. Down.
He refused to try them—the warm, fragrant, gooey, delicious, buttery mashed potatoes. As always, I request, cajoled, demanded, and finally—coolheaded and determined—I spoke the immortal words of moms throughout the ages: “You will sit there until you eat that.”
We eyed each other like cowboys at a shootout—my son and me. I could hear the theme to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly crescendoing through our kitchen. What followed shall live in family lore into perpetuity. At first my daughters ran to their room and hid from the carnage. But as it went on without stopping, they crept cautiously back down the stairs, terror in their eyes. They found me sitting on the sofa, journaling, while The Kid screamed his head off at the kitchen table. The girls curled up next to me on the couch, and with trembling voices, asked, “What are you doing?”
“I’m writing down what he’s saying.”
Even more worried for their brother’s life, a whispered, “To show daddy?”
“To read at his wedding.”
I kept a cool exterior, but oh my heart. One hour and ten minutes felt like days of torment, while The Kid wept and screamed:
“You have ONE SECOND until I get out of this and run away from home! ONE SECOND!”
“You have five seconds before I dump this cup on purpose!”
“You have one second until I punch and kick this table down!” (He was really into timed ultimatums).
“I’m not hungry!”
Two seconds later: “You’re going to let me starve to death! You’re going to let me die!”
“Good moms don’t let their sons die. You’ll never love me.” (Me: I do love you.) “Stop saying words to me!”
“You’re like a little girl who punches and kicks people.” (Me: You mean a bully?) “Don’t talk to me unless it’s something about mashed potatoes!”
And then, when he had screamed himself out, he ate one dang bite of the cold, gelatinous, now-disgusting mashed potatoes. And he didn’t die from gagging. And I didn’t die of a broken heart.
And the next day at lunch, The Kid decided to eat dill pickles and apple slices together, which is nasty. And he said, “Here mom. Try this.”
“No thanks,” I politely declined.
“In our family, we try things,” the deviant little turd goblin countered.
So I ate the pickle-apple kabob. #worthit
Glynka FritzMiller’s son still won’t eat mashed potatoes, but does try new things (sometimes). She can’t figure out her real job title at Reconciled World (reconciledworld.org), but loves her work there. And she’s an author of young adult fiction. You can follow her parenting, reading, and writing misadventures on Instagram @author.g.f.miller and Twitter @GFMwritesYA.