Feeding finicky grandkids

Sunday, August 31, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:38 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

With all the grandchildren I have, it’s quite a feat to feed them when they appear for dinner. At least twice a month I have a cattle call and usually all 17 of my in-town kin come to Sunday dinner. Before I had grandkids, I envisioned myself as being the perfect Grammy. You know, the “Aunt Bea” type on Mayberry RFD.” Although I didn’t want her girth (give me time; it may happen) she was always in the kitchen with an apron tied around what should have been her waist (at that time I didn’t own an apron) with a pot of something bubbling on the stove and a homemade pie in the oven. I loved everything about her from her chubby cheeks to her jolly demeanor.

I really tried to emulate her behavior, but as my family grew it became difficult to please everyone with all the different rules I must follow. It seems that each set of parents disallows different foods depending on which pediatrician they have. It gets quite confusing.

One daughter-in-law did a 10-foot leap across the kitchen to prevent her 22-month-old daughter from eating the strawberry I had just handed her.

“She can’t have strawberries until she turns 2,” she muttered, plopping the evil berry into the trash.

“Does that mean she can have strawberries on her birthday?” I replied, lips tight. “Or do I have to wait a few days for it to kick in?”

Another conundrum for me is the type of milk I should serve. I have four families in town, and I swear that each family uses a different strength of milk. Of course the only kind I buy is plain old whole milk, but none of the grandkids will drink it — it’s too strong. So on any given occasion, I have had 1 percent, 2 percent, skim and fat-free milk in the refrigerator.

I finally gave up the milk war and serve the kids juice.

One of my daughters insists that my granddaughter is a picky eater. In this case picky means if it isn’t wrapped in paper and placed in a cardboard box she won’t eat it. However, I will say she hasn’t found a chicken strip she doesn’t like. Chicken strips have become the staple of young mothers for the 21st century. For us old-timers, it was hot dogs. When my children were little, I considered hot dogs one of the major food groups.

I’ve been watching my grandkids eat lately and have discovered that eating habits start early. My interest was provoked when I heard my grandson, who is 18 months old, grunt and point at the ketchup. Now why in the world would a baby that young want to season his food with ketchup? Then I realized that his almost 5-year-old sister had a pool of it on her plate.

I watched with awe as he delicately dabbed his fistful of meat into the mound of ketchup before shoving it into his mouth. He repeated this procedure until all of his meat was gone and then he wiped the remaining ketchup off the plate with his fingers.

Each of my 14 grandkids has a different way of eating a meal. I have one who eats one food at a time. First she’ll eat all of her bread, next she’ll polish off all of her meat, then she digs into the potatoes. When it’s time to eat the vegetables she says she’s too full. Another one already knows the art of moving food around the plate to give the illusion that she has eaten some of her meal. My two oldest grandsons would rather throw their food at each other than put it in their mouths. I have another grandson who uses his napkin to cover the fact that he has eaten only half of what was put on his plate.

Reality sets in and the jolly, good-humored Grammy vanishes, and I realize that I can’t change my “bad cop” personality even for my little darlings.

I spend mealtime running back and forth from the adult table to the kids’ table yelling, “Stop throwing the food.”

“Eat at least two bites of your green beans.”

“No, you can’t have a forth roll until you eat some of your dinner.”

“No, you can’t leave the table until everyone is finished.”

I finally came up with a solution that has kept my sanity intact. This summer I have put the kids at a table FAR away from the adults. I can’t see what they’re eating (or throwing), and they are beginning to think Grammy is nice again. At the end of the meal I give them an opaque garbage bag (so I can’t see how much hasn’t been eaten). The table and benches are made of cement, so after they’re gone all I have to do is hose down the area. I know I can’t coerce them into eating at the cement table in the dead of winter, so I’ll have to come up with a different idea. Maybe I’ll just fix chicken strips and rolls every Sunday.

If you have a comment or have any ideas for winter eating, please e-mail me at

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