My Picky Eater

An essay on a little boy who doesn’t like to eat very much. Picky eaters. Fussy eaters. Small people.

I have a small three-year-old shaped person in my life who loves carrots. This is great, for he does not like many things when it comes to food. So carrots are what we do.

I slice them up in fingers, knowing that if his main meal is simply pushed about his plate as it so often is, the carrots at least will find a way into his mouth. Sometimes I roast them, drizzled with a drop of honey. He declares these delicious. Let’s build on this, I think to myself, and so we bake muffins together, healthy ones with Greek yoghurt and carrot and the juice of a big, fat orange and then we bake yet more. He helps me peel the carrots, my breath half-held for fear of a slip, and then I hold the grater still for him so he can shred his carrot, his little voice offering a running commentary as we go.

Carrots, carrots, carrots, he sings.

He sits in front of the oven, waiting for the batch of muffins to be done. He plays with his baby brother’s toy kitchen, making me a pie from a wooden aubergine and half a wooden fish. I pretend to eat it.

Yum! I say. I will eat anything you make for me!

I tell him this, hoping my little promise might slip into his own tiny subconscious.

The muffins are done; he jumps for glee, his fingers twitching like a live wire (a habit of his when he is having fun). I make tea while he blows all over them to cool them quickly. We sit down, a muffin on a plate for each of us, and just as I’m taking a poignant polaroid in my mind of how lovely this moment has been, just me and him, he tucks in.

But Mama.

(I should have known)


(Here it comes)

But Mama, it’s got carrots in it!

(Accompanied with an adorable but still testing look of sheer disgust).

Well, yes, I say. Remember, you grated the carrots for me? You mixed them in?

But Mama, I don’t like carrots!

And so I am flummoxed, once again.

Perhaps I pushed the carrots too much. Yes, I probably pushed the carrots too much. But what else do you do, when some days your child won’t even look at his plate? With just one tricky eater out of three and an overall healthy approach, I tell myself I’m not doing too badly. But then I also know it’s just him, this little guy, figuring things out, learning to say no. I know he’ll get there eventually. He will, won’t he?

Still, though. I’d like him to eat.

All three of my boys fell in love with food from the moment they tried apple puree and mashed bananas and avocados as gummy babies weaning. My eldest and my youngest still eat pretty much everything. My middle one, this little one, used to until about a year ago. I never followed any particular rules when it came to weaning, choosing instead to introduce them in a common sense, simple way to the food we liked to eat as grown-ups too. He used to love avocados and hummus and tomatoes and cucumbers and olives; lunch was almost always meze. Tofu and rice was his favourite meal. Slithers of halloumi, a treat. Now, he won’t touch any of it. He tells me breakfast is his favourite meal, and I concede, this he will eat: boiled eggs or big bowls of cinnamon porridge or yoghurt with granola or pancakes on Sundays. But breakfast is not dinner (unless, of course, it could be).

The title of this blog post is a little misleading not least because I don’t intend to label him as a picky or fussy eater and forever think of him like this. Still, it’s a title. I am reminding myself if he ate well once, he will eat well again. It is hard to not feel glum, but he is happy with the choices he makes at mealtimes and I suppose that is what counts. Meanwhile, I am investigating nicer ways to deal with this all, ways that don’t include bribes of pudding or raising my voice or tears at the table. Here’s what has been helping me even when it feels like all we’re taking is the tiniest of baby steps:

  • Claire at Today We Cooked inspires me daily with her Stories of her kids helping her cook and of course, the most amazing vegetarian repertoire of dinners. She sort of throws everything together, and cooks the way I’d love to cook. Here’s hoping.

  • Claire also introduced me to Ciara’s account and cookbook, My Fussy Eater, which has given me hope to find ways to expand my own fussy eater’s tastebuds. Her pizza rolls are a hit with all three kids, made with her hidden vegetable sauce, which I had my own variation of before. Her healthier take on baked goods (almost always using a modest amount of honey over sugar) has also helped endlessly with snack boxes for school - her wholemeal oaty digestive biscuits and raspberry chia crumble slices have been a particular hit with the whole family.

  • I really appreciate nutritionist Laura Thomas’s perspective on encouraging intuitive eating for kids from a small age. You can listen to her talking about intuitive eating for kids in her podcast. I don’t (yet) have a success story to share, but the mood of mealtimes has vastly improved when I remind myself it’s not my place to force him into eating what he doesn’t want to. It’s hard not to feel defeated, but on we go.

I’d love to hear your experiences of this; let me know over on my Instagram or in the messages below. How do you deal with little people that don’t like to eat?

Eight simple ways to be a better writer

Eight simple ways to be a better writer

Writing matters to me because I find it life-affirming. We may think a thought, write it down, explore where it goes. There is always something or some place or some feeling or someone to write towards.

I write my blog because it's my way of making sense of what is going on in my life or what I happen to be thinking about that day, no matter how trivial - whether that's going out for dinner or picking a bedtime story or trying to explain who Donald Trump is to my kids. I simply write about my day to day, figuring things out as I navigate daily life.

Writing looks back at me, an outstretched hand grasping mine to go run some place together, some place wild and bright and free; some place where I might find ideas hidden in the undergrowth and peel them like Christmas clementines, one sprightly little piece at a time.

Simple ways to be a better reader: nine tips to read in a more inspired way

Simple ways to be a better reader: nine tips to read in a more inspired way

At the top of my to-do list of New Year’s Resolutions: read more. And not just read more. Read better.

Read to be inspired. Read for escape and imagination, yes, but also read in order to grow as a writer myself. Read to pick apart sentences and wonder how did she do that? when I come across a passage by a writer that blows me away. Read to make notes on the imagery I fall in love with. Read to remember. Read to challenge myself, to stretch my boundaries of language and metaphor. Read to go beyond myself. Read, not to think glumly: oh, but I could never write like this but instead to wonder: oh, but how can I write like this? What can I do better in my own work to meet this sort of greatness?

Read actively, not passively.

In other words: read like a writer.

Morning yoga when you're not a morning person

Some days (alright then, most days) it takes me an hour to wake up and get ready in the morning. There; I said it. This is not because of some high-maintenance skin routine or make-up regime or for important fashion choices I must make (ha!). No; it is simply because I am not a morning person.

Lest I sound all too lazy, I’ll throw in here that our mornings start at 6am or thereabouts, ten minutes either side, when our littlest one awakes. You’d think we’d be used to it by now but it’s still an abrupt way to start the day. I remain shell shocked and bleary-eyed every single time my baby’s cries sound a morning alarm. I need a little time to wake up, is all.

Still, my mornings are made more palatable in different ways: a hot shower, a clean flannel, the faint smell of Italian lemons in my cleanser, a cup of piping tea waiting for me made by an ever-patient husband who is much better at handling breakfast time with three five-and-unders than me while the rest of the street is still asleep. And now, added to that mix: a few moments of yoga too.

A simple start to the New Year

A simple start to the New Year

Even though a cynic might say that today doesn’t feel all that dissimilar to two days ago, I like to believe it does. The clock has ticked over once more and with it comes the chance to start afresh. I like this feeling. I have always liked it. It reminds me of clean sheets and new pyjamas and aired-out bedrooms and mopped floors. It reminds me of the crispness of starting a school year; the excitement, the anticipation, the new stationery. The hopefulness. The ritual of hope.

As we normally do as we approach the end of each year, Richard and I took some time over December to take stock of the year gone by. We don’t call it a stock-take of course and there is nothing scheduled about it. It’s just us curling up on the sofa - him with his laptop (he writes everything there), me with my pencil and notebook (I am still longhand, still so offline in many ways). When we do this, we share the things we’d like to do differently or better or not at all anymore. We make plans and promises and it feels good to hold ourselves to something, to each other. It feels good to know we have a chance to make a change in a positive way.