If the issue is the work
put into the meal, get help. Design a menu that can be tailored to most needs and cuts down on stove space. For example, pull out some plain potatoes before adding them to potato salad (which still makes me gag even as an adult--so there!) and let them butter and mash them. Cook a hot dog alongside the chicken-apple sausage. Have them prepare a bun and grab the condiments and set the table. Preteens and teenagers can do more.
If the issue is togetherness
, first understand that eating the same exact meal does not equal togetherness. I know this because my daughter and I have multiple, "competing" allergies. If the dinner accommodates me, I need to come up with something for her and vice versa. We alternate buttermilk biscuits with wheat/dairy free cornbread. In the summer, we forage in the garden and make dinner together. They like making the veggies, even if they don't eat the same ones I do. *Because* they don't have to eat them, I think.
Also, on togetherness
, if you would expect your children to eat what's in front of them, I would expect that you would give them some creative control over the menu and then, of course, YOU would be eating the hot dog/sloppy joe. Without pouting or grabbing a salad from the fridge if it's missing!
You sabotage the togetherness when you make a big deal of this. You are saying "*this* is togetherness" and basing it off eating the same thing
not true togetherness which is emotional. (I am immediately struck by the comparison with the cliquish "wear this and we will be friends!").
If, by enforcing eating *one predetermined menu* you intend to change the picky eater
, you don't understand picky eating. I know because I have 2 picky eaters in the house. One is your everyday runofthemill picky eater who really has a wider palate than many other kids but is wary. Some of the wariness is age appropriate, some is based on her considerable allergies and natural suspicion of food.
My other picky eater is of an entirely different sort. A hearty eater as a babe, at around 3 yo she became extremely picky, especially to scent and texture. She would retch when dh and I had strong smelling salsa on the table (which we used to spice up our bland cooking). Even if her plate was as she wanted it, if anyone else's plate had something else on it she wouldn't have eaten, she would retch every time she looked (even though we *never* made her eat what she didn't want, not even a taste). Food had to be uniform (hot dogs, not hamburger) with no bits WHATSOEVER. Etc. Etc.
Someone far back in the thread mentioned that letting go of resistance to being a short order cook is liberating and I heartily agree. It was for me, certainly. But I will admit that there are limitations. Just two nights ago, when inspiration and appetites were high, I had to brainstorm with the girls (who were helping, BTW) how we were going to get it all fixed. We were running out of pans, out of room on the stove. So we switched stuff around, made some pans do double-duty by throwing something in after something came out. Everybody took part (this doesn't always happen, btw) and it made for great family time. Everybody had something they were looking forward to.
No one noticed at the table that each and every one of us had something different.
And well said, Miranda!
I've avoided this thread because I always end up saying the same thing in defense of picky eaters and shrugging my shoulders at the intense resistance to short-order cooking and simply not understanding the persistence of what I perceive as an old-school approach on a progressive parenting site. I wind up sounding like a broken record (what's that? ask all the whippersnappers
) But here I am again....