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I Refuse to Cook a Second Dinner — So Far

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“I’m not eating this!” my son yells out, and I’m instantly deflated.

It doesn’t matter what’s on the menu. It could be chicken cutlets I lovingly breaded, or meatballs I painstakingly rolled, or even pasta I just threw in the pot (but threw with lots of love, mind you), he doesn’t want it. And he’s not shy about letting me know.

My five-year-old could have loved it last week (the meatballs), or declared it his favorite food in the world the last time I made it (the chicken cutlets) or ate it with vigor just days before (the pasta). None of that matters. Tonight, whatever I’m selling, he ain’t buying.

Some of my friends cook a few different meals each evening. They’ll heat up pizza for one kid, do chicken fingers for the other and then cook more adult-friendly food that they can eat with their husbands once the kids are asleep.

I am not cooking three different meals each night. Julia Roberts said in an interview once that when her kids ask for different food once dinner’s already on the table, she calmly explains to them that their kitchen is not a diner, and they can either eat what’s been served or not eat at all. (When I imagine this story, I like to say it to myself with her sassy "Pretty Woman" voice: “Big mistake. Big! Mistake!!”)

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When my son tells me he doesn’t want what I’ve served for dinner (“I hate this dinner!”), the internal debate begins. Do I tell him to eat what’s been served or nothing at all? But then will he go to bed hungry? Will my little angel starve?

I usually start out by telling him that he should eat what’s on his plate, and, if he’d like to make a request, I’ll be happy to cook him whatever he chooses the following evening. I tried this trick last night and it worked. He ate the chicken cutlets I’d (lovingly) made, with the promise that the following evening I’d make him meatballs.

But other nights, I’m not so tough. Other nights, I can’t get him to eat what’s on his plate with the promise of a “better” dinner tomorrow night. Sometimes, he wins and I heat up leftovers. Sometimes, I refuse to make something else.

So, what do you all do? Do you cook a second dinner if your kids refuse to eat what you’ve cooked? Or how many meals do you cook each night?

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