I just got back from a ten day Southern California road trip with my three children and there’s no question in my mind that the most difficult moments revolved around food. I mean, you’d think it would be easy when we’re living in hotel rooms and having to find palatable food at such wonderful places as Disneyland or Shelter Island in San Diego.
I pay attention to the quality of what my children eat and definitely seek to eat healthy myself, aiming more for fresh fish, salads and other lighter foods rather than bacon cheeseburgers and yet another pizza. Still, I don’t feel like the food police and if my 9yo girl wants mac & cheese or my 13yo son does have a hankering for that bacon cheeseburger that I cringe at, it’s not a big deal.
Adding complications to the mix, my oldest is almost 17 and she has her own strong opinions about food, happy to martyr herself to hunger if the place we choose doesn’t have something uber-healthy, raw, or organic. Which could work for a single meal, but over the course of days and meals, she needed to be in the mix too, even if her idea of the perfect restaurant is the food bar at the local Whole Foods or a hippie-run local juice shop.
One afternoon it was so difficult – on my birthday, as it happens – that we ended up at the Irvine Spectrum shopping center and I finally tossed up my hands in frustration and said “Fine, let’s all just eat at different places”. So we did. The little one got a turkey sandwich from Subway, my son got a quesadilla from Chipotle, my eldest a lackluster salad from the Healthy Greens restaurant and I got a faux buffalo chicken wrap from a vegan fast food place (who knew?). What I thought was most fascinating is that both girls complained their food wasn’t very good, though I secretly suspected that it was our lack of harmony that affected the meal just as much.
I know the standard suggestion for a situation like mine – three kids, single dad, all with different food preferences – is to take turns. One meal it’s the youngest’s turn to pick, the next meal it’s mine, then someone else’s, etc. I tried that, and that’s how we ended up going to In ‘n Out burger for lunch one afternoon, a lunch that was great for the youngest two but left my eldest and I wondering what we were going to do for food.
Another time I took everyone out to a meal at the local BJ’s restaurant and that worked out pretty well, salads, burgers, pizza, but again, my eldest complained about her salad being boring.
Why are her salads boring? Because in her zeal to minimize her caloric intake, she skips dressings, cheese, meats, croutons, and lots of other toppings. Yeah, even the best salad ends up being rabbit food. Boring indeed.
I love traveling with my children and write about our travel adventures frequently on my GoFatherhood blog, but I have to admit that the food challenge is very much that, a challenge. What’s your suggestion? What can we do when we don’t have a fridge and stove, a mini kitchen that would let us cook our own foods?
Guest Post by:
Dave Taylor is a single dad to three children, writing about it on his popular GoFatherhood.com blog. He’s also a well-known tech writer and proprietor of AskDaveTaylor.com. You can also find him just about everywhere online, starting with his @DaveTaylor account on Twitter