Eva Amurri Martino’s Blog: Taking the High(Chair) Road

01/25/2016 at 08:30 PM ET

Look who’s back: It’s celebrity blogger Eva Amurri Martino!

The actress, who has followed in her mother Susan Sarandon‘s footsteps, is best known for her roles in Saved and on Californication, and she has guest-starred on The Mindy Project and New Girl.

Two years after tying the knot in Charleston, South Carolina, Amurri Martino and her husband, sports commentator and 36 Hours host Kyle Martino, announced they were expecting their first child — a baby girl.

The couple welcomed their now 17-month-old daughter Marlowe Mae in August 2014.

Amurri Martino, 30, has started a lifestyle blog, Happily Eva After, where she shares her adventures in motherhood, among other topics. You can also find her on Instagram and Twitter @thehappilyeva.

Eva Amurri Martino blog
Courtesy Eva Amurri Martino

Let me tell you a little bit about the worst part of my day. The part of my day that requires every drop of patience squeezed out of my over-tired, under-caffeinated brain. The part of my day that ends in tears (mine) at least once a week, and sometimes more. The part of my day that makes me dream about being a 22-year-old idiot again (no judgment, except towards my own idiotic younger self) with infinite freedom.

Let me tell you about MEAL TIMES WITH MY TODDLER.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner (and snack) are the new battle ground in the Martino household. They are the chink in my armor that Marlowe has discovered to extend her cute little sticky pointer finger and “Boop! Beep! Beep!” right in to Mama’s proverbial buttons.

Let me preface this by reminding you that my daughter used to be Easy Eater Extraordinaire. It was so easy and enjoyable to feed her that strangers used to literally come up to us at restaurants and remark how well behaved and voracious our child was. “She never met a meal she didn’t like!” I would chuckle, super proud and smug. I could get Marlowe to eat (or try!) anything under the sun. Any meal I ate, she asked for a bite.

Eva Amurri Martino blog
Courtesy Eva Amurri Martino

In the past month or so, this has all changed. Every meal time is a struggle. Every bite is a fight. She asks for something “Cheese, Mama! CHEESE MAMA,” takes a bite, and then throws the rest of it on the floor. Refusing to eat another morsel.

She begs for anything and everything, only to reject it once put on her plate. She will eat an entire bucket of chicken one day, and then the next day sob hysterically when I place a plate with even a piece of chicken anywhere near her. How dare I present her with this poisonous chicken!

She screams, she bangs her head on the high chair tray. She pulls her own hair. She shrieks “YUCKY!!!!” and hits me when I try to come close and rationalize with her. I will distract her with a book, get a great and well balanced bite of food in to her mouth — and then I will watch as she chews the food methodically and then projectile spits it on the floor.

Eva Amurri Martino blog
Courtesy Eva Amurri Martino

My child is like an “ABC” Food Sniper. She can hit the oven door with the masticated remains of my hopes and dreams. I cajole, I beg, I demand, I threaten. I try to pull the old “If you don’t eat your dinner, you are going to sit here until you finish” gem.

Her response? Smugly laying her head on her tray and whispering disdainfully, “Bye Bye.”

Of course sometimes (when I least expect it), she happily chows through a meal without the slightest trace of the teenage goblin I usually deal with and it makes me so relieved I want to set off fireworks. Normally this unusually delightful meal time behavior happens in front of Daddy … who then is convinced I’m out of my mind.

A part of me has become that mother I always dreaded being — the one who (sweating) asks her child fearfully, “Ummm, well sweetheart, Sugar Plum, what would YOU like to eat today? Oh, elderberry-stewed pheasant with a side of truffle fries? Oh yesss, of course, coming right up my princess.”

The other part of me has become an equally ridiculous character: a person who ARGUES WITH A BABY. I mean whaaaaat. I rise above my body and look at myself getting frustrated and pissed off by a piece of chewed string cheese on the floor and I think, “What would a therapist make of this?”

Eva Amurri Martino blog
Courtesy Eva Amurri Martino

And then I think, who the heck am I kidding — I’ve had enough therapy to break this one down myself:

Because clearly, this is the power struggle of the moment. Clearly, my baby is not a baby anymore, and she is testing the waters with her mother. Clearly, Marlowe and I are both fighting for control, and CLEARLY she is winning.

And how do I know? Because I am a grown up person crying on the phone to my husband at work that “Marlowe just won’t eat her mac and cheese!!!!” Get a grip, girlfriend.

I can acknowledge all these things, and yet I can’t get zen about it. I can’t fully disengage from this back and forth. Am I too tired? Too overextended? Just not enlightened enough? All possible.

More from Eva’s PEOPLE.com blog series:

Eva Amurri Martino blog
Courtesy Eva Amurri Martino

I also know I’m not alone. I had an hour-long conversation with a mom friend who has a toddler girl — all about how deeply we despise meal time. And it made me feel better. It made me feel a lot better, actually.

I admitted to her how pathetic it felt to get frustrated with a person who has six teeth. She admitted to me that she feels purgatory might be “feeding a group of toddlers for all eternity.” We both couldn’t believe that somebody else was feeling the exact same way that we were.

So that’s my point, I guess. I don’t have any words of wisdom or great solutions for our toddlers being an enormous pain in the ass during four precise times during the day. I just know that I think about my friend at dinner time every day — while my own child is taking every piece of her meal, staring me straight in the eyes, and dropping it on to the floor — and I wonder how many deep breaths she is taking at that very moment.

Eva Amurri Martino blog
Courtesy Eva Amurri Martino

I also think about how the other 22 hours of my day are spent with an insanely sweet and hilarious version of my child — one who will run over to me, wrap her arms around my neck, put her forehead against mine, and tell me cheekily: “Mama, I seeeeeee you!”

And that child I’m obsessed with.

She makes me laugh, and she makes me feel like I’m doing something right with my life — and most of all she makes me forget that four times a day I am usually seated across from her, white knuckling a plastic compartmentalized plate and counting silently to 10.

— Eva Amurri Martino

Toddler eating update for those of you who are interested:
I started starving her. (a.k.a. if she doesn’t want to eat, Mama packs up the food and puts it in the fridge for later. No more negotiating.)

And I also don’t sit with her watching her as often when she eats. I’ve been getting up and doing dishes etc or cleaning up while she has full reign of her plate. And guess what? She is eating a lot better! It’s not perfect by any means, but this morning she took down an entire huge pancake plus a side of berries. None ended up in my lap or in my hair. I’ll take it!

I hope everyone else who commented on my high chair wars blog post has been trying some tricks and finding success!!! Thanks for the recommendations, everyone!!!

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Showing 39 comments

Aurelia on

Another excellent post by Eva! So refreshingly honest and true!

Amy on

Ah I remember those days. They do pass.

Sarah on

I feel you, girl. My two youngest will be three and two in March. My almost three year old has grown out of it almost completely (Shhh! I better not jinx it!), but my almost two year old is doing the same exact thing your Marlowe does. It’s a horrible fight to even get her in the high chair half of the time.

Meal/snack time is my most dreaded part of the day also, hands down!

me on

I have to say, Eva seems like a very down to Earth good momma. I like her and her blogs! She keeps it real!

Toubabo on

Great post!! Very educational for me as a future first-time mom.

Raini on

I’m dying laughing b/c I am in the same boat and have been for what seems like an eternity. Thanks for making me laugh b/c the struggle and anxiety is real!

I used to love mealtime B.C. (Before Children). My meal would be hot, I could eat slowly, actually taste my food and bask in the delight knowing there was another delicious meal coming soon. Now I sweat from the anxiety, scarf down the cold and coagulated food in 3.2 seconds and play lets make a deal each meal. (we use the reward system- take 3 bites of blank and you get a chip. It may be controversial to some but it helps and was used by our therapist that I talk about below)

My boys, 3 & 4, are the definition of picky…one likes crunchy food one likes soft, one likes sandwiches one does not, one likes fruit one does not, I’m a vegetarian, my kids and husband are not. Worst of all my boys do not eat pasta! Pasta?!?! You can see how super fun it when it comes to meal planning. ; )

Any who our youngest had a few health issues (he’s perfect now) which contributed to his picky ways. We had a food therapist come to our house once a week and here is some of the wonderful advice she gave us:

1. “Stop stressing!” She could see in our shoulders how stressed out we were and she said that energy transfers to our children. It wasn’t easy but eventually we relaxed…some. Mealtime is still a challenge but I’m learning it is what it is. Are they peeing and pooping? Yep! Ok then something is working, onto the next problem which could be “my brother looked at me”. You know, the real important stuff. LOL

2. “Don’t stress over the quantity, they are small and so are their stomachs.” I always want them to eat this big meal and that’s setting myself up for disappointment. I still want them to eat everything I put in front of them, sometimes they do but usually they do not.

3. “Keep portions small on their plates b/c they can become overwhelmed with too much food, they can always have seconds.” My husband struggles with this still. He puts all this food on their plate and they think they have to eat all of it and then it’s a huge fight before we even sit down b/c the kids think they have to eat ALL of it. I try to keep it small and they will 50% of the time ask for 2nds.

4. “Food feeds the brain 1st, the body 2nd and all excess turns to fat.” My kids are barely on the weight charts but they are smart as hell and keep us on our toes. So if your child is meeting all their milestones, outsmarting you at times, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down developmentally then do not stress b/c you’re doing a great job.

You’re not alone and maybe one of the pieces of advice I received will help you as well. Best of luck!!!!!

life goes on on

I wonder if she says grandma or nana to Susan Sarandon?

I guess Eva does not call her mother for help or suggestions.

Pam on

Wait till you hit 2. My son is 26 months now and we are still dealing with the meal time fits but now it’s a 100 fits a day for everything else, from not being able to watch another show to not wanting to use the potty. It can get so frustrating and I’m always exhausted but when I put him to bed I miss him and I look through pics and videos from the day lol.

In the end it’s all worth it. Now he says to me “Mama best friend” and that makes any fit worth it. Our little humans are growing up and becoming their own person.

Guest on

Love her blog. Well written and enjoyable! We can all relate to toddler eating/not eating!!

Candice on

This was such a surprisingly good read, Eva has a knack for writing. I chuckled because I’m there now with my own little one.

Jen on

LOL – been there and feel your pain. Once, while scouring the internet for creative toddler foods I thought might entice my little one to eat better, I came across an article that said “as long as there is one food in front of them that they could eat (i.e. a tried-and-true favorite or something simple like a piece of bread) then don’t worry. I tried to make that my mantra and decided to not worry about it so much!

nanam on

Enjoy the toddler food battle! As in a blink of a eye you will dealing with a teen! Lol

Sharon on

I was always advised that they will eat when they are hungry… made sense to me!

li on

That baby is beyond cute, cute, cute! Eva… I know this is a frustrating time, but try to take a step back. Put her meal in front of her and tell her in a calm voice “this is what we are having for lunch, please don’t throw it on the floor because you won’t have any lunch if you do”. She will definitely test you a few times, and of course, cut her some slack if she is sick or overly tired, etc. She will soon realize that you are serious and make up her own mind to eat. Good luck – it will get better…

Claire on

That baby is adorable and Eva is refreshingly hilarious!

But seriously. Present the child with small amounts of food. If she throws it on the floor/spits it out/throws a tantrum, she’s done. No second chances, no bargaining, no bribing, no pleading. Kids are smart, she’ll get the picture.

No child ever died of starvation with a full plate of food in front of them!

Claudia on

As a nanny of 20 years i am reliving the same stages and ages over and over again. It has helped me to incorporate games during mealtimes and every once in a while remind” take a bite:)” small toys as a distraction? Distraction, which i think is really the key. You WILL loose the power struggle but that doesnt make you a looser lol. Its best to eat with them too, play kids music they like and show her that when you eat your plate clean you get a small desert, might want to have the same? No big morning snacks so they are actually hungry and feed early so she is not tired. Just ideas, it worked for me. But not always. She will get over her phase though, good luck!

amom on

Another great post from Eva, interesting and honest. Enjoyed reading it.

Anonymous on

She is sooooo cute!

alphie115 on

Love your writing. So funny. I can relate with a 3 and 4 year old. Things went downhill when they both turned 2. I just finished the books “French kids eat everything.” And same authors book “Getting to yum, 7 steps to raising eager eaters.” They were very helpful. Good luck.

Emily on

One of my adult children asked me how it was that all my children ate whatever I fixed and ate when I served it, without complaining about much of anything other than the couple of times I tried to give them liver, lol! I think the answer to that question was that 1) Once they had learned to eat foods and we knew whether they had allergies to food, I prepared a variety of foods, and we all ate the same thing at the same time. I prepared a special meal for my self and my spouse once a week as part of our alone time, otherwise we ate as a family. 2) Arguing, or fussing about mealtime wasn’t an option. I served the meal, we ate without TV or distraction, and instead enjoyed conversation and no, we didn’t play games and have toys. Mealtime was pleasant, but wasn’t game time. 3) A reasonable amount of time was set aside for eating–no rushing, but not 1.5 hours either. When mealtime was over, it was over, and if they didn’t eat, we simply smiled, said they would probably be hungrier at dinner time, and let it go. They ate their meals and all was fine by the time they were 12 months old. We didn’t get frustrated, nor did they. I was far more frustrated with baby food than I was with regular food. I quickly learned to grind my own baby food for anyone who didn’t have many teeth by 12 months. They liked it better, it was cheaper and better, and mealtime wasn’t a nightmare for any of us. As they grew older, they could all have one food they didn’t ever have to eat…if child #1 hated yellow squash, he never had to eat it. He couldn’t complain about it, and he couldn’t yell because I fixed it, but he didn’t ever have to eat it. They had to think about it for several days, because once they determined what their “never had to eat it” food was, that couldn’t be revisited for several months. We had a large family, so it wasn’t reasonable to have them change that food every other day. I had a garden, and used meat I knew the source of, for the most part. I cooked almost all our food from scratch and made our bread myself. All of them have good eating habits, they aren’t picky eaters, and are willing to try all sorts of foods. It worked for us, and worked for our grandchildren until I wasn’t taking care of them anymore…then it was fast food, and the same 3 things every day, and parents who were saying “how did this happen?” LOL

Anne on

I heard the Super Nanny say ” It is your job to make healthy food and it is the kids job to eat it. When they get hungry they will” I would repeat this to myself on the reg! Somehow knowing my responsibility was to make the food and the kids was to eat it helped sooth me.I would offer the food and if the kiddos didn’t eat it I would pack it up and offer it again later. They out grow it don’t worry.

Janey on

You put the plate of tempting food in front of her and hope she eats. If she doesn’t repeat and rinse at next meal.

Tish on

Really? This is an issue? I don’t have kids, buy if they don’t want to eat, why force them? Just pick them up, put the food away and try again in a couple of hours. I doubt they’ll starve to death.

Carolina on

I love her and her writing.

stefanietsabar on

Hi Eva, I coach parents on picky eating, and what you’re describing sounds perfectly normal. Toddlers and preschoolers go through many stages of development, including asserting their independence🙂 For example, 70% of preschoolers can taste the bitter compound in green vegetables. Also, some children develop food neophobia, which is a fear of new foods. Researchers believe that this developed thousands of years ago as a way to protect children when they became more mobile so that they would not be inclined to eat toxic things in their environment. Children are actually wired to want to learn to eat the food their parents eat. So, we have that working in our favor! It just takes time for them to move through these stages. In the meantime, serving both familiar/favorite foods alongside unfamiliar foods at meals and snacks gives kids a feeling of safety knowing that they can fill up on food they like, while still having the opportunity to taste the new foods when they are ready. I hope this helps! Good luck.

Janna on

Her daughter is so cute! Loved reading her post!

Sheilajae on

She’s cute

Catherine on

@life goes on, I think I remember Susan Sarandon saying in an interview that she wanted to be called “Honey” instead of grandma. I’m sure Eva does call her for advice, but I think the majority of these celeb blogs try to minimize the name-dropping to try to keep their posts relatable to us normal folks! (Which I enjoy.)

Jessica on

I’m having the same issues with my son.. It helps to know I’m not the only one!

Andrea on

Picky eating is normal for Toddler, once that stage passed and with the proper guidance, everything is going to be fine.

Lola on

She is such a precious little girl. It’s so nice to see something like this up on this site. Refreshing to see a hands on mom in hollyweird.

Tiffany on

With a 2.5 year old and a 20 month old, I can ABSOLUTELY relate to all of this. They team up on me most days and I just have to say a little prayer that I do not lose my cool. You are definitely not alone!🙂

Stacey McRae on

I think she is a great mother, but why fight with the kid. When she is hungry she will eat. Parents today coddle and spoil their kids too much and wonder why their child is so self-centered.

Rastah on

Very candid article! There are many struggles at different stages! Around the 2 year mark they are walking and talking and more independent than they have been.

I have made a few (loose) rules for our house. I eat with my son. We sit down at the table and have a proper meal. We don’t have the television on, we talk and focus on each other. I make a meal, 1 meal, that’s it. I am not a short order cook. I’ve been lucky he is a pretty good eater, but as others have said, they will eat when they are hungry. If he refuses it, I have to pick my battles LOL

Amanda on

This is an Awesome article and makes me feel so much better about the fact my 15 month old son went from being a great eater to super picky. I get upset, stress out, get frustrated. I worry if he doesn’t eat he goes to bed hungry or that if I give in giving him something else that he will develop a pattern of getting what he wants. So reading this shows me other parents have the same issue and there is no textbook answer how to fix it. I’ll think of this article the next time my child starts me down and drops his food on the floor!

Katie on

I could have easily wrote this word for word!!! So happy to hear that my daughter isn’t the only crazy toddler during meal time! Thank you for this honest blog!!

Mom in Progress on

I love this post!!!!!! I am now wearily anticipating this phase and if ever I do get so frustrated with an obstinate toddler, at the very least, I’ll know I’m not alone. And that’s good enough for me.🙂

SAR on

Marlowe is one of the cutest kids I’ve ever seen.

I don’t have kids, but I enjoy Eva’s blog. She’s very down-to-earth and realistic about motherhood.

Clair on

Nope, I didnt have this issue.

Now, I have 2 teenagers who eat anything at all still. Squid ink pasta. Anchovies. They’ll help me spend 2 hours peeling fava beans to make hummus with it and risotto and they eat those, too.

I just provided a huge variety of foods when they were little. All sorts of farmer’s market offerings. Each meal had a protein, starch and 2 veggies.

They either ate it or they didn’t. No options. They won’t starve between now and the next meal. No snacks unless they had eaten. Period. Never diverge or they will always expect it.

I love food. I love cooking! I had seen my sister become a personal chef to a whiner (still a brat at 13) and I didn’t want the fights. Our mealtimes were not battlegrounds.

Never napping? That’s where the fights were. How can a 9 month old never need a nap? Even as a teen, he doesn’t sleep more than 7 hours.

There’s always something.

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