"Tonight is the night," I say to myself as I cut up the broccoli for dinner. I know I'm kidding myself, but I say it as a positive affirmation anyway.

Tonight, my 5 year old boy will finally eat the dinner I'm preparing.  We are on week 3 of a mission to get him onboard with family dinners.  I'm not sure when it happened, by somewhere along the line we made the mistake of allowing him to eat what HE wanted for dinner, rather than what WE were having for dinner as a family.

It slowly but surely became the norm.  I guess we figured it's better to have him eat SOMETHING than to not eat what we made.  Before our recent adjustments, it was not unusual for my wife to make 2 (or even 3) different dinners every night.

The problem is...the dinners he likes aren't well balanced meals.  In fact, most of the time, they're not "meals" at all.  One of his favorite "meals"?  Portuguese pops.  That's it.  Nothing inside.  Just a pop.  He likes pasta...and he drinks a RIDICULOUS amount of milk.  But I swear if it weren't for the chocolate Ovaltine we mix into the milk...he'd be dead.  He doesn't even eat hot dogs.  What kid doesn't like hot dogs?  When we go to Naughty Dogs we order him a bun with ketchup.  No dog...just ketchup.  The don't even know how to ring it up.

I've become a master at hiding food within food.  I mash up broccoli and fish...trying to sneak it into the rice he's agreed to eat.  Our pediatrician suggested cutting back on the milk and using dessert as a motivational tool to get him to eat his dinner.  So far...it's been a disaster.  It's summertime, so we're making a lot of visits to Kool Kone.  I tried giving a reasonable ultimatum.  Eat 7 bites, or no ice cream after dinner.  He won't do it.  I second guess myself, wondering if maybe 7 bites is too much.  "How about 3 bites," I renegotiate.  Nope.  "OK, no ice cream, then," I say, hoping, praying he'll pick up his fork and take a bite.  He won't budge.  Finally, after giving him countless chances to succeed, I have no choice but to follow up on my threat...a trip to Kool Kone for the rest of the family.  We leave him home with his grandparents as we drive off...and I'm feeling like a LOSER dad.  I swear this punishment is hurting me more than it's hurting him...it was ripping me apart.  A beautiful summer night, and I'm leaving him behind as the rest of the family is getting ice cream.  It's just not right.

The toughest part about this whole effort is that it is extremely difficult to hold him to consequences.  Normally, if he's acting up...I have NO PROBLEM being strict.  It's easy for me because I know it's in his best interest.  This dinnertime problem is different.  It's not like he's being a bad boy.  In fact, he's a really good kid...he's just a really bad eater.  I KNOW what the right thing to do is, but I hate to make dinnertime a battle every night.  It feels like I'm fighting a battle I can't win.  I'm at the end of my rope.

Already dreading tomorrow night's dinner.  Maybe I'll make it easy on myself - pops for everyone.