Major Gross Out: Mason Eating After Other People

I’ve missed you guys! We were out of town for several days over the holiday weekend, and in an effort to unplug, I didn’t bring my computer with me. We traveled down to Charlotte, North Carolina, to visit family, and everyone had a great time. Mason especially loved running his grandparents around and playing with his cousins (he’s one of four boys under 3!). But a new eating quirk surfaced on our trip that has me really freaked out, and I’m dying to hear what you guys think about it.

Mason ate a lot–especially if it came from another person’s plate. At an Asian-fusion restaurant one afternoon, for example, he ate my grilled tofu and soba soup, as well as Chris’ beef fried rice, but he refused to touch his own shrimp dumplings. At lunch another day, he ate half of his grandpa’s chicken salad sandwich after rejecting his own meal. He liked his vanilla ice cream at the local ice cream shop, but he preferred to, gulp, lick from everyone else’s cone. At a Memorial Day cookout, he ignored his cheeseburger and dug into Chris’ cheeseburger (above) instead. And so on.

On one hand, I was psyched to see him eat so well. But I was so grossed out, you guys. Repulsed. Like, OMG, did he really just lick that half-eaten ice cream?! I nearly gagged.

I mean, I’ll share my food with Mason once in a while, because he came from me, so it doesn’t seem like a big deal. But I hate the thought of Mason eating after anyone but  Chris and me, and I really hated watching it happen.  (If I had my choice, everyone would stick to their own plate all the time, but so it goes.) I didn’t grow up in a household where people ate after one another, and I think eating after someone else is germy and spitty and just plain yuck.

For Mason’s sake, I sucked up my horror. No need to share my neurosis with my 21-month-old. Whenever possible, I minimized the communal sandwich and tried to redirect his attention to food that hadn’t already been bitten into to. But there was definitely a lot of sharing going on throughout our trip, and I’m betting I was the only one in the room (secretly) bugging out when it happened.

Am I crazy, or can you relate? Should I have said something, or was I right to just let it go?

31 thoughts on “Major Gross Out: Mason Eating After Other People

  1. I think that’s a neurosis to instill! 🙂

    I could not watch my kid eat someone else’s already-eaten food. I will share my own food with my kids sometimes, but like you said – they came from me, so I feel it’s ok.

    But if my mom or my dad ever offered their half-eaten food to my kids – uh, no, sorry! That’s gross!

  2. Eh… while I don’t like it (my kid will be 2 on the 11th of June), I don’t freak out about it (much)… Sam does eat from Mom or Dad’s plates, and sometimes tries to steal from others. Apparently food is much better if someone else is eating it. Most people will laugh and give him a bite that hasn’t been contaminated. If they don’t want to share, they say so and Sam has to respect that… and if he does get a few germs, I keep my mental freak-out to myself… his immune system can handle it, or will learn to.

  3. I usually figure that the more germs my toddler is exposed to, the better. I draw the line at mono and the flu, but everyday germs or colds or sniffles or coughs… in my head, all of that is making his immune system stronger.

    As far as eating someone else’s food… well, to me, it’s more of a manners thing, you know? It’s only going to be cute for a little while, then it’ll become rude. So, if he wants some of our food, we try to get him to ask, then we cut it so that he doesn’t get parts that we’ve bitten, because… well, it IS gross, but not in a germy way to me; more of a “used food weirds me out” kind of way.

  4. I can totally relate! My son much prefers anyones food to his own. I think it is pretty gross but at least he is getting a variety of foods that way. I just try not to watch!

  5. I don’t think my kids eating or drinking after family or close friends is a big deal. I have three girls…ages 3,7 and 9 and nothing bad has ever come of them eating after others. I would worry more about the things they touch in public and then putting hands, fingers in their mouths.

  6. You were definitely right to just let it go. Esp. since it involved Grandparents. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. If you try and shield your kids from all germs, they’ll just get sick more often. They need to build immunity, so I wouldn’t be concerned about the germ aspect.

    On another note though, it is important to teach your son to eat what is on his own plate. Since it was vacation, you were good to let it pass, but from a dicipline stand point, he needs to each what is on his plate. If he won’t, it sounds like a battle of the wills to me.

  7. when I was a kid, I used to chew gum that was stuck underneath restaurant tables. Luckily I didn’t die or catch anything and there was little my parents could do to stop me from sneaking that gum. That being said, I wouldn’t worry too much about food sharing with family but definitely not strangers.

  8. I agree it is gross but my 3 yo thinks everyone elses food is better than her own, even when she is the one who insisted on whatever is on her plate. My husband and I share with her, if she is eating a dinner type meal that is great. Her grandmothers and maybe an aunt will share with her as well but its always the part they havent taken a bite from themselves so I dont mind if they dont mind though we dont encourage it.

    If she asks someone out of the realm I tell her no that is so and sos and you have your own food to eat. If you want some of mommys you can have that but you shouldnt even ask so and so for that. It usually works but if not the grownup at least gets the point and doesnt hand her their sandwich.

  9. An inlaw decided to chew up a piece of hotdog and fed it to my 1 year old. I flipped! I prefer my child to eat food that she has to chew herself.

    As for eating someone else’s food, I’m ok with it as long as it hasn’t entered anyone else’s mouth.

  10. Our kids are exposed to enough germs every day they go outside the house. So I draw the line at sharing food with others bc you don’t what illness people are carrying ( i.e. herpes / cold sores). I don’t think your over reacting at all. We just had to tell a family member we didn’t want our son drinking or eating after them & they understood. People will either be offended or not, but they must respect your wishes.

  11. Definitely wise to let it go on vacation but I would try to put a stop to it before it becomes a serious habit. Have you tried to take a bite of his food? Sometimes they just want what you want so it may help if you act like you want his plate. Or just don’t let him eat off other people’s plates period. He may fuss for a while but he won’t let himself starve and will eventually eat his own food.

  12. I don’t let my son eat from anyone else’s food or use someone else’s silverware or straw (including my own), except for the rare occasion when there is no other option. I have heard from my dentist that you can transfer cavity-causing bacteria from an adult’s mouth to your child’s. It doesn’t mean that he will never get cavities, but you can at least delay it by not sharing. I am more worried about early cavities than about being “grossed out” or transferring germs (as long as the person is healthy).

  13. What is so gross about a kid eating off your plate? I don’t’ find what made you gag. He didn’t take the food out of your mouth, he took it off a plate. Who has not had a bite off of another’s plate?

  14. My daughter is 3 now. We used to be overly cautious about EVERYTHING that entered her mouth. I was absolutely terrified she was going to catch some deadly disease! Then she ate a big bite of dirt one day and scared me! I thought surely my child was going to die but no illness resulted and she is healthy as ever. Germs are not always bad for us! We have always fixed her a plate with the same foods we were having but for some reason she liked it better from our plates. We ate from our parents when we were young and they ate from their parents so essentially we already have those germs floating around out there in our systems. I don’t mind if she eats after family but I do not allow her to eat after others and when we eat at a restaurant she may only eat what is on her plate. We let her choose what she will be eating and she orders foods most toddlers would never consider. She has learned to like foods that her father and I would never have given her as we don’t eat them. Her favorite food is catfish and broccoli; very rare for a three year old!!

  15. My son Axel is 3 1/2 now…he did go thru that fase of eating off other peoples plates. I think it’s just their way of trying new things…”wow, that looks good, better than what’s on my plate”. Inour family we’re pretty layed back. (Dr’s and Nurses and all) so eating off of family and “Close” friends is/was fine. He still will want what’s on mommy’s plate…but he has a great range of food likes because we let him and encouraged the food diversities…what 3 year old do you know goes into the graciery store and says “Mommy I want THAT broccolli!” 🙂 These types of germs are good for them… they are 25% his anyhow (if you want to look at it that way – his grandparents) Keep up the good work. Love your articles.

  16. it doesn’t bother me so long as what they eat is monitored, there was once a terrible incident with my 2yo, the equivilent of a cucumber and a half and a three hour car journey. Not recomended lol.
    The more germs the better x

  17. I dont think its gross if it comes from you the parents. My 19 month old does the same but he does eat his own food first. I try to feed him before serving anyone else. Whenever we eat out I don’t order anything for him. I take a bit from everything we order and give it to him in his plate(usually do this at the table so he can see me) he knows he’s having what everyone else is also having so he doesn’t go eat off of someone else’s plate.

  18. I eat and drink after pretty much anybody, double dipping is fine with me. Do you realize when standing reasonably apart from family and friends each word sprays tons of spit in your direction? As we speak we spit. So at a packed table of family talking, the intire time you’ve got spit landing on you and your food. So who the hell cares if your kid picked up a burger grandpa had been eating!? Seriously, other then living in a bubble nothing’s clean!

  19. Though I don’t really have an issue with “sharing” food or drinks between our little family (mom, dad, brother, baby) I would have an issue with others…

    Our solution that I have found, that giving my daughter her own plate, but FOOD from ours works the best, ESP when out at a restaurant. She’s only 1, but also refuses to eat almost anything unless it’s been mom or dad “tested” so when we are out, I don’t get her her own meal, instead we ask for an extra plate, then when our food arrives, she sees that we put her food on her plate from our plate, thus making it “approved”, but not really her eating OUR food…Though it was pretty funny the other day, before we had put anything on her plate, and gotten my husbands plate out of reach, she snatched one of his sausages and started munching happy as a clam…

    At home I often share a plate because it’s simply easier depending on what we’re having, but cut things off for her, or just put them to the side to cool for her…

  20. “No need to share my neurosis with my 21-month-old” – you called it! I say it is normal. It is how he will learn about the world. I think it is great. Don’t surpress his curiosity. There are many things worse he will put in his mouth.

  21. I kind of bug out about it (in my head) with my kiddos. My daughter would do the same thing: leave her food untouched but eat everyone else’s off their plates. If the person (family members, mind you) said no, she has to respect that. Eventually I started serving dinner while she was watching. If that didn’t do the trick of having her eat her own food, I’d take a small bite of her food & say how good it is. If she refuses to even try the food, I have a “one lick” policy. (Not the best manners, but it works because she is a picky eater.) If she doesn’t want to eat it & doesn’t touch it, she had to at least give the food one lick. Sometimes she’s discovered she likes it & will eat it, other times not.

  22. I’d say a little bit of crazy. :^ ) I have no problem with my toddlers being offered tastes of food by close family members–their Dad and me, their siblings, their grandparents. They love Grandma and Grandpa, right down to big hugs and smooches, so what’s a sip of Grandpa’s juice or a bite of Grandma’s sandwich? I wouldn’t even be bothered if an aunt or uncle offered a taste, though that rarely happens in either of our families. I wouldn’t let the boys snag food they hadn’t been offered or graze indiscriminately from random, abandoned plates at a picnic, even if they all belonged to family, but that’s more about manners (and avoiding similar situations that AREN’T all family) than about being grossed out by…whatever it is you are grossed out by. Good for you for resisting diving in, rotors awhirl, to stop a very normal, generally harmless bit of toddler exploration!

  23. I think eating after somebody is okay but it truly depends on the person. I do not have a problem with the grandparents offering my son food from their plates. I often offer my niece food from my plate, with her mother’s permission and she does the same for my son. I have been in situations with others who have offered my son food without my permission which made me angry. I even had a non-relative (not that it makes a difference) who offered to chew up some food for my son. I immediately flipped my lid. That draws the line right there. Even I don’t pre-chew his food for him!

  24. i thin it is weird that you would think this is awful–you are family–this is a child of yours..sharing food is something i would not even think was sons–my grandsons–i would never think twice about sharing my food with them…jeez…

  25. Kids do a lot of stuff that would be rude for an adult to do, and much grosser. He’s going through a phase, don’t stress about it.

  26. I have a 9 mos old 4 yr old and 5 yr old and am totally grossed out if they eat off of anyone other than me and their dad. If I catch someone doing it like my or hubbies parents its harder to say something knowing how offended they will be. Apparently I’m crazy if I don’t want my child swapping saliva with them!

  27. My near-2 year old does the same thing. He will have the exact same food on his plate, but apparently mine tastes better. Annoys me more that I can’t eat a meal in peace then a thought of germs…I touched all the food in the meal when I prepped it and served it so what’s the big deal? I try to draw the line at sharing cups, but he’s a sneaky one when it comes to stealing his brother’s juice cup.

  28. That really grosses me out! I guess it depends on who it is and what the kid is doing (taking a bite out of a cheeseburger isn’t as bad as licking someone’s ice cream cone). I think it’s comparable to my step-mother-in-law sticking her finger in my daughter’s mouth when my daughter was 5 weeks old. Really?!?! Do you want someone sticking their finger in YOUR mouth???

  29. Why pass on flu, etc. Offer the food before it is eaten, let him pick which he wants to taste before it is eaten. Let the adults get sick not the child.

  30. I’d cringe too! You could just say to those who try to share food with him (which to me is rude- no one should be offering your child food but you unless they ask first!) that you’re trying to teach him to eat his own food off his own plate.

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