Tag Archives: Picky Eater

I Admit It: Sometimes I’m Wrong

My daughter has a finicky palate, downright picky if you want to know the truth. Oh, she covers all the food groups, but each meal sits in plain, depressing piles on her plate. In my gut I know things will eventually be all right. I also know our battles are just that, battles.

Left free to graze in the open spaces of someone else’s pantry, she’s a bit less stubborn. I’ve stolen glances from the corner of my eye as she nibbled a hard-boiled egg at a Brownie troop meeting. “Are they eating hard-boiled eggs?” I asked another mom in bewilderment. I swore my eyes deceived me. Another time she held sushi to her lips while I waited for pigs with wings to burst into the room and buzz around our heads.

If you ask my opinion about my daughter’s menu selections, I will often tell you, “She won’t eat that” because I know she’ll scrunch up her nose, supersize her frown, and turn her head in disgust like a disapproving toddler. But I’ll tell you to try her anyway, just in case. Sometimes, though rarely, I’m flabbergasted when my daughter eats a plateful of rice at a friend’s house just because she wanted to have dinner there.

Sometimes I only think I know my kids.

I’ve dreaded soccer games because I didn’t want to see my kid skipping and hopping all over the field only to be surprised with a goal. I’ve skimmed math homework and felt my stomach sink with the weight of a concrete pill only to have my daughter’s mental math work five times more quickly than my own. I’ve taken chances on clothes for my kids that I didn’t think they’d wear once I cut the tags off. Now I can’t get those same clothes off them long enough for a spin in the wash.

Sometimes it feels good to be wrong.

My son wanted to try out for Elementary Battle of the Books this year. The team reads twelve assigned books and then competes in a Jeopardy-like competition against other schools. When he expressed his interest, I was doubtful and, to be honest, not very supportive. He likes to pick his own fantasy-based books. Some of the books on this list deal with real-life issues, not wizards and hobbits. Some of the main characters are girls for Pete’s sake. And he struggles with reading comprehension. Against the group of kids competing for a team spot, I wasn’t sure he could do it.

Book after book, my son fussed and complained. He didn’t like it. It was boring after the first chapter. “Give it time,” I said. “You have to get into the story.” The next thing I knew, he couldn’t put the book down and he proclaimed it the best book ever, even some with girls as the stars.

My son talked about quitting, but after reading five books he had dedicated so much time. He couldn’t walk away. He wanted to see whether he made the team. I was proud of him for making the effort. I saw such transformation: He went from a boy who would only read fantasy to a boy who could appreciate a good story, who no longer judged a book by its cover.

He made the team.

Just when I think I know my kids, they prove how much they change and grow every day. So being wrong sometimes feels like a victory. And it feels good to admit it.

summer reading

Some of my son’s summer reading selections. Will a battle of the books change that?

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The Strange Case of Hyde and the Four Green Beans

We’ve had a few rough afternoons lately. Sassy mouths. Crying fits under the kitchen table. Rude remarks.

I’d blame it on the full moon, but that’s already passed. Is it the promise of an insane amount of candy in a few days? A sugar high from the vapors escaping from bags of it hiding in the pantry? Whatever it is, it sits, pent up all day to the point of boiling, until 3 o’clock when the kids release this energy like a mad teapot.

Yesterday, I felt pretty proud of myself when, after a day of back-to-back-to-back meltdowns, I actually didn’t lose my cool, managed to handle my kids without yelling, and sent them to their rooms for a very long time to calm down.

I relayed the events of the afternoon to my husband only when asked, and it was the short story, not the long version.

He then told me that when he pulled up to the house after work, our daughter was standing at the front door crying. I wondered what she could have been crying about. Oh, green beans.

“I didn’t know whether to just keep on driving,” he said.

He didn’t. He asked her why she was crying and she pointed to the green beans on her plate. All four of them.

I was upstairs telling my son, Mr. Hyde, why we don’t talk to adults that way as I bit my tongue hard not to mouth at him in return. It was difficult, but I was good. I deserved an award, a trophy for Mother Who Kept Her Mean Thoughts to Herself. They have those, don’t they?

Just when it seemed everyone had kissed and made up, those damn green beans ruined everything. Withering away on my daughter’s plate. I had told her to try them. She was going to make it difficult. While she screamed at my husband in a way I have rarely seen her do (no doubt picked up from her brother a few hours before), I hung over my plate laughing and fighting back tears in the same sad breath because after the day I’d had, I really didn’t know what was about to come out of me.

Bedtime can never arrive fast enough on days like these. But no matter what has happened or how infuriated or exhausted I am, I take a breath, march into their rooms, read to them, and tell them I love them. Then I skip out of there as fast as I can and hope tomorrow is a better day. And that Jekyll is back. And that I don’t forget that I will not be serving green beans for a while.

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Pick, Pick, Pick

I have a confession to make: I am in love with food. I might even go as far as to say I am obsessed with it. Really, I am probably obsessed with food. I like to cook only because it is a means to this food that I love. My days revolve around food and what I am going to eat or cook for my next meal or even the next day or next week. I am always reading recipes. I’m kind of obsessed with those too.

So imagine my joy when my son turns out to love food as much as I do. Even as a toddler, he ate anything I put on his plate, squeezing okra and calling the seeds “eyes.” He ate platefuls of the stuff. He’ll try anything once.

My daughter, however, is my challenge. My beautiful, picky daughter. It breaks my heart that I cannot share this love with her. Cooking she loves. She’ll sidle up to the counter and measure and pour, even taste a little. But put it on a plate in front of her and the battle begins. We’ve tried all the tricks. Everything. None of it works. Nothing.

We have well-meaning friends who offer up advice. Make her try it. How do you make anyone do anything? They don’t know what that would involve, prying open a clamped jaw with my hands and trying to force lasagna down her throat. How to get her to swallow? Rub her throat like a dog who won’t swallow a pill? I can see it now, the looks I’d get in a restaurant…and the escort out.

Or how about making her sit there until she eats it? Yeah, I have better things to do for a week. Do you? Because you can come sit with her until she eats it. Feel free.

The thing is, those things bring tears, yelling, and a whole lot of stuff I don’t want to bring to the table. And believe me, I’ve had to leave it many times. It all leaves me feeling bad. I can’t imagine the damage it does to her. Food should be a pleasant experience, with warm memories like grandma’s kitchen.

The best advice I’ve gotten? Don’t make dinnertime a battle. Put out healthy food and let her make her own choices. Amen. From our pediatrician who raised his own picky eater, who is now a chef. That’s right, a chef.

My daughter eats from all food groups. She loves fruit and often, but not always, prefers homemade to processed, meaning mac ‘n’ cheese and bread aren’t things I can just whip up. A speck of parsley or pepper in her food stresses her out. There’s just not a lot of variety in her comfort zone. I have faith that she’ll get bored with that. I have to trust that she’ll outgrow it. And she’s starting to come around…painfully slowly.

Take, for instance, the grilled cheese she tried recently. Growing tired of her meager menu, she decided a grilled cheese sounded safe. She likes bread. She likes cheese. It felt a little daring to put the two together. Nervously, she licked. I couldn’t bear to watch and paced behind the counter, ready for defeat. My son gave me the play-by-play and quickly announced it was all over: She had eaten the entire thing…and she wanted more. I couldn’t get cheese between two slices of bread fast enough.

Once that one was devoured, she pondered what had just taken place in her mouth. “I didn’t really like that cheese,” she announced. Hmmm. This usually means she doesn’t really like it. But here’s how I get around it: You eat it once, it’s on your menu now, Missy.

“We’ll work on it,” I said. Many tries later, we still can’t get it quite right, but she’s still willing.

I love her, pickiness and all. “You’ll make some man very happy with your high maintenance one day,” I tease. Check in with me in 20 years. I bet she’ll be a food critic. She’s getting good practice.

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