Just about one year ago, I wrote about Henry’s maddeningly limited food preferences. Henry was a strict adherent to the all-dairy, all-white-with-a-little-light-yellow-in-it diet, claiming that it “tasted good” and also “I’m not trying anything else ever nyah nyah nyah.” Any attempts to introduce new foods were met with shrieks of protest. It was a fun time.
Since that post, Scott and I have employed different strategies to get him to eat new foods. We created an enormous New Food Chart, with shiny gold stickers for each food and the promise of a new toy when 10 stickers were achieved. On the recommendation of some expert or other, we tried making the tasting of new foods his “job,” with no rewards given except the satisfaction of a job well done. We tried reverse psychology (“don’t you dare eat that broccoli stalk. I mean it.”). We tried explaining the food pyramid and what foods would make him big and strong like a Rescue Hero. We tried begging.
Guess what worked?
Nothing. Nothing worked. In fact, I do believe we made it worse. Congratulations, feckless parents!
In this entire year, Henry has pretty much stuck to his original diet. He added two new foods to his repertoire: baked beans and grilled cheese. The latter makes it much easier to go out to eat. The former means at least he’s getting some fiber, albeit with more sugar than I like to think about. True, these foods would not have entered his repertoire without our cajoling, but looking back, I think we won a couple of battles but in doing so lost the damn war.
Here’s what we accomplished: Henry now knows how deeply we care about what he eats. He knows it’s pretty much the one thing we can’t make him do. And most of all, he knows that he’s got us. He now delights in telling me all about what he’s not going to eat. He tried tomato sauce and loved it, but now, he says, he’s never going to eat it again. Same thing for peanut butter. And carrots. And pierogi. And about 36 other items.
(Parents of younger children, take note: do not give your child even the merest hint that you give a flying fig about what they eat. Don’t even look at their plate. Serve them whatever you made (or ordered) (or microwaved) and consider your job done. Because I am telling you, once your kid senses that they have the upper hand, you’re done. Heed my words! Heeeed! )
So now that every one of our tactics has backfired, I have officially given up. I have ripped up the food chart. I am done begging and punishing and even suggesting. I told him that what he eats is entirely up to him, but that I would no longer make him a different dinner from ours.
We’ve been doing this for about a month, and it’s made absolutely not one smidgen of difference in his diet. I more or less wimp out every night and make some kind of a pasta with dinner—the difference being that it’s part of everyone’s dinner and not just his special foodstuff—so he eats that. So in other words he’s not eating differently, but I am, and sweet Moses I’m sick of macaroni and cheese. (At some point I will gather up the courage to make a dinner that doesn’t include one of his greatest hits, and deal with his keen disappointment at the absence of beige foods laid out before him. I’m sure he’ll go without dinner that night, but at the very least he has to learn that it’s not the end of the world. Right? Someone’s anecdote of their kid who never ate anything and now eats snails cooked in tripe would be appreciated just about now.)
The only thing left for me to do is just be okay with what he eats or doesn’t eat. I am trying, lord how I’m trying, to think positively. What he likes, he really, really likes. And that’s good. He could eat 56 containers of yogurt a day. He derives more satisfaction from blueberries than I previously believed possible. He gets positively dewy-eyed over the thought of pasta mixed with ricotta cheese. If I keep pushing, I’m going to dampen his enthusiasm for what little he does eat, and pretty soon he will eat nothing but sand. Just to spite me. Kids are nuts, did I mention?
So these days when he refuses any and all foods I do my best to laugh gaily, tra la, as if he just told me he’s not going to do my taxes. And I say, “Someday you’ll eat that,” and he agrees. “Someday,” he says, watching me for signs of discomfort, “but not now. And not soon.”