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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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Sleep Is
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Chicago Review Press

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Let's Panic

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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it.

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« Wow. | Main | Six foot, seven foot, eight foot, bunch! »
Wednesday
Jan112006

Speaking of bananas...

My son eats three foods. And this is making me insane.

Okay, maybe a little more than three. Here’s the list. Anyone who’s not a parent is signing off right abouuut… now, so without shame I can show the rest of you…

Everything My Son Will Ingest:

Milk and soy milk

Cereal

Oatmeal

Muffins

Yogurt

Blueberries

American cheese

Macaroni and cheese

Ricotta cheese with pasta (but only certain shapes, and those rules change all the time)

Ravioli (sometimes, and you will never know when

Applesauce

Raisins

Hummus (when he’s feeling generous)

All forms of pudding

Ice cream (duh), cookies (dar)

And that’s it! And don’t think I’m forgetting something. “Surely pizza!” you might say, but no, not pizza. “What about bagels? Every kid loves bagels!” Not my kid. Shut up.

I know this is a control thing. I know if I make a big deal, or any kind of deal, over this, it’s only going to get worse. I know many kids go through this. I know he’ll grow out of it, someday, maybe. But right now it makes me nuts at just about every meal. Okay, not breakfast. Breakfast is okay. And for lunch, I’ve just given up—I hand him his two containers of yogurt and I lie down on the ground until he calls for me. So really it’s just dinner.

Last year at Thanksgiving I broke down in tears because he wouldn’t consider a single food. Not a cranberry, not a single chunk of yam. Turkey? HAHAHAHAHA. At some point during his second year he fixated on macaroni and cheese as the Ideal Dinner, and this festive evening was no different. So my sister said, “Just give him macaroni and cheese every night. He’ll get sick of it.”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHHHhhahhhhhah. Heh. Hmm.

So here we are, over one year later. Every night, either Annie or Amy provides him with his dinner. (I have tried making it myself, but homemade macaroni and cheese was deemed the worst crime any mother could commit.) For a while he would enjoy peas or green beans with it, but no more will he even tolerate the sight of the green horrors. Such an atrocity cannot even remain on his plate.

And fruit! Oh, how he used to love fruit! Clementines and mango and bananas and apples and everything else! Kid liked fruit!

Even a few weeks ago, he would request apples and bananas. Request them! No more. These days, fruit is of the devil. Fruit will not be tolerated. Don’t even think about it, with the fruit. Except blueberries, which are currently $45 a pint. I’m not buying them. Or applesauce, and is that even really a fruit? When a fruit has been sauced, may we still call it fruit?

His pediatrician recommended that we cease commenting on his eating, but that we also make sure that we’re eating well in his presence. Somehow being around a variety of foods, even if he’s not ingesting them, will have an effect. But I do! I do that! She also stressed the importance of the family dinner, and we can’t seem to manage that because my husband for some reason can’t come home at a reasonable hour even when he leaves home early and that’s an entirely different topic that’s making me want to cry every day, but as for me, I eat so well! (At least as far as he knows).

He’ll watch me eating, he’ll cook with me, he’ll smell the food we’re cooking or I’m eating and he’ll exclaim over the wonderfulness of the smells, and like a fool I begin to hope. I let myself believe that maybe he’s interested, that maybe he wants to (I can barely write it) taste something.

And then my mouth starts to open and my brain is screaming SHUT UP SHUT UP DON’T EVEN SAY IT, but I do! Because I’m not smart! I say, “You want a taste?” and then it’s all over. I might as well have suggested that I whip out the kitchen shears and snip off his tongue. He clamps his mouth shut and presses both fists over his mouth and emits the worst sound ever made, a sound I can’t even describe except it makes me want to scoop out my eardrums with a grapefruit spoon rather than hear it for one moment longer.

Everything I read, everything I hear, is telling me to LEAVE HIM ALONE, but I have such a hard time LEAVING HIM ALONE. I don’t even worry that much about the nutritional challenges of his limited diet; we indulge often in smoothies that I pack with all manner of supplementary materials, and/or muffins that are crammed with vegetables and exotic grains. I know he’s getting what he needs. What kills me is that we can’t just eat the same damn dinner. That I can’t share with him food that I know he would like if he would even have a tiny bite. That going to a restaurant is a near impossibility. He won’t even eat the foods that are bad for him, that’s he’s supposed to like! Like French fries! Or grilled cheese! Or those nuggets composed of mashed chicken parts! Or ketchup THE KID WON’T EAT KETCHUP WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIM.

Tonight I failed, once again, to leave him alone. I dusted apple slices in cinnamon and sugar and ate them in front of him. He ignored me. I waved the sugary slices in front of his face and made yummy noises, but he continued to pointedly ignore me. Finally I said, “Apples with cinnamon! Mmm! Want a piece! Sure you do!” and he did the clamping-fists-indescribable sound. THEN he demanded “just plain cinnamon.” I refused him this. He immediately dissolved in tears. “Just plain cinnamon! Just plain cinnamon!” he repeated, approximately 57 times. Then I lost it. I explained, at a somewhat (aherm) elevated volume, that I was not going to simply hand him the cinnamon shaker, that if he was going to have a snack, which was by no means required, it was going to have some sort of nutritional aspect to it. Then he cried like I told him his teddy bear was going to Hell. Then he screamed repeatedly, anguished yawps of cinnamon deprivation. And I yelled, because I was trying to provide him with a model of how not to behave. He didn’t seem to get the message, because he yelled back.

Then! Because my mind was still not working right! I launched into a long and convoluted explanation of why he needs to eat nutritious foods, how such foods will make him big and strong. This didn’t work because he informed me that he doesn’t want to ever get big and/or strong. Then the rest of my brain died and I came up with the brilliant idea of a chart! We would make a chart, and every time Henry ate a new food we would put a star on the chart, and when the chart was full Henry would get a toy!

He liked this idea—focusing, as he was, on the word “toy.” We went to the refrigerator. “I’ll have a yogurt,” he said, “then we’ll get a toy.” I explained to him what “new” meant. There were more tears. I tried to take back the chart idea, but he couldn’t let it go. “We’ll have some milk,” he said, “And then, toy.” Once again I explained, no, ha ha, he already drinks milk. How about some black bean soup?

More tears. More attempting to take back the not-very-smart chart idea I had. I tried to get across to him that the chart would not result in instant gratification, that he would need to try 1,2,3,4,5! new foods. Then I said we should forget it and play and LOOK OVER THERE! IS THAT A SUPERHERO IN OUR CURTAINS?

He continued staring into the refrigerator. Finally he said, “I want to try black bean soup. I think it’s going to be,” he squinted, “a little good.”

I attempted to remain calm. I heated a few teaspoons of soup in the smallest bowl we own, and placed it before him. He took a tinier sip than I thought a human being could take, smiled, and said, “Okay, where’s my toy?”

P.S. Apparently this is International De-Lurking Week, and although I am not fond of the term "De-Lurking"--implying, as it does, that you are obligated to comment and if you don't you are creepy--I still like the idea of the Week and it's nice to hear from all of you. So! Say hello, why don't you?

Reader Comments (460)

Wait, I think I WAS 350! Hooray! Friday the 13th, my ass!
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdeborah
Having a childfree life, aiming at a childfull one soon, I learn a lot from the finslippy commenters, but I'm a little distressed by how often these food battles seem to involve a plate full of vomit.

Well, forewarned is forearmed, I suppose... so... thank you?
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteranother anna
Not exactly a de-lurk, but the first comment in a long time.
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterashby
I'm scared now! My 1-yr old is already a "selective" eater. I will read with interest to see if Henry progresses along the tasting-things curve...
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHaus
Yowza, you are popular. De-lurking to chime in on the Alice love.
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterelectriclady
I have a 3 1/2 year old who is not quite as picky as Henry, but does pretty much refuse to eat whatever we are having for dinner unless it is spaghetti or pizza or the like. Occasionally she will eat some proteins, like chicken and that's about it. Other than that, she agrees with Henry that green things are NOT TO BE EATEN. Not sure why. Either way, I fix dinner and she typically doesn't eat it. I don't really care anymore, she's not starving, and she's growing, so she can choose whether or not to eat...that's up to her... :)

January 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNess
I've commented before, but not often, so I'll officially delurk.

I didn't read all the comments, so this may be a repeat, but...

Have you ever tried "just" cinnamon? It's nasty. It's times like that when I decided my children can just learn from their own mistakes...they can be their OWN bad guy. One thing I know...my oldest daughter will never again beg for a bite of "just plain flour."
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLadyBug
My brother is 18 - and still only eats 6 things. The sad thing is, my mother still humors him. On the BRIGHTER side, my 12-year-old has been known to ask for BROCOLLI in the store, and loves to eat calimari. Um, but he won't eat onions. Don't even THINK about putting onions in the meatloaf.
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBad Hippie
My dinner plan involves taking the pressure off of dinner by supplying a nutritious snack before bed. So at supper, I usually try to make at least one thing that they will at least deign to eat, and we all eat together so they at least see the regular food. If they don't eat anything, or, say, if they don't eat anything but rice and water, I don't get excited because then I just make sure that their bedtime snack involves some of the missed food groups. This way, I don't just have to PRETEND I don't care what they eat....I really actually don't care!

And it will get better. Consider that he is at the age where, if we lived in a hunter/gatherer society he would just be starting to separate from you and wander around more. Can't have him popping every random berry he spies into his mouth, can we?? Fussiness for pre-schoolers is a self-protective thing. Maybe if you think about it that way, you will go a little less nuts?
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLB
Yay for de-lurking! And oh, woe to the mother of a picky eater! People either empathize with you or the JUST DON'T GET IT! Once when my son was about a year old, a friend tried to commiserate about her sons recent bout of picky eating. The conversation went something like this:

Me: I'm so tired of wasting so much food! I throw out at least half of every meal I make for Ethan because he won't even try one bite. He freakin' lives on cheerios and cheese!

Her: Gah! I know just what you mean. I'm having such a hard time getting Kyle to eat his avacado and tomatoes right now. It's driving me crazy!

Me: (blank stare followed by explosion of own head)

Yeah. Hang in there Alice.

January 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSolace
Hello!
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAngela
Hello!
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNorma
Hello!
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteralice
Hello! Just wanted to add that my 18 year old sister-in-law is visiting, with her 20 year old boyfriend, and all he seems to want to eat is hamburgers, ice cream, cereal, white bread, bacon, and eggs fried in bacon grease. So, um, even the mention of black bean soup is a positive step. Love the site, love the kid, love everything!
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterleigh
If LaidOffDad and Dooce can drag me out of the closet, I might as well make a hat trick of it. Love the posts, and keep eating spackle.

Lurh
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterThane
At least you are giving him smoothies, my poor child (haha) only eats the marshmallows out of the Lucky Charms box and I, ahem, allow it. He used to be a fruit lover too. I don't know what it is about 3 that turns them into such monsters. And dear God, my one year old is already throwing tantrums! ONE! I'll be committed before long.
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterErika
Delurking and loving your blog.
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMenita
De-lurking from San Francisco.
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommentercrocoPuffs
Delurking to say that I can relate. My daughter won't touch anything vegetable, even if it's well-hidden, and it makes me crazy. I can't leave it alone either!
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
Oh do I feel your pain!!! My daughter Emme just turned 3, she basically eats nothing. Your list looked like a dream to me, I wish I could get Emme to eat half of that. Her diet consits of crackers and milk, and Pediasure (which is cost a ridiculous about of money). I have tried begging and bribery, at one point even punishment (which I know is a bad idea, but hey, I had had it). We do make her sit with us at the table when we eat, and I make her a plate, but every night she pushes it away and whines. I know one day it will get better, but for right now I am so thankful for Pediasure and Flintstone vitamins.
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterStacey
Redelurking. I think I delurked last year too, and even though I might not say anything - I do read or check every morning when I get to work.

No kids here, but I was a notoriously picky eater (and in some ways still am). There was a good 5 year or so stretch in which I ate cheese sandwiches (I mean, bread and a slice of colby jack cheese and THAT'S IT), french cut green beans, and plain waffles, no syrup. Eventually, when I was about 19, started to branch out and now I'll at least try anything.
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterneko
Alice,

Delurking to say hello and I know what of you speak with this annoying child food behavior. I think you deserve a toy!
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHanna


Aha! I have delurked! (but, frankly, the word "delurked" sounds a bit creepy to me)

I, too, was a picky eater when I was a wee one. And I didn't even like pizza. It was too spicy. The only way I enjoyed it was if I scraped all the spicy meat and cheese and sauce off which left me with a piece of delightful damp cardboard.This went on until college, when I was introduced to two life-changing dietary experiences: indian buffet and the sushi train! Now I love a huge variety of food! All sorts of food! Um, perhaps a little too much. heh.

January 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGuido
I'm now no longer lurking in Boston. Thanks for lots of good laughs.
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMegan
Hello! I am not creepy! Phew.

As a grown up who was a picky eater as a child (ok well I'm still picky but now I'm old enough to say I just want it the way I like it) I do have sympathy for you.

He'll eat when he's hungry.
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLil

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