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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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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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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






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



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.”


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)

hi, from oklahoma - a non parent, and i read the whole thing! as a former very picky eater (bologna and cheese and cheetos with mayo.. at least he's moderately healthy!) i can also add my voice to the chorus that this too shall pass.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkristin
I'm a lurker and so are a lot of other people apparently. Seeing that I'm the 125th commenter here, I doubt you'll even notice me ~hehe. But I'm with you on the kid that won't eat variety. I'm also the one that can't leave it makes me freaking crazy and there's nothing I can do. At least yours will eat Annie's or Amy's. Mine won't do that unless it's Arthur shaped. I wish I had advice but I don't. My husband lived on mint jelly and peanut butter on rye bread (no lie) for the first 6 years of his life and he's turned out alright, albeit a fussy eater, I'm trying to ride it out. Calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean. TIDAL WAVE!!!!
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkristen
de-lurking because you told me to... *goes back into hiding*
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteranonymousey
Officially de-lurked! Three kids here, all picky eaters. Now they are 24, 21, and 12. No scurvy, no rickets. When they hit the teen years you will yearn for the toddler years.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCarol
Hi. I read your blog every day from my shitty office cube, and it makes me smile. Thanks!
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMegan
Hello! I don't often comment because by the time I get to the end of your posts I'm laughing to hard to type.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSheryl
eroops! too not to.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSheryl
Fruit snacksCookiesPizzaKraft mac & cheeseChicken nuggets/tendersFrench fries & frozen potatoes (cooked of course)Some cereals w/ & w/o milkPancakes/eggosPuddingIce creamCheese & crackersSpaghetti (only sometimes)Toast w/ butterSpaghettio's (the smell alone kills me)Apples (very rarely & must be peeled -- very nutritious)Bananas (also rarely)Chips (potato, but probably chocolate as well if I let him)Milk (chocolate) & juices

A list of what my 3 year-old eats -- note the lack of fruits & veggies & well, protein. Which his why we also include a multi-vitamin, if for no other reason than to make the Mom feel better.

Love your writing, Alice -- your's was the very first blog I ever read & it's the best --
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTerry
wow, how can you possibly read all your comments on delurking week? I am a lurker pretty much everywhere. I can rarely come up with something to say. But, lo, I must say, I would have let him eat plain cinnamon. I think that means I am cruel, though :) Since it is my annual comment, I will say again - love your blog, keep it up! Thanks!!!
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJen
Hello! Would it help if he saw his teddy eat the foods? If his new toy was a doll you could feed? If he would at least touch the foods and get them on his hands and accidently ingest them?
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterga girl
In honor of delurking...thanks for writing everything you do! It's a great day-brightener.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie
Hello, why don't you?

Is Henry already doing that? Deliberately misunderstanding what you say in the manner as to make you want to tear out your hair strand by strand?

See I was pretending there was an educational aspect to my comment, and really I just found it funny.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSarah
I don't usually offer advice, but you seem to be asking for help and I'd love to help if I can! ;)

I have an almost 5 year old and used to run a daycare so I've seen a lot of different eating habits and kids. I've turned some extremely picky eaters into kids that eat almost anything. My son eats almost whatever is placed in front of him and thanks me profusely for it- it's almost hilarious! Things like celery and chinese coleslaw and potato leek soup and salad every night with spinach and mushrooms and every sort of vegetable and fruit.

Anyway, our eating rules are if you're hungry you eat what's placed in front of you and you may say no thank you if you don't want it but you may not be rude or say anything bad about the food. I'm not a short order cook and I don't want my children to learn to be picky eaters. We also don't have dessert- I mean it's never earned by finishing your meal. We surprise him every once in a while with junk food and treats but they are never earned. In between meals healthy snacks are offered and he can choose what he wants.

Hope that helps, feel free to email me if you want to talk more about it. Hope you find a solution that works.

January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer
i read your blog. everyday. i don't have any kids.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjessica
Hello, delurking. I have a tough time commenting on your blog because you seem all sophisticated and witty and pulled together, whereas I am usually not any of those things, let alone all three at the same time. But I think your writing is fantastic and love reading about you and your life. Thanks for creating such a great site!
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterlaura gf
Hi Alice, I'm not a lurker and I'm not creepy. At least, I don't think I am. That being said, I do have a bit of a blog crush on you. You are funny and cool and I love your writing style.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTB
Coming out of the lurk... My husband was a very picky eater when we met and has discovered a lot of things that he thought he hated. but may in fact have never tried. I usually just ignore things he tells me he doesn't like, slip it in a casserole first and then say, "but we just had it last week and you loved it" when I put it in full view on his plate.

I thought for sure we would be cursed with a picky eater child, but instead we have the same problem as (way back up top poster) Katie -- he's a huge eater. At Thanksgiving he ate all of his food plus all of Picky Eater Cousin's food that she snuck on to his plate and woke up in the middle of the night to throw up. We have to constantly monitor him when there is food within reach, because if it's within arm's length it all goes in at once.

He's a Henry too.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
hello, here's my delurk.

when i was a kid (about 4) i decided to be vegetarian. at first that was okay, because my parents thought it was "cute"; after about 3 weeks they got concerned and hauled me to the dr. saying "what should we do?". he suggested they get a vegetarian cookbook.

ah, but the other doctor, he came up with the "no thank you helping" suggestion. the idea was that i had to take a portion of everything i would ordinarily say "no thank you" to, and, well, eat it.

i tried valiently, but it sucked. i used to cut my meat into pill-sized pieces and "take" them with water. one day,while doing dishes--i was still stuck at the table with lumpy no thank you helpings in front of me, my dad saw this fine pill behaviour and asked what i was doing. i explained i was eating my no thank you helping. (it would have been easier if we'd had a dog.) anyway, that was the end of the no thank you helping.

growing up, i ate limited forms of meat (hamburger/ground beef products, boneless steak, boneless chicken breast, the inside of wontons, in short, things that were pretty far removed from looking like where they came from.

once on my own, i ate veg. i'm fine.

my sister was weird in another way. she would eat only one thing. for a while it was broccoli. she was 3 but could eat the entire family's allotment. pickles were another favorite. we lived on the east coast at the time, and at diners they'd put down a "pickle boat" with a bunch of types of pickles. my sister would eat the *entire* thing, often while we were chatting. alas, my parents used to have to deny the whole family pickles, lest my sister see them. we used to face her *away* from the other diners or she'd see their pickles and scream for them.

why tell you all this? because i don't think there is such a thing as a "normal" child around food.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterwen
Hi Alice. My name is Stacy. I've been a lurker for about 6 months now. Are they any 12 step programs for being OCD about reading other people's blogs? I seriously check for new posting to my 5 faves SEVERAL times a day. daughter is 5 and Mac & Cheese is STILL one of the only things she will eat. She doesn't like pizza either. I swear she can't be my kid!
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterStacy
De-lurking to say that my single friends and I seem to have reverted to a similar diet, but out of a stubborn refusal to grocery shop and cook rather than to make our mothers crazy. My roommate, an adventurous eater in restaurants, subsists entirely on cheese sandwiches and pop tarts at home. But if anyone were to offer us homemade food? Well, we're not crazy people.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersuperfantastic
Oh, and I forgot to say that my Mom sweetly indulged me for over a year of my childhood when I would eat only white bread, mayo and american cheese sandwiches with apricot juice, 3 meals a day. I was absolutely scrawny, but survived just fine and am now an adventurous eater. Now I think both the sandwiches and the apricot juice are disgusting, but on the down side, I don't think anyone would call me scrawny. Maybe your Henry has discovered a new diet craze and will be fabulously famous. You can be the mother of the guru.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
Oh man... I'm in the same place as you. It's bad enough at home, but I (stupidly) thought that when she went to school/daycare that since she'd see other kids eating a variety of foods, she would get the picture and join in. Hell no. I keep getting the little comments from the teachers there that she's such a picky eater. Ugh.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteramber

Delurking. I think you're awesome and have a wonderful way with words. Hang in there. Thanks for writing!

January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTessa
De-lurking?! Well that is for someone who has somethign to say! I don't have kids but looove to read about your adventures with Henry. You guys are the best. Thanks for all the fun.("I made you a hat!" makes me laugh out loud still, many months after you told us about it)Your pal,Torrey
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTorrey
(delurking)I'm absolutely horrified I'll wind up with a child who won't eat anything but mac and cheese, since all my husband eats is mac and cheese and pizza with ranch. the horrors! i may have to take extreme measures, like, make the kid go to bed without food until s/he eats what i made. or... send him/her to the orphanage so the lessons of how unappealing cold porridge is shall be impressed upon the brain indefinitely. that sounds good, actually.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterheather

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