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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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Chicago Review Press

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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)

As George Carlin said about himself being a fussy eater, "Fussy Eater is a euphemism for Big-Pain-in-the-Ass". I never could relate to that mindset, being the type of kid that would try to eat pretty much anything that was set in front of me (edible or not).

There. I'm all de-lurked. I hope you're happy!
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersumo
Delurking. Unlurking. Coming out of the lurk. hmmmmm...they all sound creepy, so it seems that it doesn't matter whether you lurk or delurk, you're a creep either way lol. I've been reading you for quite awhile now, and I'm pretty sure this is my first comment! Go me!

On the topic of kids who won't eat...I had 2 of 8 year old son is STILL like that, and if I want a guarantee that he'll eat, it has to be dippy eggs (over easy or sunnyside) and toast. Or a jam sandwich. Yep, that's pretty much it. My 6 year old daughter on the other hand...with her, you pretty much unhinge her jaw, start dropping food down her gullet and sometime before you start collecting your pension, she may say "okay, NOW I'm full" but I'm not counting on it.

Be thankful Henry's eating at all...and the stuff he will eat is HEALTHY! hooray!
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKristine
Two words for you: Ellyn Satter. Google her. Buy her book. I swear. Do it now.

My 3 year old still only eats marginally more than what you have on your list, but we can now all sit down at night and eat a family dinner with out fighting. AND she occasionally tries a new dish when I make it. Occasionally.

Child of Mine is the name of the book.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBethany
I think I'm delurking, here.

Yours was one of the first blogs of people I don't know in real life - found you through Sac over a year ago.

I think Henry's list is actually pretty good for a 3 year-old. My cousin is nearly 14, and since the age of two has eaten nothing but plain noodles with butter, white bread with butter, pizza crust, chocolate milk, and strawberries. It's still a control issue. I hope she eats protein and vegetables someday.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermle
Delurking to say Howdy! I love your blog. My son is almost 9 months old and I am already having problems getting him to eat solid baby food.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDiane
Hey, happy de-lurking week. My almost-6 year old weighs only about 32 pounds, and while she'll eat any number of weird foods, she won't eat *enough* of them. And she seems to have a need to leave something on her plate or in the bottom of her glass, no matter what I feed her. And she can't eat anything with lumps in it. I know how hard it is not to comment - hang in there!
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTracy
Hi there! I absolutely love your writing style. You make me laugh every time.

I get SO disappointed when there isn't a new post. (No pressure, though).

You should be very proud of this site.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKiker

Henry hates daughter hates bedtime and pooping. It's ALMOST funny...
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJP

Am so glad it's not just me. Last night I had the nerve (!) to put a SINGLE GREEN BEAN on my daughter's plate and you would have thought I had held her down and tried to stuff it up her nose.

Your blog is one of my favorites.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterStacy
Hello! De-lurking because you asked so nicely.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMeredith
I read,I laugh, I read, I laugh...consider me delurked...or bezerk?
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJoan
Hello neighbor.

If I saw you on the street and stopped to heap you with gushing praise would you think

A. Wow, I have a fan in the neighborhood, how cool!

B. Oh fuck, I have a stalker!

C. I have a stalker, how cool!

Keep writing. We'll keep reading. And not stalking.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterswarty
Swarty--all of the above. Other people have done it and I didn't call the police until after they were long gone.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteralice
Yeah, I tried that whole "ignore him" thing and it only got worse. The little sucker figured out he could get dessert all of the time if he made me crazy during the meals. So, I did what my mom told me she'd done with me (and I was fine): don't let him have any dessert, anything fun at all, nary a bit, if he doesn't eat the variety on the plate. It can be a small portion, a tiny portion even, but he's got to eat it or he gets nothing else for the rest of the day. Day 1: kid refused to eat. Kid went hungry. By late evening, kid was starting to relent, but then tried to just eat only what he wanted again. Day 2: more of the same, only the relenting part moved up to an earlier time in the day. No desserts, no nuthing unless he ate what was on his plate. Still tried to weasel out of it when he did agree to eat, so again, no dessert, no snacks. Day 3: kid was very hungry. Kid ate what was on his plate. Got to have dessert. Still fussed for the next meal, so the rules held. By Day 4: kid relented, started eating. Never had a problem with him after that.

He'd 5'10, now, 165 lbs, and a fireman. Very healthy, eats lots of variety. Though he still likes to gripe that I tried to starve him to death. Hee. I told him he could put it on the list of bad mom things, I didn't care. He eats, I won. Heh.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commentertoni
i have commented a couple times before but hello, here i am again!your posts always make me laugh, which is slightly annoying when i'm at work and someone walks by while i'm literally giggling at a screen but what can you do.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkate
I was going to just slink away and then you said that would make me creepy, so...Hello!:-)
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdish
De-lurking because yours is one of my favorite blogs! Hello. =)Happy to know I'm not alone with the my-kid-won't-eat thing. Don't know how many times I've heard that, "Surely he'll eat pizza" bit! Also, he changes his mind with every meal. Yesterday: "Eggs, eggs! I want EEEEGGGGSSS!! NO banana, EEEGGGS!!" Today: "NO EGGS! *scream and stomp feet* No, Mommy! NO EGGGGSSSS!"
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKimC
My lil boy is only 9 months old. Your post gives me so much to look forward to. And I am delurking, so there you go.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRachelle
I'm so relating to this post - so it's an appropriate one for delurking.

And what about the well-meaning friends & relatives who advise you that really it would be wise to make the kid eat whatever you're eating at every meal, as if that's even the least bit realistic. Can I punch them in the stomach and tell them to EAT THAT!
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAlison
More comments from a constant lurker! I hate to tell you this but my kid is eight and his list of acceptable foods looks pretty much the same... with the exception of the mac and cheese thing. I came up with a homemade recipe that he loves MORE than the boxed kinds. I know. Surely a sign of the end of days, given how hard they market those boxed mac and cheese things. But it's good stuff and, if you're interested (and you manage to wade through your comments to get to mine), let me know and I'll email you the recipe. BTW, thanks for the awesome blog! I read you every day (even when you don't post. I just re-read what you've written previously).
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAgent_Orange
Another lurky reader with no kids who loves your blog, Alice. Looooooooooooooves it. Bye!
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSara
i peed from laughing. dear god, is this what i have to look forward to? my 9 month old just started covering his mouth when eating...
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterlindsay
Wow. 169 comments. We're delurking like an emmer-effer.

Thanks for this post. But now I realize what I really knew, but couldn't admit: Ramming a taste of something into my daughter's mouth so she'll JUST TRY IT FOR GOD'S SAKE! is perhaps not the best course of action. Except sometimes she actually likes what it is and eats it all up.

The only time she has accepted green in her mac&cheese is at Two Boots (the mac & cheese with trees, please). Other than that, all fruits (except applesauce) and 98% of vegetables are Satan spawn.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermadge
I know some one whose son subsited on cheese sandwiches alone for at least 2 years. White bread, processed cheese, no condiments. Maybe a glass of milk or water here and there. Despite this crazy diet of white bread and cheese the child grew big and strong, but not fat and is quite intelligent. I'm thinking of going on the cheese sandwich diet myself.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commentercursingmama
Hello. I'm delurking. I love you. I love your blog. Thank you.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterabbyjane

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