Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Picky Picky

Connor is a picky eater. This is not surprising, considering he comes from a long line of picky eaters. My father lived his whole life without ever trying peanut butter because he didn't like the way it smalled. My mom thought my grandmother had been a bit of an enabler, and vowed not to indulge her own children in the same way when it came to food. But my brother and I were no match for her, and soon she was waiting an extra 10 minutes for special-order fast food, because pulling the pickles off of a pre-made McDonald's hamburger wasn't good enough for me and my brother- no, when we said we wanted it "plain," we meant PLAIN. We grew up picky. We've gotten better in adulthood, no doubt from our time working in restaurants, but we are probably still more finicky than most.

So now it's my turn. I, too, idealistically approached feeding my child. Breast milk only! Then organic foods! And then ethnic foods! Mmmmmmmmm! Connor would eat stuff I shoved in his mouth, but he was never very enthusiastic about it. Cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, and cheese quesadillas, with a side of fruit (in light syrup) soon became the norm. Hummus, refried beans, scrambled eggs, and any other form of protein he had accepted as a baby were soon abandoned by the toddler. I eventually got protein in him in the form of Tyson Southern-style chicken nuggets. And an occasional slice of pepperoni, if he's in the mood for pizza. But five nights out of seven, he has chicken nuggets and fruit, and maybe a piece of cheese or a starch.

I tried to avoid this. I made sure to offer him foods over and over, once I heard you might have to offer a food 16 times before your kids would be willing to eat it. (Eventually I realized it would be more prudent to teach him to say "no thank you" rather than throwing the offending food on the floor.) A year or so ago, I read that you should offer your child the same thing you're eating ONLY, not to give him a separate meal. Just make sure there is something on the menu that you know he'll eat. So I planned a week's worth of menus that the whole family could enjoy. Ha! I'm not exaggerating when I say it was one of the hardest weeks of my life. Every night was a struggle, sometimes turning into a full-on fight. Every night Connor and I cried. That was when I decided that Connor was just going to be picky. He wins. It's not worth it to me to fight that battle. Chip is good with this too, although occasionally he starts to worry that Connor will never eat anything. I just remind him that I was a picky kid once, and I turned out okay. I also try to explain that I know how Connor feels, that I remember how strongly I didn't want whatever food was being pushed at me. So despite rare situations where Chip aggressively pushes new foods at Connor, on the whole are happy to follow our kid's lead.

Since we gave up, things have been fine. I feed Connor what he'll eat. He continues to grow, to not get sick often, to thrive. Every night I tell him what I'm having for dinner and offer some to him. Every night he says, "No thank you." And if he lives his whole life having never tried Reese's Pieces because he "doesn't like peanut butter," I will just have to respect that decision.


Stacey Greenberg said...

you realize you just set yourself up with this one, huh?


and i was seriously the pickiest of all picky eaters as a child. really until college. working at squash blossom, travelling to isreal, and being in the peace corps, and marrying chef miki moto finally broke me!

Memphisotan said...

My theory is that the pickiness is only quelled by the deadening of the taste buds with alcohol and coffee, which is why everyone gets less picky during college. And why I still have the palate of a 7-year-old.

Cathy said...

Ruth Reichl writes about this very issue in the month's Gourmet Magazine. She has a very idealistic view of the subject, feeding her kids only what is prepared for everyone at the table. While I optimistically plan to do the same with Charlie, I know that it is not completely up to me. I definitely appreciate your comment on remembering what it's like to have food pushed on you. It's definitely a reminder to weigh the consequences of your battles. I'll try to remember that with Charlie. I forgot how cute Connor was as a baby (he still is, too!).

Unknown said...

Ah, shit, you're supposed to feed them?