“I know I deserve my picky four-year-old,” I often find myself thinking as I’m struggling to pull together a meal that is healthier than Ritz crackers for my daughter.
I remind myself of the years of torture I provided my own mother with my “creative” needs for food — the times when I decided I did not want pork loin and would instead make an entire pan of garlic bread for myself. So, yes, I did make my mother suffer and, in that vindictive mother/child karmic circle that none of us can escape, here I am.
I honestly don’t think it would be so bad, but my tiny food-rejecting tyke is just enough different in her tastes that I find it difficult to relate. My carnivorous soul would never say no to a steak slathered with A1 sauce accompanied by a friendly tower of garlic bread. In fact, in my youth, I’d have happily eaten any of the 10 items on my list of approved foods as many times as my mom wanted to make them for me.
My daughter is different.
She will eat four bananas in one day and then will treat them as if they’ve been pre-licked by monkeys for several months afterwards. I can introduce her to a new food, with many hair-pulling minutes of haggling about which side of the pea she will take a bite of, only to have her declare that she loves it! My blaze of motherly pride and glory lasts for a grand total of three bites until she decides: Nope, actually she was wrong. She hates it. Didn’t I remember that she hates it?
No dear, I did not in fact know that you hated it. I must have missed those prenatal signals. Though the hyperemesis gravidarum I suffered through could be seen in a rather different light when I consider her eating habits now… Perhaps someone should research this. How early in her development did my daughter’s predisposition for food terror start?
So, what do you do when you think your child will turn into a peanut butter cracker? Cue the facepalm and silent weeping? Joking. Joking.
I’ve come up with a few rules that allow me to respect my daughter’s preferences, while still requiring her to eat actual food.
- As old fashioned as it sounds, yes, she has to take one or two bites of something new. As someone who was constantly tortured by people making me eat things that made me want to throw up, I don’t force her to go beyond that if there is a strong dislike.
- If I know that she has eaten a dish before and liked it, she must eat the meal when I make it next. Far be it for me to compromise her delicate culinary principles but, as I’m already making a separate meal for her most nights, not eating something she ate like a ravenous T-Rex a few nights before is no longer a choice.
- I try not to worry too much about the small details, like the fact that my daughter still loves the veggie pouches babies start gumming before real food. I simply thank God that some sort of vegetable matter is now in her stomach.
- Fortunately, my little one has an innate love of fruit, so I try to capitalize on that as much as possible. Whenever the siren call of crackers overwhelms her, I require her to eat at least one or two servings of fruit before she gets any other snacks. I also try to keep fruit in the car for quick meals.
- I continue to expand upon foods she does like. For example, she loves broth. In this, Lillie and I are certainly kindred souls. We could sit happily cradling a cup of broth to drink like most people coo over their lattes. I recently introduced her to ramen and am proud to say she is a budding connoisseur of the amazing combination of briny broth and slurpy noodles. As long as there are no green onions, I have high hopes that one day I’ll be able to slip in a few bean sprouts and get away with calling them crunchy noodles. From there, the sky is the limit.
- I suppose my last trick is to simply keep trying. I will not give myself a hard time when she eats a mini cliff bar, a piece of cheese, some crackers and, if I’m lucky, some PediaSure for a meal. Instead, I will continue to tease her taste buds until something new and healthier catches her fancy.
To all of you out there facing this dilemma…good luck, happy haggling, and, above all, remember that if you go to your mother for sympathy, you will hear only high-pitched cackles of glee.