I had the best intentions. My son was going to be a Good Eater of Good Food. So, I breastfed and wallowed in the knowledge that I was feeding him Nature’s Perfect Food and giving him an Excellent Nutritional Start In Life.
Once it came time to give him solid food, I anxiously asked my pediatrician for advice. “How do I get a balanced diet into him now?” I asked her. “You don’t,” she replied. Did I mention that my pediatrician has two young children of her own?
But I tried. I went with super-expensive organic stuff made from vegetables that have been rocked to sleep by farmers that sing them lullabyes in the fields. I bought organic Oat-Os from Whole Foods instead of plain old Cheerios. I went to the farmer’s market religiously to get him fresh, locally grown produce. And he liked it. He really did!
Oh, I try to make myself feel better about it with weird mommy-math: Vegetables are good! French fry = potato = vegetable. Ketchup = tomato = vegetable. High fructose corn syrup = corn = equals vegetable. Right?
(OK, even I know that last one is pushing it. So, we buy the organic ketchup with no corn syrup at all and is probably financing a new condo in Palm Beach for the Heinz family.)
The issue now is that my kid will happily not eat. He slurps some juice here or there, shoves some goldfish or a fruit roll-up in on the fly but a whole meal? Not on my watch. Oh, he eats at daycare. But not for me. For me he picks at his dinner and I throw all sorts of weird food at him if I think he’ll chew and swallow it. One night, he ate bananas and black olives for dinner. That’s all. Bananas. And black olives. Even at the height of pregnancy cravings, I never thought those two foods should be combined. But I didn’t fight him on it because at least he was eating.
Sometimes I just give up altogether and tell myself that milk is a sufficient dinner for the boy who would still rather slurp on a bottle than go through the laborious motions of chewing and swallowing. “Sure, go ahead,” I say. “Drink 18 ounces of milk instead of eating a real dinner. You need the vitamin D and I don’t mind washing your sheets after you flood your diaper in the night due to your liquid diet.”
You know what else he won’t eat? Cookies. I know. So weird. But wait. It gets weirder. He won’t eat ice-cream. He won’t eat cupcakes. He won’t eat fruit snacks. He won’t eat peanut butter. He won’t eat chicken goddam nuggets! A Twitter friend heard that and suggested I check to see if my son is actually a robot.
Right now he’s in a watermelon phase. If you asked him what he would like for dinner, he’d say “Wa-melon and lello-snack!” (“Lello-snack” or” yellow snack” is code for Smart Puffs, which used to be called Pirate’s Booty or, on one memorable occasion of me not being able to remember a brand name, Booty Chunks). Clearly that is not going to work, as I learned the hard way that a dinner like that will cause him to wake up at 4am hungry and sobbing for milk the way he did during the famous Nothing But Applesauce For Me Tonight, Mommy! phase. So, I have become a hot dog pusher just to get enough protein into him to keep him asleep at night.
I’m sure that I have set myself up to have a lifetime of food struggles with this child. He’ll probably subsist on hot dogs from now until he’s old enough to want to impress a girl (or boy) he’s dating, at which point his pallet will broaden. That’s what happened to my father who famously ate hamburgers and peanut butter and jelly, almost exclusively, until he married my mother. My mother’s food philosophy is “Eat what you like, don’t eat what you don’t like, and don’t talk about it” which leaves very little room for argument and resulted in my father growing to be a rather sophisticated eater. But my mom at least had some raw material to work with inasmuch as my father was willing to actually eat. Unlike my son.
I could go on all day about this but I need to go now. I need to nuke a hot dog and cut up some watermelon. It’s better than starving, right?