Monday, April 11, 2011

Curse of the Picky Eater

My mother swears that for the first three years of my life, I lived off popsicles and Mac n Cheese. Dawson claims that his cousin’s skin literally turned orange as a child because he only ate carrots. Everyone seems to have a story about someone whose eating habits were pure crap as a kid, all of who grew up to be normal. But for some reason, it doesn’t make me feel better. I still stare in complete awe when I see other people's kids scarfing down broccoli. Or salmon. Or chicken. OR ANY FREAKING THING THEY PUT IN FRONT OF THEM. All I want to know is why. Why me? Why is my kid the picky eater?

Is it karmic retribution for my refusal to eat peas until I was 23? Is it because of the time I was so mad at my brothers that I dumped salt in their milk? Because I thought I paid for that when they found out and punched me. Is it because I spent years talking smack about peppers only to find out that they are actually amazing?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bad cook. In the kitchen, I’m like Molly Ringwald in a movie not directed by John Hughes. It just isn’t right. But I try, I really try to make things that are at least moderately good. And I hate reading all the expert advice about how to get toddlers to eat. It always says, “Just give them what you’re having for dinner.” But no one ever says what to do when that won’t work. What about when your kid continually refuses what you put in front of her?

Do you know what I want? I want someone with credentials to tell me the truth. That it’s okay that my one year old eats a limited amount veggies and meat. Because I know it’s okay, but when I don’t actually hear anyone say it, I worry that I’m delusional, like the one kid who is still clinging to the hope that Santa Claus is real when it’s clearly his parents’ handwriting on the gift tag. I want someone with credentials to tell me it’s okay so that I won’t freak the freak on a daily basis or go to sleep feeling like a failure when Thumper eats a pancake for dinner.

It’s not uncommon for Thumper and I to have a three day stand-off about soup. Or any food that doesn’t come from the diary, wheat or fruit food groups. I know I shouldn’t turn mealtime into a battlefield, but sometimes I can’t help it. Sometimes the worry and the crazy just take over and all I can think is that if she doesn’t eat a carrot right. this. instant. then she will grow up to be some sort of wild, obese rabbit with diabetes who can’t hold a job or a relationship or make a peanut butter sandwich without squishing ketchup chips and Skittles inside of it.

I was *this close* to ripping out my own hair when miraculously, my wish came true. At a routine check-up with the doctor, Thumper’s horrible eating habits came up. I reluctantly said the only meat she eats is chicken nuggets. And do you know what the doctor told me? (I’m getting giddy all over again just writing this!) She admitted that her son ate chicken nuggets religiously as a small child. I told her how embarrassed I felt by it, but she said at least it’s something. Do you hear that? That’s the sound of an EXPERT telling me that it’s okay. Take what I can get. Start sleeping again.

I left that appointment feeling better than I had in a long time. Someone with credentials finally cut the BS and told me the mother-effing truth, which is that as long as I’m trying, it’s enough. The results aren’t perfect but it’s something. And I’m not saying the “expert advice” is BS because it doesn’t work -because I fully believe it can and does, I’ve seen proof of it in other children. I’m just saying it doesn’t work for everyone. I’m saying that the experts shouldn’t be afraid to say “Just give them what you’re having for dinner. But if all you can do is get one measly green pea inside your kid, than that’s okay. It’s one pea in the right direction.” Trust me when I say that my doctor revolutionized my life with her simple confession, in fact she probably added a few years back onto my life span.

And I swear to God, I was so happy I’d have proposed to her right there, but I figure it’s probably poor form to be engaged to two people at the same time.


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