pickÂ·y: adj. Excessively meticulous; fussy.
I thought I knew picky. I thought I knew picky eaters. And then, I met my son.
It is at the core of maternal urges to nourish one’s young. My youngest has stymied my attempts from the beginning. He had multiple nursing issues, and a delightful habit of projectile vomiting. When we finally moved on to solids, he loved to grab the spoon from my hand… so that he could play with it. Cheerios on the tray? Those were fun to stick to his head, sure. Then came the food allergies. And somehow we arrived here, at age four-and-a-half; and while I refuse to battle my child over food, I am still amazed.
Sometimes, when the job search seems particularly bleak (when would that be? oh, all the time, thanks), I consider posting a billboard outside the house. “COME SEE THE AMAZING AIR-EATING BOY! BEHOLD: 38 POUNDS OF NOTHING BUT AIR AND POP-TARTS! JUST $1 TO WITNESS THIS MIRACLE WITH YOUR OWN EYES!” I could continue staying home, then. I mean, sure… I’d probably have to mop more often, what with all the people trampling through, but I could live with that.
Monkey has consistently ridden the bottom of the growth chart. The doctors assured me that as long as he was gaining (be it ever-so-slowly or not), I shouldn’t worry. And I’ll confess that if he’d been my first I probably would’ve dropped to the floor and died long before now, what with the constant worry that he would one day simply evaporate. But I’m more easygoing now, or at least I have fewer brain cells left to assign to issues like this. He’s happy, he’s relatively healthy, yes. But he’s just so weird.
My boy just loves him some pop-tarts. Mmmm mmmm good! And he’s picky, remember. So you’d think he’d only like certain pop-tarts. But you’d be wrong, because he’s picky but he’s weird. Any fruit-flavored pop-tart is fine and dandy with him. He hearts pop-tarts. He eats one or two for breakfast every single day. (Yes, please send me hate-mail about what horrible crap pop-tarts are. Given that it’s the only meal the child can be counted upon to eat, I will get right on eliminating those from his diet.) Monkey loooooves blueberry pop-tarts! He will not eat blueberries. Monkey loooooves cherry pop-tarts! He will not eat cherries. Monkey loooooves strawberry pop-tarts! He will not eat strawberries. Are you seeing a trend, here? Anyone? Weird.
I think some of it is a textural issue. Similar to the pop-tart phenomenon, Monkey loves fruit-flavored yogurt, but only if it is so processed and smooth that there isn’t a single tiny particle of identifiable fruit matter remaining.
But I shouldn’t complain about fruit. He eats apples, now. And for a long time, he wouldn’t eat any fruit at all, so this is a major triumph. But I’ve been putting the same apple in his lunch bag for nearly a week, now. He hasn’t touched it. When I ask if he still likes apples, he says he does. “Why haven’t you eaten it, then?” I asked.
“I dunno,” he said, deep in thought. Then: “I guess I wasn’t feeling apple-y today.”
In case you’re wondering, he hasn’t been feeling sandwich-y or green bean-y or cheese puff-y or raisin-y or even tortilla chip-y this week, either. The child regularly returns home from school with a full lunch bag. If I tuck a yogurt in there, it’ll be gone. (And as that can’t be resealed, I have no guarantee that it’s even being eaten; it’s possible it just gets tossed after one bite.) Everything else is right there. And the yogurt? 4 ounces. So let’s see… if he eats the entire container… 16 ounces in a pound… that means he’s chugging along an entire day at school on the power of… 1/152nd of his body weight in nourishment. Call me crazy, but that just seems impossible.
There are foods that Monkey loves besides pop-tarts. Sure. They include: crackers, bread, yogurt, cheese, french fries, and mac-n-cheese. And there’s a secondary tier of foods he’ll sometimes eat on alternate Tuesdays when the moon is full and Mercury is in retrograde: apples, salad, hot dogs, cold cereal, grilled cheese, McDonald’s cheeseburgers, and sunflower butter. And altogether, that’s not such a horrible diet. Throw in a few glasses of milk and a multivitamin and call it good, I say. Me, I have a serious ongoing relationship with food. I have my favorites, but I’ll try anything, and I like most everything. I just cannot understand the complete lack of pattern when it comes to this kid’s consumption.
The rule in our house is that you taste everything on your plate. Once tasted, if you don’t like it, fine; you don’t have to eat it. But you must taste it. Tonight was a typical dinner in my house.
Before dinner: With apple crisp baking in the oven and meatloaf being reheated in the microwave, Monkey walks into the kitchen and announces “Ewww, what stinks?”
During dinner: I spend most of my meal explaining that french fries are made from potatoes, and mashed potatoes are like smushed-up french fries, and besides that, they’re really yummy. Furthermore, meatloaf is really just like a cheeseburger except without the cheese, with the added bonus that you can dip it in ketchup, Nature’s perfect condiment! It’s a hard sell, and Chickadee and I clear our plates while Monkey whines that he doesn’t like this, he doesn’t want this, why did I make this (“To torture you,” I answered. “Mama, did you really?” counters Chickadee)! Nothing touched his lips until the final minutes of the meal. Monkey took a deep breath, stabbed his fork into his mashed potatoes and extracted a tiny morsel, and put it in his mouth.
Shock registered on his little face. “Yum!” he said.
“See? I told you that you’d like that! Have some more!”
“No thank you,” he demurred as he set down his fork. “May I please be excused?”
After dinner: We are in the middle of our bedtime reading when Monkey bursts into tears. “Honey!” I cry out, “What’s wrong?”
“I’m… I’m… hungry!” he snuffled.
“I see. Do you think maybe you should’ve eaten more dinner?”
“No! I think maybe I’d better go to sleep right now so I can wake up and have some pop-tarts!”
Well, then. I have to give him credit for knowing what he wants, I guess.