Persuading My Picky Eater

by Dani Shear

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My eldest daughter, Syd, ate sashimi at age three.  Devouring tentacles while slurping down pasta and squid, her nickname evolved and "Squid" has always been an excellent eater with an adventurous palate.

She begged me to try chocolate covered ants and had a field day in the Harry Potter store popping “Barf,” “Booger” and "Earwax” jellybeans.  No doubt, she’ll grow up to be one of those obnoxious foodies, taking Instagram pictures  of her Matcha Tiramasu or Pork Wagu.

But her sister Sunny, not so much.  She is pretty much a straight arrow mac & cheese maven.  And although not a cook, I have managed to master the perfect noodle and cheese sauce.  I challenge anyone to do better, even old Wolfy Puck. 

Having a picky eater at home, you learn to rise to the challenge. I would try ANYTHING to get her to take a bite of food. To distract her while shoveling some semblance of edible SOMETHING down her mouth, I sang songs, rapped, acted out parts from “Caillou,” even juggled rubber duckies..  I was a virtual one-woman circus-feeding machine.  Cirque de Sunny.  My husband would look at me with wonder and awe. 

I don’t think I’m special. Here's betting most moms would sell their soul to get a bite of something remotely healthy in their kid’s belly. The Devil Loves Pomme Frites.

That said, it was a cruel joke for the universe to give a Jewish mom like me such a picky toddler.  Jewish and Italian moms should only have rotund babies.  Botticelli's rubenesque Cupids back up my theory.  It was excruciating for me to see her skinny limbs.  My stomach was always in knots. “Eat, EAT, EAT” I would scream at her.

She wasn’t going to starve on my watch.

But screaming didn’t help. It only gave me a chronic hoarse voice which eventually was diagnosed as nodes on my vocal chords.  And my performance art, despite my commitment, didn’t cut it in the long run. The only thing that really helped was patience. And trust.

And deep breaths. 

Now, if she doesn’t eat, I meditate.   I remind myself that these are the “salad days”.  (I have no idea what that expression means, but I use it all the time).  I offer her a few options and then I walk away.  I know when she’s hungry, there’ll be a slice of cheese or an apple or (don’t judge)…a chocolate croissant. 

And in her fourth year, she has expanded her repertoire now to include: Koo Koo Roo chicken (the only chicken she will touch), salmon (lox, not freshwater), bananas and peanut butter, hummus and Ceasar salad (she downs shots of Ceasar dressing, straight up).  And, I am proud to say, she is now in the 70th weight percentile for her age.

Will she ever be a gourmand? Hard to say. When her sister is dining on snails at Le Cirque, will Sunny beg for a bite?  Probably not.  Will she be a world renowned chef?  Unlikely.  But she’ll be Sunny, a picky eater, but an eater, nonetheless.

I won’t lie to you.  My faith has been tested to the core. But every night I get down on my hands and knees and say a fervent prayer…

“Dear G-d, please don’t let Koo Koo Roo file for Chapter 7!”

Photo credit: Lois Keller

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