I keep waiting for my kids to become normal people when it comes to food.
When my daughter was a toddler, everyone told me that is was normal for her to only eat bread and cheese and pasta; that it was one of those annoying, toddler phases that she would grow out of, like delaying bedtime or asking “why?” about everything you said. But she’s nine now, and unless I missed the memo that the toddler years have been extended into the double digits, I’m guessing it’s not just a phase.
My son isn’t much better, either. He used to be a really good eater; he’d try just about anything and he seemed to really enjoy food and flavor, but somehow, as he’s gotten older, he’s only become pickier and pickier about what he’ll put into his mouth. He used to eat things like barbecued chicken, avocado, empanadas and tomato soup, but now he’s holding firm at pasta, cheese, chicken tenders and yogurt. It’s like he’s Benjamin Button, only instead of aging in reverse, it’s his eating habits that are going backwards.
I’ve tried just about everything. I tried the eat it or go to bed hungry routine, but that went out the window after my daughter barfed upon swallowing a green bean. I tried the if-you-present-a-new-food-at-least-twenty-times-they’ll-try-it-eventually tactic, but even if I served mushrooms every day for the next twenty years, I’m fairly convinced that neither of my kids would ever suddenly decide to ingest one. I’ve tried the sneaky chef approach, but my kids are always able to sniff out the cauliflower in the mac n cheese, or the butternut squash hidden inside the quesadilla. I’ve tried the one-bite rule, where they just have to take one bite of whatever’s on the table, but it always goes the same way: my kids somehow manage to reduce the “bite” to the size of a single molecule, then they scrunch up their faces and make all kinds of shaky, scared, “uuuuhhhh, uhhhhhh” noises, as if a ginormous spider just landed on top of the molecule and I was requiring them to eat that, too. Then, when they finally do put it in their mouths – with greatly dramatic, stifled gags – they immediately declare it “not the best.”
Now, as a fairly picky eater myself, I do sympathize. I mean, if someone handed me a plate of raw fish, or any kind of dark meat, or lox, or salami, or pork, or anything with onions in it, or cold peas, or veal or anything sautéed in garlic, or – okay, I’ll stop now – but anyway, if my parents had forced me to eat any of that stuff, I would have called Child Protective Services on them for sure.
But as the mother of people like this, I have to say, it’s maddening. When my friends tell me that they made salmon for dinner and their kids ate it, or that their children love sushi, or that the whole family went out for Indian food, I get insanely jealous. I could never just make something for dinner that everyone eats, and we can’t go to restaurants that don’t have a kids menu. Of course, I didn’t eat salmon until about three years ago, I detest sushi, and I wouldn’t set foot in an Indian restaurant if you paid me.
Still, I can’t help wishing that it could just be that easy. I can’t help wishing that my kids were normal people when it comes to food. You know, normal. Like me.