Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Dinner Wars — Vol. I

Through his first two years and two-plus months on this planet, we've been fortunate that Master Blackwell has proven to be a great eater.

By "great eater" I mean only that the child eats whatever is put in front of him. 

The boy, preening after winning his
first dinnertime battle.

Ideally that definition would be broadened to include that the boy doesn't end up with his meal smeared to his face like some sort of deranged disguise. Ideally it would also mean that he didn't slop large chunks of food onto his clean outfits and the floor surrounding his chair. 

Yes, "ideally" that would be the standard of a "great eater" but, if he's anything like his father, that ideal isn't likely to be achieved until sometime after he turns 20. 

So, we apply the general standard of a great eater and, in all candor, that'll suffice. (Watching the kid eat sloppily is one of those good messes and frequently it means a cute photo op.) For now, the convenience of having a kid who eats what's put in front of him can't be overstated.

There's only so much time in a day. Devoting 30, 40, 50 minutes at a pop to cater to the breezy whims of a child's changing tastes doesn't work for most folks, Mrs. Blackwell and myself included. 

I've watched some parents struggle to find meals that their kid will eat. Having a picky eater is tough. What does a parent do to counter a kid who refuses to eat the food put in front of them? 

That's a question we've not been forced to answer — until recently. 

Yes, it appears our good fortune might be running out. Three evenings ago, Mrs. Blackwell made the boy a scrumptious meal that included baked chicken breast, sweet potato, broccoli and baked beans.

Like most of the boy's meals, it was served warm and with a heaping helping of his mother's fawning on the side. It was disconcerting then to see the boy deviate from the usual script. Instead of enthusiastically gobbling up the food in front of him, he shook his head no.

His mother's polite prodding (issued in a playful, baby-friendly voice) was met with stony, steel-like resolve in the negative. 

"You want some sweet potato?" Mrs. Blackwell asked, in a voice dripping with honey. 

"Nooouh," the boy retorted, though the inflection of his voice made his "no" sound like a question. Through his second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth "no" it became clear there was no question. 

The boy was not eating this food. 

We knew he'd eaten a fair amount for lunch, so it wasn't as if this was the meal that would tip the scales toward him being malnourished. It was nonetheless a disturbing development. 

Now, I know there are a few of you out there (guys mostly) who are thinking, "So what? Let him miss a meal and teach him a lesson."

I know that, because that's what I thought. I thought it before I became a parent and I was thinking it the other night too. 

"He'll eat the food that's put in front of him and that's that," I said to myself when this was just a hypothetical and again when it was reality. 

While less enthusiastic, Mrs. Blackwell agreed that we weren't going to cave into the boy by offering him a long list of culinary options until he decided on one he'd like. Not a chance that we were going to open that can of worms. 

Neither Mrs. Blackwell nor I wants to try to live a life where the boy's menu consists of one item called "whatever the hell he wants." 

So, we stayed resolute. The boy said "No" to dinner and off he went. We let him down from his seat at the kitchen table; he began playing with Grover and Elmo and didn't seem bothered by the lack of food. 
Skondra's. It sounds like a car company from the
Soviet Bloc but don't let that name fool you.
This folks, is damn fine ice cream. Just ask my son.

About two hours later, I had a bit of a sweet tooth and decided on having some ice cream. And wouldn't you know it, the boy decided he was hungry.

Being the astute fellow that I am, I had no idea what had happened until Mrs. Blackwell walked in the room where she found the boy sitting on my lap while I enthusiastically spooned vast amounts of butter pecan into his mouth. 

Upon taking in this scene, she quickly laid it bare for me. I wasn't just sharing a bowl of ice cream big enough to satisfy a couple of offensive linemen. No sir. I was in fact, rewarding the boy's dinner holdout and sending the message that refusal to eat a healthy meal will be met with swift justice — in the form of a bowl of sweets two hours thereafter. 

It's been a couple of nights since this incident and we've been fortunate in that my lack of focus seems to have been forgotten about. Or, he's just waiting until we've got a flavor of ice cream more to his liking. 

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