Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Picky or Just Persnickety

We've been fortunate in many ways with how the boy has grown and the traits he's acquired in his 2.5 years. 

He's mostly a happy fellow. He smiles a lot. He plays a lot. He likes to joke and, in general, be silly. He has a decent sense of adventure, as evidenced by his love of sitting in the laundry basket as I lift and twirl him around in it. 

I suppose I could sum up his disposition by simply saying he likes to laugh.

He enjoys napping too. But, like his old man, he's not too keen on the whole waking up process. And he tends to follow a pretty tight sleep schedule. 

And he's a great eater. He'll eat just about anything.....or at least he did up until just recently. 
The boy's ultimate standby food. Has its time past? 

Now that I've hopefully sufficiently acknowledged some of the boy's many virtues, I am free to point out an emerging flaw. One glaring, terrifying, praying-to-God-it-doesn't-come-to-fruition, flaw.

Without warning, the boy has introduced "fussy" into the list of adjectives that could occasionally be used to describe his eating habits. 

It used to be that, whatever we'd put in front of him he ate, with one exception — meat. Frankly, Mrs. Blackwell and I have always been cool with that. If the boy's built-in appetites don't include meat, we're not going to force it on him. 

I think we both wish we were vegetarians and, if pork wasn't so darn good, I would be.

So no meat was just fine, especially in light of the fact that he was eating everything else. 

And I mean everything. 

We've taken the boy out for Thai, Chinese, Mexican, Afghani, Indian and just about any other type of food we can find, and he's eaten it all. He didn't necessarily love it all but he gave everything a chance. 

Along the way, Mrs. Blackwell and I developed a few trusted standby foods that we could always count on when time was running tight and we just needed him to eat. 

Bananas, oatmeal and (the fail safe) cottage cheese, are some that come to mind.  

The boy too, has developed a few food-related habits of his own. When he doesn't want a food he's being offered he raises a hand in the direction of the offending dish, turns his head and says, "Esss. Essss." 

Lately he's been using this little hiss with greater frequency. 

There are occasions where it's clear he is simply asserting free will. He'll say "No," to a food and then seconds later he'll return to eat it. 

That's not too worrisome. But, when he just flat out doesn't want to eat what's in front of him, it's a problem. 

This is happening more often and we know it's not because he's unhungry. Rather it's because he doesn't like the menu. (To this end, he overplayed his hand recently by saying "Esss! Esss!" to cottage cheese and then 45 seconds later requesting a Kit Kat.)

He didn't get the Kit Kat and he did eventually eat the cottage cheese but, you'll forgive me if I feel the ground under my feet shifting and that, at any moment, the rug could be yanked out. 

What if the boy just starts saying "Esss! Esss!" as a matter of course?

In this scenario, I envision myself running frantically through our kitchen, looking for sweets to placate him, while the boy laughs maniacally, half-chewed pancakes and chocolate milk falling from his mouth. 

"More!" he'd bellow, from his throne/booster seat. "More of what I want!!!"

Before he was born, Mrs. Blackwell and I had this figured out: if the boy decided he didn't want to eat something, we'd use tough love. 

"Sorry buddy," we thought we'd say, "This is what's to eat. That's all there is." 
"This meal of greens and life-sustaining vitamins will not
suffice. Take it back from whence it came!"

This hard-ass logic of ours was underpinned by the idea that, eventually the the desire to eat would take over and the boy would come around.

I'm sure the parents of every picky eater who ever lived thought the same thing. My lovely niece spent the first few years of her life eating macaroni and cheese for every other meal. 

That said, I still hold to this and I believe that if there is but one meal in front of a child, he or she will eventually eat it. But is it worth it? What are you teaching the kid? What is the kid teaching you?

For that matter, it's not always as simple as putting food in front of your kid and out waiting them until they eat it. Every moment can't be a teaching moment; eventually the real world intrudes and reminds us that time waits for no one.

Transporting a hungry, cranky toddler around with you does not mesh with this reality. 

If nothing else, the boy's foray into pickiness has served as a reminder of how fortunate we've been and how tough it can be.

So, we might be on borrowed time or, we might not. And, if the switch is flipped, so be it. Until then, here's hoping. 

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