As I have mentioned before, my children are slightly different when it comes to food. Also when it comes to body type, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, temperament, skin tone, aggression, and favorite activities. In fact, the only two things they seem to have in common is that they both like to sleep and they both love to talk. “It is almost as though they aren’t related,” a friend once mused, looking at their two faces.
Food, however, is the most frustrating difference. Zachary’s goal, even as a baby, seemed to be inducing total insanity in his mother. When he was a toddler, I tried putting a little grated cheese on his pasta. He sat in his high chair and picked out each piece that had been tainted with the foreign substance, tossing them one by one over the edge. He was cleaning house.
For him, it is all about carbohydrates. He will not eat sauce. He eats only a few vegetables, and those only when prepared in very specific ways by me. He has finally consented to fruit, but only hand-sized fruit, so no berries or grapes and certainly no melon. And, by the time he accepts an in-season fruit, it is out of season again. Protein? Fuhgettaboutit. If it weren’t for a certain sticky, brown substance best served with jam, we’d be completely screwed.
And, while it has gotten better lately as he has learned to accept hamburgers and almonds, feeding him remains a challenge, especially now that I need to pack him a cold lunch each day. I understand the no-nut rule at school. Really, I do, and I support it fully. But, for the love of God, those of you who have children who are allergic to peanut butter, please, please, take just a moment and honor the level of commitment to your child’s health it takes for me to figure out a lunch for my son each day. I know it is not nearly as difficult as the challenge you face keeping your kid safe, which is why I do it willingly, but please, just for one moment, understand what those of us on the other side are also going through.
I should have known we were in for a different ride from the very start with Ben. When he was just a day old, he would scream at me with frustration as he tried to breastfeed, pissed that he was working so damned hard and getting a few drops of colostrum for his efforts. When my milk came in, we were both relieved. Whereas Zach had breastfed like a Russian on the bread lines, this one nursed like an American at an all-you-can-eat rib-and-chicken buffet.
He eats anything, and a lot of it. “That’s a lot of food,” a friend worried as we ordered Chinese food, perhaps under the misapprehension that we were feeding only three adults. The twenty-month-old ate more than his father, seeming especially fond of the chicken-lettuce wraps.
We went to an all-you-can eat salad and soup buffet. As we stood outside, five minutes before opening, and watched Ben yanking on the locked door screaming “LUNCH! LUNCH!”, we figured they had not counted on our son when they created their children-under-two-eat-free policy. Or, perhaps they figure that kids like his older brother average things out.
Ben is as adventurous as he is voracious, and feeding him is sheer delight. I have earned it, frankly. And I have two choices. I can cook to the lowest common denominator, dumbing down our tastebuds to keep Zach happy. We can go out only to Italian restaurants. Or, we can eat Indian food and Japanese food and tofu and vegetables and Zach can sit by eating plain rice and fake chicken burgers. We have opted for option B. Maybe someday Zach will catch up, maybe he will remain picky. I suspect he will grow up to be a gourmet chef and a daring culinary explorer.
In the meantime, I am cooking for Benjamin.