Highest common denominator

            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.

22 responses to “Highest common denominator

  1. Yes, yes– I get it. I try to remember that Finn is still an adventurous eater even if his brothers are (soooo) not. Imagine my surprise when we sit for lunch & he eats lentil soup or beans and rice. Making dinners, however, I tend to weigh the picky twins’ habits more than his (two against one, maybe) and yes, it worries me that we are stunting Finn’s diet. Ahhhhh.

  2. Yes, several of my kids are the same way. I made a casserole the other night that had black beans and chicken and brown rice and corn in it. I new that there was NO WAY that they would eat all those foods touching each other. So, I made the casserole in different pans and just put the rice and chicken and corn carefully in little piles that did not touch on their plates. Then the rest of us got the real meal, but I only cooked one thing.

  3. I will tell you what is really my mother’s story – consider it a pat on the back – we spent my earliest childhood in suburbia, where my mother was mercilessly looked down upon for having picky eaters – everyone else’s kids seem to be raising themselves, I guess- she traveled with peanut butter in her purse & never fought with us about food. For one full year I ate only yellow, tan or beige food. We moved to New York when I was 8 and within two years all of us were eating the cuisines of the world, of the streets, of really anyone who had specialty or a delicacy of any sort. My mother’s friends brought their children to visit her & sullen teenagers turned away from moshu wraps, spicy curry & eggplant parm. My mother offered peanut butter with a quiet smile. She won in the end. Keep cooking for Ben.

  4. Great post, great philosophy. It’s necessary to be creative because you never know when you’ll stumble upon a new food that the picky one will eat. Creativity with form makes a difference, too: I actually got Mr. “That’s-too-Green” to eat veggies as a garnish on top of pretzels smeared with hummus.

  5. I think that the mothers of my son’s friends dread when he will be eating at their house, because he’s such a picky eater. He gets it from his father, which is no consolation at all.

    Good luck.

  6. Hold that bar high – he’ll eventually eat his way over it.

  7. I think God sits up there and sniggers at us when we try to appease our kids polar opposites.

    My eldest girls, 17 months between them, have completely different palates. Feeding them for the last 11 years has been interesting. Early on, I opted for the highest common denominator, and I have recently begun to see it pay off in my pickiest eater.

  8. yeah, yeah, but can i have more scoop on california?? more? tell us a crazy story.

  9. You could easily be describing the differences in my two children as well. It gets so frustrating sometimes, but hey, I’m as picky as my Ben, so I know where he gets it.

  10. And I’m with you on the “no nuts” things. Ben’s school is insane about what we can and cannot send to school. I’m always tempted to take a 5lb bag of sugar and a can of Mountain Dew, mix them, and then send them to school with him.

    Why so spiteful?

    They have all of these rules and regulations about what can and cannot be sent with your child BUT HAVE NEVER TOLD ME WHAT THOSE REGULATIONS ARE. So I’m shooting in the dark, here.


  11. Your Benjamin sounds just like my Bear! He loves his food!

  12. In a parallel universe you are actually cooking for a toddler version of my husband. You will pleased to learned he outgrew most of these quirks and now eats like your second son instead. It only took forty years or so to outgrow.

  13. We must have the same children, really we must.

    My kids look nothing alike. The oldest is long and lean with a darker complexion and the baby is short and muscular with a fair complexion.

    The big one eats no protein (except the PB!) and the little eats ANYTHING, including dirt, rocks and sticks!

    We could very well be living the same life!

    I so feel for you!

    Picky eaters are a b*tch! 🙂

  14. I just love seeing how different siblings can be. I have 5 brothers and sisters, and none of us are alike. It is so strange.
    All of my boys are like Benjamin. We are afraid that they may eat us out of house and home. My oldest eats more for lunch than I do all day. Crazy boys.

  15. David’s new food is bread smothered in mustard. That or peanut butter out of the jar.

    I don’t get why everyone has a peanut allergy. They did a survey of two schools in New York once. One school was for rich kids and the other was for poor kids. 40% (or some other obnoxious number) of the kids in the rich school had peanut allergies. I don’t think any in the poor school had it.

    I knew a kid who was allergic to all dairy. That poor mom.

  16. One of my proudest moments as a parent? When Child 1 told me (years after the fact) that it had not liked having its food touch but it had never told us because it new we wouldn’t care. Mean mommy? Believe it – but Children who (even the picky one) will try just about anything and eat it happily? Yup! Score.

  17. I have a Benjamin on my hands. He eats everything in sight and lots of it and he eats with such relish it makes me laugh to watch it!

  18. I’d cook for Ben too. In fact, we do. We have pasta with sauce; she gets it plain. We got out for asian food; she eats the rice. In other words, she’s more like Zach. But I’m not stooping to her level.

  19. I’m always relieved to hear of different feeding experiences in children of the same parents. My son has been picky since birth and is still fundamentally a white foods child. Vegetables are a nightmare, but thankfully he will eat carrots. I figure variety doesn’t matter so long as a few vitamins get in!

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  21. The good news for me: for now, anyway, the Little Mister likes everything. He eats fruits, veggies, bread, chicken, steak, lamb…it’s amazing! I was always afraid I’d have a picky eater. I hope this doesn’t change!

    But then I wonder…what will the next one be like? 🙂

  22. I totally get this. My little one will eat almost anything. It’s such a joy to feed her. I’m so thankful that she’s such a good eater because I could not handle another child with the food issues that my older one has.