The un-foodie

            Benjamin is every parent’s dream when it comes to food.  He may not eat everything, but he is sure willing to try.  The list of foods he does not like fits on one hand and includes pickles and hummus.  The list of foods he does like, however, is long and varied.  Mostly, he is partial to the Atkins diet – fruits, vegetables, and protein.  The kid eats asparagus.  He adores lemons.  And he’ll take protein in any form he can get it.  He loves tofu, eats kidney beans straight out of the can, and has been known to down an adult-sized hamburger.  While grains and dairy aren’t his favorites, when he’s hungry he is perfectly happy with cheese, milk, or whole wheat pita. 

            Now, the odd thing is that he isn’t into breakfast, which makes him an anomaly around here.  We are a family of breakfast eaters.  But Benjamin alone is not a morning person, and he’s not really ready for breakfast till he’s played a bit and usually had his first of many daily bowel movements.  (I’ll leave it at that except to say that if you ate as much as he eats, you’d poop as much as he does, too.)  However, he has been known to request Chinese food for breakfast.  And Indian food for dinner.  And Mexican food for lunch.

            People tell me what a great job I have done, and believe me, I’d like to take credit.  But, if I take credit for the one, I will need to take the blame for the other.  I refuse to take the rap for Zachary’s eating.

            Zach is on a multi-vitamin because he only eats fruit once a day—on a good day—and only eats vegetables once a week—in a good week.  He is on a prescribed iron supplement because other than a once-weekly hamburger, he has no sources of iron.  He is now on a calcium supplement, as well, because he decided a few weeks ago that he does not drink milk, in addition to eschewing cheese, yogurt, tofu, and broccoli.  (Don’t tell me to get the calcium-enriched orange juice; he has his iron supplement in the OJ because vitamin C helps the absorption of iron while calcium inhibits it, which means the calcium has to be at a different time of day than the iron supplement.)

            Zachary is the embodiment of the future in which we eat no actual food and just take nutritional supplements.

            Matters have gotten much worse of late.  He is out of control of his life, with the move and the other move and his father working a lot and his mother very pregnant.  It is not so much that he is asserting control through food as that he is out of control of his responses to food.  The smell of macaroni and cheese suddenly makes him ill.  Fish fingers – once his primary source of protein – suddenly make him gag.  His body is creating a safety zone by allowing in only carbohydrates.

            And peanut butter, of course, which is all well and good except his pre-school is a nut-free zone.

            Then, there was the incident at Disneyland, when he refused to eat his peach at snack time, despite the fact that he actually adores peaches – one of his few forms of fruit.  (You’d have to be seriously wrong in the head to dislike California peaches around this time of year.)  And, so, matters came to a head, and I informed him that I was not planning on dealing with low-blood-sugar tantrums, and there would simply be no more rides till he ate the damned peach.  Benjamin got to go on the carousel and Casey Jr. Train while his brother sat there staring at the peach.

            OK, maybe that time he was asserting control through food…

            I try to be patient.  I give him extra affection and try to carve out special time.  This too shall pass, I remind myself, and with him periods of pickiness are usually followed by periods of trying two or even three new foods.  In fact, the child sat down two hours later at Disneyland and ate a chicken finger, as if he hadn’t given up chicken completely five months ago.

            And so, I sit and I wait, doing my best to bury my frustration, which works sometimes.  And the whole time, I console myself in the cries of my younger child: “Mo broccoli, pease!”

22 responses to “The un-foodie

  1. i am coming to the conclusion that very few of the qualities i admire in my child are actually my own doing, alas…he is what he is, and all i’m doing is trying to support and shape that already formed human.

    i’m lucky. O eats like Benjamin, more or less. we were complimented on this the other day, and all i could think was, this next one will probably refuse all food except fries until she’s ten. no matter what.

    now i have a peach craving, Emily.

  2. They’ll eat when they’re hungry. The best you can do is give them the opportunities to eat good food and do it by example. At our house we don’t allow substitutes if they don’t eat with us, so the kids eat what we eat. But if they don’t want it, they’ll eat it at the next meal because they’re hungry. You have other issues going on, however, and I believe the example and opportunties will be good enough when this phase passes. It’s amazing to me what some kids eat and survive. But they do. And yours isn’t the worst I’ve heard of. It will be better. Eventually.

  3. Ahhh… advice I have heard before. But, it actually doesn’t always hold true. He will eat carbohydrates when he is hungry. But, if there are no carbs and he doesn’t like what is there, he will not eat, even if it means he falls apart completely at school or elsewhere. We followed that advice for two years till we realized that some kids will eat when they are hungry, but some have sensory issues that are impossible for them to get through, no matter how much you say “this is what we are having for dinner.”

  4. Looking back, I can see that my brother and I must have been impossible to deal with. There were months when we refused to eat anything except apples, blueberries, and yogurt. There were years where we refused to taste any food that was mixed with or had ever touched or *almost* touched any other food or that had a funny texture or an odd color or…

  5. I have a couple of boys like this. And it seems to go in phases. I used to blame myself for “giving in” to the whims. And then I decided that some food was better than no food. But, my three year old (and he is three so it might also be blamed on the age) has been driving me nuts because he will say he wants a particular item of food (yogurt, grapes, peaches) and he will take two bites and then just make a mess with it. This could go on all day.

  6. Oh gosh! How awful. My first two were good eaters, only going through little down times when they didn’t want much. And The Bear eats anything that doesn’t run from him. I hope he can start to enjoy more things!!

  7. I have one that will eat pretty much anything, and one who is monumentally picky. I too have tried to make food an non-issue, but that, frankly, is impossible. They don’t always eat when they’re hungry. Some kids just don’t recognize the hunger cues, or don’t acknowledge them, or use food as a means of exercising control over their lives.

    I swore I would never make my kid sit at the dinner table long after everyone else had gotten up staring at a plate of cold food. But…it has happened. Because it’s my responsibility to make sure that the kid is fed and well nourished and since he can’t make good choices for himself in that regard, then I have to.

    I fear that when he leaves home, he will balloon up to morbid obesity, because I am sure he will indulge in a steady diet of cakes, cookies, candy and junk food.

    But for now, I can at least minimize the amount of crap that goes into him.

    Food issues. They suck. So do power struggles.

    When you put them together….oy. Suffice it to say, I empathize.

  8. I completely agree with you, Emily. (In regards to your comments) My doctor told me the same thing. He will eat what you give him, eventually, when he gets hungry. Not true with my kid. He gags and throws up (literally) if he has an aversion to a food. (So no, he will not eat the meat I give him–ever–he will gag and throw up instead)

    Peanut butter and beans have been our lifesavers!

    (Luckily my little one will eat anything–including lettuce leaves—Lettuce leaves??? Yeah that’s what I said) 🙂

  9. Sounds just like a meal in my family. Torture. Pure torture. Cooking for them is an absolute nightmare.

  10. My younger son lives on air & a multi vitamin… but everytime he goes to the doctor they say “well, he’s not fat — and he’s healthy – so that’s good. Don’t worry.” So. I try not to.

  11. I have one picky eater and one who will eat almost anything. It’s so frustrating (read: annoying) when there are tears over not wanting to eat a food.

    Makes mealtimes very hard sometimes.

  12. I am every day thankful for my little boy who eats EVERYTHING. I know that can change as he grows, of course, but right now I’m enjoying giving him as many different foods as I can.

  13. My big boy is pretty good about eating most things (and ate beautifully for his first two years).

    My little boy is a pain in the butt when it comes to food, and has yet to meet a vegetable he’s willing to eat. sigh

  14. Emily, I see our numbers twos are cut from the same cloth.

    Mine eats ALL DAY LONG and used to not bee horribly picky about what, but at THREE has turned into Demon Spawned Hellion wrt food. Now she’s hungry and whines all day to be fed but spits and spats at any and all suggested food.

    She is back on Pediacare to maintain her fragile weight.

    Kyla’s girl, who drinks only pediasure (and fwiw, they like the exact same type) and doesn’t eat, weighs the exact same as my girl.

    My Persistence has turned into a pick and peck eater and I could string one of us from the rafters by the evening most days. Well, it’s not just the eating.

    She clearly has enough energy and is fine so shrug.

    I feel for you, I do.

    Everyone thinks they have the magic solution but I’m pretty sure the only magic solution is age 10.

  15. Fortunately all three of my kids were pretty good eaters. They each definitely had some Ew Yuck! foods, but not enough to throw their diet off balance. My brother, on the other hand, grew up surviving on basically Ritz crackers spread with a healthy dollop of peanut butter, onion cream cheese and liverwurst. Yes, all at the same time. He is now the healthiest eater I know. And never fear, it only took him to the age of 37 to get there!

  16. Did he eat the peach? After 3 1/2 years the only fruit we have gotten the mini to ingest willingly are apple sauce and prune juice, and those at once a week at best.

  17. inbodyexperience

    It sounds like you have your hands full. I understand some of your angst but not near the degree that you have described. I am the mother of at least one…soon to be two we think…diagnosed specific learning diabled children. Both extremely bright, intelligent, creative children but none the less different from your average child. My children are polar opposites with their eating habits. In my circle of friends I have heard of the extreme eating problems that you are descibing.
    I suggest reading this article. It is one of many that are out there but even if it doesn’t apply to your situation you may be able to pull some information out of it that could help your son. I have always found that no matter what I read, even if it doesn’t seem to apply to my situation, I can usually pull something useful out of it.
    Good luck to you and your family. It sounds like you are very in tune to your family which is the basis for all success!

  18. You’ve got the perfect balance there for keeping your mothering ego and angst in balance, don’t you?

    You were at Disneyland? That’s so close to me, only about 20 minutes. AND I have Disney passes! (Of course, they are block out for July, but still–so close.

    It is good to be reading you again, Em!

  19. What a comfort this post is! My son is a very picky eater and has evolved now to a constant diet of chicken, carbs of some kind, carrot and either apple or banana for fruit. He’ll eat lamb if I roast it, and turkey, but doesn’t like fish. Actually, I’ll stop this right now before it becomes a tedious list, but just to say that I know what it’s like to have a child who really will not eat, no matter how hungry, if it isn’t something he has consented to. Oddly enough, when he was a toddler, I found the only way to make him eat with relish was to have each spoonful of food talk to him, begging not to be eaten. Reverse psychology seemed to work, but boy, meals took a long time.

  20. I mean no offense to anyone else but the number one thing that drives me crazy when it comes to kids is when people say “They’ll eat when they’re hungry enough” because no, some kids WON’T eat. I tried every trick in the book to get my boy to eat, including letting him lose weight as I waited for his hunger to kick in and none of it ever worked. Two years of food therapy have gotten us to the point where he has a small (but thankfuly pretty balanced) diet but he still has massive issues with taste, texture and smell. It can be so hard for him sometimes.

    My girl on the other hand is just like your Benjiman. She’ll happily try everything we put in front of her and 98% of the time she likes it. I’m not ashamed to say that after 6 years or so of struggling with my son’s eating I now get a great deal of pleasure out of watching my girl eat so well. I never knew how happy watching a child eat could make you!

  21. How ironic – I just did a whole blog about not wanting to have kids for reasons invovling trying to make kids eat certain things! Check it out:

    -A.P. Taylor

  22. Monkey will try anything. But getting her to eat more than a bite of two of anything has become tougher. She was such a good eater but just in the past month or two she’s decided that all she wants to eat are berries, yogurt, scrambled eggs w/cheese, chocolate chip granola bars and her body weight in milk. Everything else? She may take a bite but stops there. Veggies? She won’t touch them except for an occasional avocado. Wait. Scratch that. Avocados are FRUIT. lol.