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!”