The Picky Eater Project- Ch. 1

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Man cannot live on bread alone, but my son Jack can.

I sit here staring at him thinking of what a mess I’ve created by catering to his every whim, desperate to get him to eat something, anything. In my exasperated state I caved over the months, giving him chicken nuggets, waffles, frozen sausage links, toast…just to see him eating. At least he’s eating I tried to comfort myself. But now all I am left with is an almost 3 year old whose resolve has become so ingrained in him that he won’t even try one bite of something other than his standard. It’s terrible! And I feel so responsible and that I have done everything wrong that I could have done right, if I had just stuck it out a year ago when all this was snowballing before my eyes. I think I was too tired.

Parenting magazine had this lovely article in this month’s issue which completely steam-rolled my miniscule hope that he’d grow out of this phase. The article entitled, “Grow a Foodie!” had a jumbo-sized caption in the middle of the article shrieking at moms what the point they were trying to make was. It said

Picky-eaters are not born, they’re made” and in my my brain, in true mom fashion, I completed the sentenced, “and you’re making one”.

They could of just made a pop-up centerfold that poked me in the eye shouting “loser!”, and it may have been less harsh than that. The entire four page article went on and on about how we are enabling them to be picky, and that this phenomenon is strictly western culture because elsewhere the world there isn’t such a thing as the “kids menu”, kids just eat smaller portion of what their parents are eating! Shocking! The overall message I got from the article was: it’s my fault. Which is pretty much our deepest worry as moms that keeps gnawing at our sanity in the wee hours of the morning. The dreaded…..what if it’s all…my…fault? What if I made a bad decision? Or I messed up? How is this going to effect their adolescence, their potty training, or goodness gracious, what if they hold it against me for the rest of their life?? I can already see him now! Riding a motorcyle, drinking beer and eating pork rinds all because I could never stick it out and transition him to REAL FOOD…(and then Tom pointedly remarks, yes, but at least he’s eating pork.) Side note:It is never advisable under any circumstances to weigh options on any parenting decisions you have made from 11pm – 9am.

But it didn’t used to be this way! As a baby he tried many foods we presented to him and enjoyed things with flavor like chili, meatballs, lasagna, and carrots. Now, at 2 1/2, he has a strict menu of chicken nuggets, toaster waffles, pretzels, toast and PLAIN (not buttered! For the love he just might pass out if he sees butter) noodles. He is turning me into the parent I never wanted to be! I never, ever, ever, was going to have icky processed chicken fricken nuggets in my freezer or piles of toaster waffles on my counter for breakfast. I can’t tell you the countless kids I babysat for in high school and I thought I was never going to feed my kids as horribly as their parents were feeding them. Well that idea totally bit me in the butt.

I have one kid who eats anything, another who would if I would let him (even though he remains toothless) and the other who is pretty much the poster child for a happy meal. It makes me so guilty and frankly, very stressed out to think of all the nutrients he is missing out on, and now thanks to Parenting magazine I have pressure to purge him of these eating trends! I’ve got to change his preferences now before he’s asking for chicken nuggets and noodles at his high school graduation party. Or crying at his dress rehearsal dinner because some moron put a slab of butter on his bread.

As with every bright idea I have I always set out a tad bit too excitedly, and in Jack’s case, that’s a major turn off. I thought why wouldn’t it be a great idea to teach him and Mia about the food we eat and let them build their own plate? I sprang into action after tossing Parenting magazine in the trash and began piling different items from the fridge on the counter. We made carb piles, protein piles and fruit/veggie piles. I explained that at every meal, they had to have a carb, a veggie and a protein. Mia built her plate awesomely, made my Mommy heart swell with pride only to be utterly deflated a mere second later by Jack who insisted on having for his veggie: bread and his protein: bread. Equaling a lunch of : bread . About 15 minutes later, and a million and one negations on proteins(Me” “Hey, how about some Peanut butter?” Jack “How about not some peanut butter”. ) (Me: “how about CHOCOLATE YOGURT?!??!?!” ahahhahhaaaaa <<<— that’s me, breaking down in a fit of maniacal laughter at the absurdity of how much I’ve lowered my expectations) To summarize: on day one of the picky eater project, my son ate bread for lunch.

Is this a power play? Is he strong willed? Will he eventually cave? I don’t know. I think he’s going to have to give in eventually. I’ve tried every darn idea in the book and it’s not working. I don’t know how, but somehow, they just know when you sneak nutrition in. I did the old “turkey meatloaf cupcake with mashed potato frosting” thing. Stupid. He looked at me like I was from Mars. Then I tried mixing flax seed into his pasta sauce. HAHA. Yeah right. Then I cut up a real chicken cutlet to make it look like nuggets- nope. I even got out ice cube trays and gave him a whole flippin buffet to pick from and he just blinked at me and asked me why I even bother. Ok, he didn’t ask me that. But I knew that was what he was thinking. Yes and I’ve told him everything from he needs to grow, to pick food that is colorful, to let’s play a game, to I’ll give you a sticker, to just take a “no thank you bite”, to just-take-a-bite-of-it-and-i’ll-give-you-a-jelly-bean, to leveling with him and saying

“Look. If you don’t eat, you’re going to end up in the hospital.” To which he asked me, “Which hospital.” <<—and that is where I almost broke down in tears because in that moment I looked at his eyes and I heard “Bring it on, woman.” Oh dear, this is going to be much more difficult than I imagined. Thanks a lot, Parenting magazine!

So. Today is day 5 and we’re putzing along slowly. I’ll keep you all updated on how it turns out but I’ll leave you with a funny thought. Yesterday as I was making dinner so was my starving son. He was cooking in his play kitchen. He brought me a sampler platter of what he was making and when I asked what it was he told me,

“This is noodle and frosting and pancake soup with banana fries” Then he kind of stared at me with these big “Do-you-want-me-to-make-this-any-clearer” look. I know we’re both thinking this doesn’t need to be this difficult. I told him I’d have to find a recipe. Ha. I guess I’m going to need to get a little more creative than I thought here.

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9 thoughts on “The Picky Eater Project- Ch. 1

  1. Oh AM! We have the same problem with Anne, and those articles make me feel like the worst mother ever. We’ve also tried the learning about food, choosing for yourself, mini muffin tray buffet, homemade chicken ‘nuggets’, just going hungry… you name it, it didn’t work. And sometimes I turn into crazy mom. As in, she still uses her binky because I am such a failure-so I throw binkies out to prove a point. We’re down to one, and no closer to eating or dropping our binky habit. I’ll be the mom in Target buying new binkies for the 3 year old next week. Crap.

    • Oy. Don’t even get me started on the binky…..I keep comforting myself that she won’t want to go on a date with it. Or will she?

  2. So, I’m no expert because I have a 5 yr old selective eater. I say selective because he will eat, but only what he selects. Like demanding smoked salmon or pistachios or steak at the worst moments. And de-selecting typical favorites like apple slices or strawberries when he so chooses. I can’t say I’ve mastered his manipulative techniques, but I do know some things that help. 1. I take him grocery shopping with me. He tends to eat better if he’s helped buy items. 2. He cooks with me. He can make mean scrambled eggs (I’m serious, start to finish) and toast with butter. 3. We invented a thing called My Food Notebook to help him remember what he tried and liked, because often his pickiness was a memory problem. The Notebook helps him remember what he actually told us he likes to eat and helps us remember what he likes to eat. We have 3 boys and sometimes we forget who likes salt on eggs and who doesn’t. He does.

  3. You know, I told my mom I was worried that SK was being a picky eater and would become a McMahon picky eater-of-nothing-not-white and she told me that truly picky eaters aren’t made, they’re just born that way. I think she’s right… don’t beat yourself up! Parenting magazine is usually filled with silly fads anyway. I mean, they had an article about Mannies (male nannies) back in July I think.

    • You know, I have been thinking Parenting is a little eh lately. I remember that article on mannies!! I still can’t get him to eat chicken or beef or peanut butter…and I know that’s him, not me. So I’m not going to push it. But on the plus side, we’ve had a little progress: chocolate clif bars & carrot sticks! Wow. Really, carrot sticks is a huge, huge, moment for us. He never eats veggies!I just stopped cooking separately for him at dinner. I mean, Charlie eats what we eat now so I figure Jack will just have to learn to get with the program….

  4. The chicken and beef thing could be a sensory or texture preference. Lily has hard time eating meat. I occasionally can get her to eat it sometimes but for the most part she won’t touch it. Or she puts it in her mouth and then spits it out. I’m almost certain that with her it is texture issue or it’s harder for her to chew than other things. I just keep offering it and try serving it different ways.

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