Gray Matters — Picky, picky
Belfast — For all the years my eight-year-old has been eating solid food, it has been a routine struggle to get him to try new things without a huge protest.
The protests always range from the expected, "Mom, I don't like [enter any green vegetable here]," to more creative commentary, such as the one time he went so far as to tell me he feared eating a chicken enchilada may actually kill him.
I found the latter example to be a bit dramatic, with just a hint of humorous.
And now I have to say the problem has become a bit worse since I have decided to return to my yearlong stalled goal of eating healthier and making regular trips to the local gym to stay in shape.
Now vegetables of all kinds are replacing some of our old favorites, like Pop Tarts (few things can sabotage a new eating plan more than these pastries masquerading as something that once contained fruit). Gone are the evenings of noshing on a variety of potato chips while planted firmly on the couch (or, mostly gone anyway), and I think it's safe to say my son is not a fan of my new food choices.
I do try to sneak the healthy foods in, and I'm guessing some of you parents out there have resorted to similar tactics as adding veggies to some of his classic kid favorites like mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese, and at this writing he will still willingly eat things like beets and steamed carrots, so I guess the situation could be worse.
I can recall many occasions over the years pleading with my son to ingest something that grew from this earth, following that pleading up with a comment that has now become legendary in my house: "Man cannot live on mac and cheese alone."
And while we're on that topic, that goes for hot dogs, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and imitation cheese slices.
For the record, I am also fond of announcing to all within earshot that "I am not a short order cook." Parental translation: Eat what's on your plate. There are starving children who would be happy to have that [enter-less-than-desired dinner choice here].
Wow, I sound like my mom.
But understanding taste buds and food preferences change as we get older, I remain optimistic that my son may eventually eat better (and perhaps by choice) as he grows.
Looking back on my own childhood, there are many things I enjoy eating now that I could not stand the mere sight of as a child. I always hated mayonnaise growing up, but now I think nothing of adding it to tuna fish sandwiches, chicken salad or other dishes that call for the condiment. I also shuddered at the mere mention of cottage cheese, something I have since come to love in many different flavors and varieties.
And my brother Shane was worse than I was. As a boy, he refused to eat spaghetti, lasagna, all green vegetables and most anything else was wasn't gum. These days, my brother will gladly eat all of the above — I about fell out of my chair the first time I saw him eat a spoonful of broccoli and cheese and smile about it rather than gag and go into convulsions to convey his disgust.
Based on some of the articles I've read on the subject, as well as some of the more experienced parents I have spoken with, it sounds as though the key is to keep offering him new foods, as I have been doing, and eventually his pickiness will subside for lack of any other choice.
I may have contributed to his pickiness where I did make separate meals for him as he started eating solid food. I did this because my son has a genetic syndrome that, in part, prevents him from sprouting teeth at the same rate as other children, and as a young mom with little experience, I was always fearful of him choking on something he was not physically equipped to chew.
I continued to do so for a few years, but when he could easily mow down things like dry cereal and other crunchy stuff, I started adding a few more items to his menu and that's when the real struggle began. My new dedication to reducing the junk food levels in my house has not helped.
I do feel as though I'm making headway, though. After he announced his fear of imminent death caused from wolfing down a chicken enchilada, I managed to talk him into giving it a try.
He ate the whole thing, and after setting his fork down he offered me an encouraging comment.
"Well, mom, that wasn't as bad as I thought."
Great, I thought. Score one for mom.
Then he added, "But it's definitely not my favorite."
Well I guess I can't have it all. But I figure if I can get him to think outside the mac-and-cheese box, I'm doing better already.
And in this case, what doesn't kill him (by way of chicken enchilada or otherwise) will truly make him stronger.