Child experts, I dare ya

I have a picky eater.  And he’s driving me crazy. 

I’ve read and heard of all types of tips. 

Like don’t force him, he’ll eat when he’s ready.  Or he’ll go to bed hungry and wake up so hungry he cries and cries until you give him some bread to shut him up.

Like the no thank you bite.  I’ve sat there for hours waiting for him just to have a tiny nibble.  Plus then I read that if you force a kid to try something, he/she is less likely to like it later.  Awesome.

Like the empty plate that he has to ask for food to get it.  Guess what.  He asked for food, but he refused all vegetables, including the two he’ll eat, carrots and corn.  (And if some smart ass reader tries to tell me corn is not a vegetable, just slap the back of your head for me.)

Like give him a small amount.  Yeah, then he refuses the small amount.

Add cheese or dressings.  Vegetables still not eaten with cheese or dressings.

Always prepare something he likes with something he doesn’t.  Then he still doesn’t eat the stuff he insists he doesn’t like but has never tried.

Ignore him.  He still won’t eat.

Make him eat it.  (Old school and desperate) You want to know what happens?  He vomits.

Sneak vegetables into the foods he likes.  This works well, except now the kid won’t trust my pizza, even when I don’t add a puree.

So yeah, I’m getting a little desperate.  I save his meals until the next one unless he eats it all or tries a bite of each.  I don’t bribe with food (though the grandparents do occasionally).  I sometimes bribe getting excused from the table.  I’ve sat with him from dinner time to bedtime, squaring off for him just to take a damn bite.  I’ve sent him to time out, and that didn’t work At All.  Obviously I’ll never force feed him again.  I taught him the drink milk after you try something technique, but it only works if he takes a bite in the first place.  He’s liked something one day and refused to eat it the next time it’s presented to him. 

The kid just won’t eat. 

My BFF insists that some people are picky eaters.  Thanks.  But that’s not helping.  Since my kid refuses homemade mac and cheese, parmesan chicken (without sauce), bean burritos, and fried shrimp.  He won’t even try celery.  (And yes, I’ve smeared it with peanut butter and cream cheese, and he only licks that stuff off.) 

This last week or so has been particularly hard because I’m only cooking for the boys and me.  There’s a lot of food in the fridge left over from the meals.  If I was smarter, I would just make hamburgers and hot dogs all week, but no, I enjoy a challenge.  I also have the undying hope that one of these days he’ll try my cooking and enjoy it. 

So any other suggestions I haven’t tried?  Should we start a club?

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Food Fights

Today I opened up Yahoo to find the news article “6 Food Mistakes Parents Make” by Tara Parker-Pope (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/15/health/healthspecial2/15eat.html?no_interstitial) , and guess what number two was.  Yup, forcing your kid to take a bite of something they wouldn’t eat any ways.  Apparently this will back fire, and the child may end up hating the food.  Probably to show some independence of “see you can’t make me.”  Last night my dad said the same thing.  I think it’s a sign.

As I mentioned in an earlier post about Picky Eaters, I am trying to tackle the challenge of Evan not trying any food by forcing him to eat one tiny, little bite.  Results have been mixed.  The first night after two hours, I forced in a sliver of spinach into his mouth and crammed the juice straw after it.  The second night Evan took a bite of corn after fifteen minutes, and he declared it tasted like candy, which it should because it was sweet corn.  The third night I left my husband in charge, and he just let Evan run off.  The fourth night was almost three hours of whining, pleading, crying, and sulking.  (Guess who did what.)  He went to bed without eating anything but a slice of whole wheat baguette.  The fault was partially mine for putting the whole meal together without more things Evan would eat.  Finally last night, he ate a chicken leg, soy beans, a roll, and some watermelon, but he would not touch the potato salad. 

After two hours of stalemate, I called for help.  My dad explained it was a losing battle and I should back off.  I told him he forced me to eat things.  He countered that I was much older.  Well, I don’t exactly remember my toddler years, so I guess I’ll have to believe him.  And Evan did eat soy beans and watermelon.  So it’s time to sound a retreat and regroup.  Or not necessarily a retreat, just a fall back to evaluate the situation.

So I read the article, twice.  The new plan is to pull out that stupid puree book.  Ok, it’s not stupid; it’s just time consuming.  Of course, I did figure out you could easily use baby food instead of pureeing. The other problem is the meals are somewhat time consuming when you have a little toddler begging to be picked up, pushing you from the counter, trying to turn your legs.  (Yes, Sean actually grabs on to my legs and tries to turn them around.  He’s surprisingly strong.)  When your husband isn’t home to help manage the kids (or he got sucked into a rerun of a Superbowl from twelve years ago), it’s a little hard to fry chicken or bake a lasagna. 

The other part of the plan is to really put out the vegetables.  Three or four, instead of one or two.  I’ll put out more than just raisins at lunch time.  I’ll start trying berries with the banana and watermelon at breakfast.  I’ll have to figure out a new fruit because summer is almost over.  Evan LOVES watermelon.  I’ve got to replace it with something.  The hope is he may just be curious enough to try something as long as I’m eating it.

The last mistake in the article was parents giving up too soon.  Well, that’s not me.  I’m pretty stubborn, more stubborn than my mom and my husband give me credit for.  I will not raise a picky child.  I will not raise a picky child.  I will not raise a picky child.

I really hope I don’t eat my words.

Picky Eater

My husband tells of how he used to HATE to eat.  HATE.  When he was a kid.  He didn’t want to eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  He hated coming in to eat dinner, to stare at dinner and try to swallow it down.  He naturally assumes all children are like that.

My brothers and I loved to eat.  Of course, we hated certain foods.  Like fried okra.  To a one, we hate fried okra.  We would walk into our grandma’s house, smelling the delicious smell of fried oil, mouths watering over the thought of fried chicken, mock chicken legs, or chicken-fried steak.  Only at dinner we would be greeted with fried okra.  My baby brother actually threw up once from eating it, and he was never forced to eat it again.  Tim and I were so jealous.  I can’t even eat fried bananas because it’s the same texture.  Yuck!  But back to loving food, we would race through our meal because seconds were up to first come, first serve.  In our teen years, we would compete on who could eat more at the buffet.  And to this day, we still sneak treats from the kitchen, devouring like a swarm of locusts as we converge on my parent’s house.  (Of course, I’m the only one who gets dirty looks from my mom because I still have weight to lose.  Thanks mom.)

Since Evan became a toddler, the discussions of our youthful eating habits are very popular at our house. 

Husband: I hated my mom’s cooking.  I think she was a bad cook.  The only thing I liked were her breads.  Your mom is a better cook.  Better than you.

Me: Hey!  I use the same recipes!  But she is good.  Mashed potatoes, fried chicken, enchiladas, chimichangas, potato soap.  Mmmm.  What did you eat?

Husband: Casseroles.  Lots of casseroles.

Me: Well, that explains it.  Yuck!  That and one pot dishes.

Husband: Yeah, I ate a lot of those too.

Me: Really, there are only a few good ones.  She was cooking with her time.  Everyone did casseroles or one pot dishes back then.  Goulash.  Yuck!

Husband:  I hated steak as a kid!  I hated steak!?  Who hates steak?

Me:  Mmm, steak.  The only time we got steak was when it was on sale and we were going camping at The Cabin.  Nothing like a t-bone over an open flame.  But anyways, your mom had brain surgery in ’69, didn’t she?

Husband: Yeah.  She lost her sense of smell.

Me: Well, that’s an answer.

And yes, we have this conversation several times a month.  Because Evan eats sparingly.  He likes meat but won’t touch a vegetable.  He likes raisins (we’re stocked), grapes, and watermelon (what will I do when summer is over?).  And of course, he inherited my sweet tooth.  And I’m at my wits end.

The other day I served mozzarella-spinach stuffed ravioli.  I swear I have seen him it it before.  Sean was woofing it down, and Evan stared at the plate and asked what it was.  Mini quasidillas.  (ok, Lying is bad.  but really?)  He nibbled.  He nibbled.  Then he saw the spinach.  “Yuck!  The green stuff is yucky!”  Fine, don’t eat.  But the rule stands as you don’t eat dinner, you don’t get anything else.  Until you ask your dad for cereal.  And he says “at least it’s healthy.”  Awesome.

My husband and best friend say that there are just picky eaters out there.  Well, swell, but they have to eat more than a dozen things.  And the hell I’m raising a picky eater.  Not in my household, not when I am armed with my mom’s recipes. 

Then the experts say not to force your children, not to beg.  After 15 times, they’ll learn to love it.  Ok, how do I get him to try it once, twice, the fifth time.  My dad insists that I don’t force Evan to clean his plate because he doesn’t want Evan to eat after he is full.  Where was this logic when I was a kid?  Remember the fried okra?  And I have stooped to pureeing and hiding it in the foods, which my grandma thinks is crazy.  Hey, I still serve vegetables.  Besides, it makes the meal fuller, adds more vegetables, and is helping me loose weight.

So I finally found some options to try to makes him eat, as I watch the Supernanny demand the kids eat vegetables before they leave the table.  Ok, again, I don’t want to force past the fullness.  And as I tell my mom about one crazy scheme after another, she said, “I thought you were going to try the no thank you bite.”  Oh.  Right.  I forgot.

So tonight,  I was determined.  Damn it.  He was going to eat a bite of everything.  The chicken, the rice, the cucumber, the spinach.  And it was crazy.  He loved the chicken.  As it was a new recipe with a soy sauce-honey glaze with sesame seeds, I was worried.  He ate the rice.  He even took a few bites of the cucumber, dipped it in his milk, and took a few more bites.  (At one time, he loved cucumbers, then he stopped six months back.  I serve them a lot hoping for that love to return.)  Then he was done, and I asked him to take a bite of spinach.  One bite.

So began the two hour ordeal.  My husband left to work in the home office, as I tried to entertain Sean, clean up dinner, and force Evan to eat one little bite of spinach.  Evan didn’t want us to play, didn’t want us to watch TV, didn’t want us to blow bubbles or dance.  He spilled his milk on accident.  I got him a new plate with new spinach.  He had to go potty.  He had to be naked.  He wanted his daddy.  He was too cold.  He needed a sweatshirt.  He needed a diaper.  He wanted his daddy.  He wanted to hold his mother’s hand.  All the while “Eat one bite of spinach.  One bite.  A no thank you bite.”  “No, thank you, Mommy, spinach is not for me.” 

Finally I told him grandma would have made me eat the whole thing.  My son did not believe me.  Not Grandma.  She’s a saint. She’s so sweet.  And I remembered what Bill Cosby said, “These people are getting old, they’re going to be judged.  They’re trying to make it up.”

So we called Grandma and Papi.  And they talked to him.  Then after they hung up the phone, I had an idea.  I explained my idea to Evan as I handed him his no-spill juice glass.  I got the tiniest bit of spinach on his fork.  I jammed it in.  I forced the straw of the juice into his mouth, clamping his jaw to make him sip.  I kept saying drink, drink, it’ll make the taste go away.  And the kid didn’t spit out the spinach.  And we were so excited!

And am I crazy?