As parents, we enjoy sharing advice and stories about our kids with other parents. And, as the receivers of this information, we often smile and nod appreciatively. But it isn’t until we have actually experienced something for ourselves that we sit up and exclaim, “Oh, NOW I get it.”
I recently was struck with one of those “ah-ha” moments when I realized my toddler wouldn’t eat anything that hasn’t performed a song-and-dance number on TV. Macaroni with processed powder cheese, dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, pizza and M&Ms: these are her tap-dancing foods of choice. Of course, this isn’t my first experience with a pint-sized picky eater. Before having kids, I’d babysat cousins and nephews who left more food on their plate than Victoria Beckham eats in a month. And I’d heard plenty of tales of woe from friends about how their kids would only eat red food and when it was a full moon. But this was my first experience with my very own pint-sized picky eater. Meaning: now I care. Like, really care. And when you care, you find yourself going to foolish lengths to make your child care, too.
“Mmmm… green beans,” I gush over-enthusiastically, smacking my lips for added “YUM!” effect. “Why don’t you try some of yours, Skylar?”
“They’re really good,” Mr. Candy lies unconvincingly, not having touched a green vegetable…ever.
Skylar shakes her head and seals her mouth shut for added “YUCK!” effect. Little does she realize these are the very same vegetables she inhales in pureed form out of a squeeze pouch. But, similarly to how I once felt about beer, vegetables are apparently only worth consuming if you can throw your head back and suck ’em down in a couple of gulps, with a crowd of supporters cheering you on.
“CHUG A PEA! CHUG A PEA! CHUG A PEA LIKE A PI PHI CAN!”
Hey, we’ll do anything to get this child to eat veggies.
Just a couple of days ago, I had the audacity to serve Skylar a Mickey Mouse plate filled with grilled chicken and two dollops of mashed potatoes in the ears.
“NO! NO MASHED POTATOES! GET THEM OUT! GET THEM OUT!”
Are you kidding me? These are mashed potatoes: nectar of the potato gods. Yet here she was, screaming in horror as if I had suggested watching Kim Kardashian perform Shakespeare. In more than two years, I have yet to even get Skylar to try this culinary delicacy and it is my mission in life to successfully get a spoonful in her mouth. Yes, MY LIFE’S MISSION.
“If you try just one bite of your mashed potatoes, I’ll let you have M&Ms.”
It is the most ridiculous conversation I have ever had. Jamie Oliver would be aghast. I am bribing my child with candy in exchange for a single bite of mashed potatoes, for crying out loud. Not Brussels sprouts. Not escargot. MASHED PO-FREAKIN’-TATOES. It’s a no-brainer.
“Uh-uh,” Skylar pouts, refusing M&Ms for the first time in her life. She pushes her plate farther away, distancing herself from the offending side dish.
“GET THEM OUT! OUT!”
Not only are mashed potatoes not allowed to pass her lips, but they are not even allowed to touch her plate. Fine. I scoop them out, defeated, but she further insists I scrub every morsel of their taint from Mickey’s ears — that’s just how repellant she finds the idea of mashed potatoes.
What kind of heathen am I raising? I wonder, concerned. A life without mashed potatoes? Why, that’s no life at all. Then I realize I have one more can’t-fail Mom Trick up my sleeve. All is not lost for my daughter yet!
“Look at your brother,” I coo. “He loves mashed potatoes.”
And he does. He gobbles a delicious mouthful right on cue. In fact, that 11-month-old would eat most anything you put in front of him, from vegetables to chicken, from plastic to foil balls. Did I give birth to a baby or a Golden Retriever? We’re still trying to figure it out. Regardless, as I watch Skylar watching her brother scarf down his food and beg for more, I feel a swell of triumph.
“Maybe I should give him your mashed potatoes,” I continue for added “YOU WILL FALL FOR THIS OLD REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY TRICK!” effect. Skye considers this for a beat.
“Yes! Drew eat it!” she agrees, relieved.
Smart kids are the worst, aren’t they?