|Neither picky nor choosy. Yet.|
Nora has recently become a choosy eater.
Not picky, mind you. Choosy. There’s a mammoth difference.
Our choosy eater consumes eggplant parmesan. Spinach pies. Sweet potato fries dipped in blue cheese dressing.
WHEN SHE FEELS LIKE IT.
And there are many days when she feels like it. And even more when She. Does. Not.
I try not to let it get to me (because, after all, that would be a tantrum of my own) and try to acknowledge that she is two, and she has virtually no power over anything besides what goes into or out of her body. (Which, on its own, is a staggering amount of stuff.)
There are days when I am less than successful with this mindset. Because I really can’t stand choosy eating, and am even less tolerant of picky eating. To me, selective eating is a first world [middle to upper-middle class] problem. This may be steeped in my many years as a nanny, beginning with a family who insisted that I cook separate meals for each of their children- at any ol’ point in the day when they were hungry. (But it had to be organic and healthy. Unless the kids didn’t feel like it. In which case just keep them fed/quiet.)
I’ve cared for children with very real allergies, and then those whose parents imagined allergies for them.
One kid ate baby food until kindergarten.
Another had never tried a vegetable because she didn’t think she would like it. (Her parents agreed.)
So, sadly for Nora, she gets the brunt of my eye-rollitude towards kids’ eating habits.
Don’t get me wrong, everyone has foods that they love and others they can’t stand. Totally cool. When I was little, I abhorred crusts of bread and plain potatoes. (I used to go so far as to excuse myself from the dinner table with a full mouth so that I could spit them out in the bathroom.) And I know a bunch of people with texture issues. Less universally acceptable, but also totally cool in my book- so long as they’re not a pain in the butt to spend an evening with.
But here’s my thing with Nora- every dayI put good food on her plate. Not an overwhelming amount, by any means. And at least one of the things I’m serving her is something she really likes. Another part might be something that I like. Perhaps even something new. Because- and this is the super strict part- I ONLY COOK ONE DINNER EACH NIGHT.
I am not a sous chef. And I’m certainly not a toddler’s caterer.
The same thing that she’s scoffing at tonight could be the exact same meal that she had thirds of last weekend. But for reasons only known to herself, tonight it ain’t jiving.
It’s not earth-shattering when she decides this. The other morning she woke up and announced that she only wanted to eat blue m&ms all day. (Good for you, I almost said. I wanted to star in the remake of Quantum Leap, but perhaps we all need to adjust our daily expectations.)
She also has moments when she says that neither her beloved Doc Bullfrog nor the constant Ritz crackers are “very good friends,” so there’s another indicator that I shouldn’t be taking menu cues from someone so erratic and untrustworthy.
So what do I do when she’s not feelin’ the eatin’?
She eats? Awesome. She doesn’t eat? She goes to bed slightly hungry. And, as my pediatrician keeps reminding me, little kids are hard-wired to not starve themselves to death. I’m reminded of this when Nora demolishes her breakfast the following morning. I also have no problem wrapping a plate and presenting it again for lunch the following day. (No takers? Peej gets it for lunch the following following day. Sorry, Peej.)
We don’t make a big deal of this eating/not eating thing, either. (Outwardly, that is. Inwardly, there are tears. Threats. Fistfuls of food shoved into mouths.) The main thing I want to impart to Nora is: manners. Not royalty manners, either. Just: Be A Nice Person To Sit Near manners. Not hungry? Fabulous. Try one bite of everything and drink your milk and talk about something pleasant. For at least ten minutes. After that, feel free to hop down from the table and let everyone else try a bite of everything and drink their [alcoholic] drink and talk about something pleasant.
There are rewards for successes. There are zero rewards for non-successes…nor are there repercussions. (Other than an early dismissal from the table and a gurgling belly at 3am.)
The other night, as Nora housed a entire plate of salmon in a citrus soy and maple sauce, P.J. and I frantically (and silently) high-fived and kicked feet under the table.
Today, however, she spit a mouthful of [chewed] string cheese onto her chair because she Does Not Like Cheese.
I never said it was foolproof.