My child will eat the following foods:
- french toast
- blueberry muffins
- whole wheat bread
- white bread
- good, crusty bread
- pumpkin bread
- raisin bread
- flour tortillas
- raw carrots
- spinach nuggets
- french fries
- salsa, but only at El Coyote, his favorite Mexican restaurant
- apples, peeled and sliced
- homemade, chunky apple sauce
- frozen yogurt
- ice cream (vanilla or chocolate)
- chocolate chip cookies
- chocolate cake
- string cheese
- grilled cheese sandwiches (cheddar)
- cheeseburgers (plain, just meat, cheese and bun)
- hot dogs (plain, just meat and bun)
- tacos (plain, just meat, cheese and shell)
- barbecued ribs
- chicken nuggets
- grilled chicken...sometimes
- fish sticks...sometimes
- mussels (steamed or in a red sauce)
- clams (steamed or in a red sauce)
- pizza (plain cheese or pepperoni)
- pasta with tomato sauce
- Progresso Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup with extra brown rice added
- potato chips
- Snapea Crisps
- tortilla chips
- Sun chips
- graham crackers
- Trader Joe's veggie sticks
- Pirate Booty
- Goldfish crackers
- Apple Juice...sometimes
You will notice that of the 55 items on this list, 30 things are or include starches, 14 are or include meat, 8 dairy and 4 are fruits (that's including the apple juice) and 3 are vegetables. Of the items that I choose to deem vegetables, one is tomato sauce, and one (spinach nuggets) comes disguised in the form of meat. Maybe I could include blueberry muffins in the fruit catagory, and Snapea Crisps in the vegetable group. But that would be cheating.
Yes, Jude is a picky eater. Not that he doesn't eat. He just eats very large quantities of very few foods. With a few peculiar exceptions, he eats only "kid food". Nutrition is iffy. While Jimmy and I are omnivores, Jude is what I will call...a rarivore. I believe I have invented that word.
In general, I consider myself a fairly good mother. I'm a "hands-on" mother. But in this area I fear that I have failed. I have read books about picky eaters. I have sought advice. Nothing helps. And after almost 8 years of constant worry and distress, I have come to the conclusion that I can do absolutely nothing to remedy this situation but wait until he grows up a little. Because it's just the way he is. I have come to believe that picky eating is as much nature as it is nurture.
As every mother of a rarivore knows, nothing is more annoying than having someone who is a parent of a child who is an omnivore give advice to you. Here is my message to these self-righteous people: SHUT UP. YOUR CHILD DOESN'T EAT WELL BECAUSE YOU ARE AN OUTSTANDING PARENT. THEY EAT WELL BECAUSE THEY JUST DO. UNLESS YOU HAVE A CHILD WHO WON'T EAT ONE DAMNED THING, YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT.
Whew. That made me feel better.
I have several friends who are parents of two children. One (usually the girl) will eat anything. Beets. Quinoa. Caviar. The other child (usually the boy) will eat nothing but chicken and bread. They were raised in the same family, by the same parents, being offered the same foods, at the same times, but with very different outcomes.
I will admit to a certain amount of failure in my nurturing. Though I blame some of it on my pediatriian, and some on my mother-in-law, Mommy. Because she's...nutty. And fearful. Let me explain.
When I was pregnant with Jude, I gained 60 pounds.
Are you still there? Have you picked yourself off the floor yet? Yes, 60 pounds. How did I achieve this amazing feat? I would say that it's because I ate too damned much. And when Jude arrived, he was a big, healthy baby. 8 lbs, 6 oz.
For the first 13 months of his life, he was breastfed. He very much liked his Mama's milk. The problems arose when he was 4 or 5 months old, when I started introducing solid foods. Because...he did not like anything. I tried everything. I tried homemade baby food. I tried jarred baby food. I tried organic jarred baby food. There were some things he seemed to like for a while. But after a few times eating it, he would proceed to just spit it out with a "bleeeeech" sound. The only baby food he continued to like was an Earth's Best organic blend of peaches, oatmeal and strawberries. At one point, that was the only solid food the kid ate for months.
Here's my 208th attempt at spinach...
Now many people would, at this point, just say "Don't give him to him. Make him eat what you're offering. If he's hungry enough, he'll eat it." I can't tell you how many times I heard this. All very well and good. However...
It was during this time that our pediatrician scared the poop out of me. Every time we went for a visit, she weighed him, and it became apparent over a period of several months, that he wasn't gaining weight as quickly as was the norm. You know how pediatricians always worry so much about those stupid percentiles? Well, he had been born in the 80th percentile, but by 8 months, he was down to the 10th percentile. Not that he wasn't growing, or gaining weight. It just wasn't as fast as the norm. She told me that if he didn't start catching up, she was going to have to report his "failure to thrive". Image my horror.
And compounding this problem was a strange combination of neuroses and nature that made my quandry even worse. Mommy, and by extention, Jimmy, are both ridiculously, irrationally afraid of choking. It's a constant fear. Every time I tried to put anything that wasn't pureed into the child's mouth, gasps could be heard. And on top of that, the kid was SO SLOW to grow teeth. It was months and months before I could safely give the child so much as a Cheerio without his being hovered over just in case the Heimlich was needed.
So basically, I fed the child what he would eat.
Had I been able to just hold out until he was "hungry enough" to eat whatever I was offering, would his eating habits be different today? Maybe. But I doubt it.
I've never felt that Jude's pickiness was in any way manipulative on his part. He just doesn't like things. Am I being blind to my child's behavior? I don't think so. I think I know him pretty well.
I've seen quite a bit of what I believe IS manipulation from other kids. Jude has one friend who has turned food into a HUGE power play with his mother. It's borderline eating disorder how weird this kid is about food.
I have a friend, a 50-something year old woman, who will only eat white food. She now claims that she has finally been diagnosed as having "food aversion syndrome", which just makes me roll my eyes. Because she is the biggest fuss-budget I know, someone who complains about absolutely everything in her life, and is a complete hypochondriac. So it's so typical of her to have found a "syndrome" to explain why she won't eat a damned thing.
But could it be possible? Could there be an actual physical reason that Jude won't eat many things? I remember a science experiment I did when I was in the Fifth Grade. We took these little strips of paper and placed them on different parts of our tongues to figure out which parts of the tongue sense which tastes. Different areas taste sweet, sour, bitter and salty. But the thing I remember most, was that some kids would taste sour and say "Yum" while others said "Yuck!". The same tastes, but completely different reactions.
So could it be that Jude's tastes simply react differently from most people's? One of his food issues is that he absolutely won't eat anything sour or tart. No citrus. No strawberries. He used to eat them, but then one time he bit into one that was a little sour and he has refused to eat them ever since. This isn't a completely bad thing, as it means that I am able to eat all the Sweet Tarts out of his Halloween candy.
His other issue is texture. He won't eat anything soft or mushy. No mac and cheese. No mashed potatoes. No oatmeal. I'm thinking this might explain the problem with baby food. On the other hand, the few soft things he does like (ice cream, yogurt) have to be totally smooth. He doesn't like his smooth and his crunchy at the same time. I was ridiculously thrilled when he decided to try cookies and cream ice cream, and deemed it delicious. You'd have thought the child had eaten a salad by the way I reacted.
I have tried many, many tactics in my various attempts to remedy this situation. I have tried sneaking more healthful foods into the less healthful foods - pureed sweet potatoes into his tomato sauce, spinach into the brownies. It doesn't work. The kid's onto me. I read somewhere that if you offered a child something enough times, he will eventually give in, and try it. I decided to test this theory. When I packed his little lunch box for preschool, I included a little plastic bag which contained one carrot and one cherry tomato. Every day, he ate his carrot, and left his cherry tomato. I refused to give up. I continued to include the cherry tomato for an entire YEAR. He never ate that damned tomato. Finally, one day, his wise old preschool teacher told me it was time to give it up.
Should I be worried? He is growing and gaining weight. He's extremely healthy, and energetic. I had one old boyfriend who swore that for 4 years of his life, he had eaten nothing but bologna on white bread with mayonnaise. For every meal for 4 years. He is now a healthy man in his fifties who surfs regularly and has all his teeth.
I feel that gradually, Jude will broaden his tastes. If you read the list above carefully, you would have seen two somewhat startlingly non-kid-friendly items - mussels and clams. These are both recent additions to the list. One night, we were eating in a restaurant, and Jude suddenly looked at Jimmy's plate of pasta and asked "What's that?" "Linguini with Clams" said Jimmy "You should try a bite." "Okay" said Jude. We both stared for a beat, holding our breathes. He wanted to TRY. He ended up eating about a quarter of Jimmy's dinner. Stunning.
So you never know. Maybe if we keep offering and offering, he will turn from rarivore to omnivore. I just hope he still lets me eat all his Sweet Tarts.