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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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Sleep Is
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Chicago Review Press

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Let's Panic

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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

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Speaking of bananas...

My son eats three foods. And this is making me insane.

Okay, maybe a little more than three. Here’s the list. Anyone who’s not a parent is signing off right abouuut… now, so without shame I can show the rest of you…

Everything My Son Will Ingest:

Milk and soy milk






American cheese

Macaroni and cheese

Ricotta cheese with pasta (but only certain shapes, and those rules change all the time)

Ravioli (sometimes, and you will never know when



Hummus (when he’s feeling generous)

All forms of pudding

Ice cream (duh), cookies (dar)

And that’s it! And don’t think I’m forgetting something. “Surely pizza!” you might say, but no, not pizza. “What about bagels? Every kid loves bagels!” Not my kid. Shut up.

I know this is a control thing. I know if I make a big deal, or any kind of deal, over this, it’s only going to get worse. I know many kids go through this. I know he’ll grow out of it, someday, maybe. But right now it makes me nuts at just about every meal. Okay, not breakfast. Breakfast is okay. And for lunch, I’ve just given up—I hand him his two containers of yogurt and I lie down on the ground until he calls for me. So really it’s just dinner.

Last year at Thanksgiving I broke down in tears because he wouldn’t consider a single food. Not a cranberry, not a single chunk of yam. Turkey? HAHAHAHAHA. At some point during his second year he fixated on macaroni and cheese as the Ideal Dinner, and this festive evening was no different. So my sister said, “Just give him macaroni and cheese every night. He’ll get sick of it.”


So here we are, over one year later. Every night, either Annie or Amy provides him with his dinner. (I have tried making it myself, but homemade macaroni and cheese was deemed the worst crime any mother could commit.) For a while he would enjoy peas or green beans with it, but no more will he even tolerate the sight of the green horrors. Such an atrocity cannot even remain on his plate.

And fruit! Oh, how he used to love fruit! Clementines and mango and bananas and apples and everything else! Kid liked fruit!

Even a few weeks ago, he would request apples and bananas. Request them! No more. These days, fruit is of the devil. Fruit will not be tolerated. Don’t even think about it, with the fruit. Except blueberries, which are currently $45 a pint. I’m not buying them. Or applesauce, and is that even really a fruit? When a fruit has been sauced, may we still call it fruit?

His pediatrician recommended that we cease commenting on his eating, but that we also make sure that we’re eating well in his presence. Somehow being around a variety of foods, even if he’s not ingesting them, will have an effect. But I do! I do that! She also stressed the importance of the family dinner, and we can’t seem to manage that because my husband for some reason can’t come home at a reasonable hour even when he leaves home early and that’s an entirely different topic that’s making me want to cry every day, but as for me, I eat so well! (At least as far as he knows).

He’ll watch me eating, he’ll cook with me, he’ll smell the food we’re cooking or I’m eating and he’ll exclaim over the wonderfulness of the smells, and like a fool I begin to hope. I let myself believe that maybe he’s interested, that maybe he wants to (I can barely write it) taste something.

And then my mouth starts to open and my brain is screaming SHUT UP SHUT UP DON’T EVEN SAY IT, but I do! Because I’m not smart! I say, “You want a taste?” and then it’s all over. I might as well have suggested that I whip out the kitchen shears and snip off his tongue. He clamps his mouth shut and presses both fists over his mouth and emits the worst sound ever made, a sound I can’t even describe except it makes me want to scoop out my eardrums with a grapefruit spoon rather than hear it for one moment longer.

Everything I read, everything I hear, is telling me to LEAVE HIM ALONE, but I have such a hard time LEAVING HIM ALONE. I don’t even worry that much about the nutritional challenges of his limited diet; we indulge often in smoothies that I pack with all manner of supplementary materials, and/or muffins that are crammed with vegetables and exotic grains. I know he’s getting what he needs. What kills me is that we can’t just eat the same damn dinner. That I can’t share with him food that I know he would like if he would even have a tiny bite. That going to a restaurant is a near impossibility. He won’t even eat the foods that are bad for him, that’s he’s supposed to like! Like French fries! Or grilled cheese! Or those nuggets composed of mashed chicken parts! Or ketchup THE KID WON’T EAT KETCHUP WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIM.

Tonight I failed, once again, to leave him alone. I dusted apple slices in cinnamon and sugar and ate them in front of him. He ignored me. I waved the sugary slices in front of his face and made yummy noises, but he continued to pointedly ignore me. Finally I said, “Apples with cinnamon! Mmm! Want a piece! Sure you do!” and he did the clamping-fists-indescribable sound. THEN he demanded “just plain cinnamon.” I refused him this. He immediately dissolved in tears. “Just plain cinnamon! Just plain cinnamon!” he repeated, approximately 57 times. Then I lost it. I explained, at a somewhat (aherm) elevated volume, that I was not going to simply hand him the cinnamon shaker, that if he was going to have a snack, which was by no means required, it was going to have some sort of nutritional aspect to it. Then he cried like I told him his teddy bear was going to Hell. Then he screamed repeatedly, anguished yawps of cinnamon deprivation. And I yelled, because I was trying to provide him with a model of how not to behave. He didn’t seem to get the message, because he yelled back.

Then! Because my mind was still not working right! I launched into a long and convoluted explanation of why he needs to eat nutritious foods, how such foods will make him big and strong. This didn’t work because he informed me that he doesn’t want to ever get big and/or strong. Then the rest of my brain died and I came up with the brilliant idea of a chart! We would make a chart, and every time Henry ate a new food we would put a star on the chart, and when the chart was full Henry would get a toy!

He liked this idea—focusing, as he was, on the word “toy.” We went to the refrigerator. “I’ll have a yogurt,” he said, “then we’ll get a toy.” I explained to him what “new” meant. There were more tears. I tried to take back the chart idea, but he couldn’t let it go. “We’ll have some milk,” he said, “And then, toy.” Once again I explained, no, ha ha, he already drinks milk. How about some black bean soup?

More tears. More attempting to take back the not-very-smart chart idea I had. I tried to get across to him that the chart would not result in instant gratification, that he would need to try 1,2,3,4,5! new foods. Then I said we should forget it and play and LOOK OVER THERE! IS THAT A SUPERHERO IN OUR CURTAINS?

He continued staring into the refrigerator. Finally he said, “I want to try black bean soup. I think it’s going to be,” he squinted, “a little good.”

I attempted to remain calm. I heated a few teaspoons of soup in the smallest bowl we own, and placed it before him. He took a tinier sip than I thought a human being could take, smiled, and said, “Okay, where’s my toy?”

P.S. Apparently this is International De-Lurking Week, and although I am not fond of the term "De-Lurking"--implying, as it does, that you are obligated to comment and if you don't you are creepy--I still like the idea of the Week and it's nice to hear from all of you. So! Say hello, why don't you?

Reader Comments (460)

(Delurking! Found you via Dooce, which I found via another blog. Woo hoo!) I'm only 18, and I can't relate to any of your kid troubles, but MY GOD you have a way with words. I literally laugh out loud at your entries - my roommate is probably getting scared at this point - (now would be a good time to mention that I was in tears from laughing so hard at the white man post) - but I am a HUGE fan. Though I'm probably never having kids after this. (Just kidding).
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMolly
i know you totally don't want my assvice, but i'm gonna give it anyway. make one dinner. he either eats it or he doesn't. if he does, he gets a treat afterwards (dessert), if he doesn't, he goes hungry. no food til breakfast. we're mean around these parts. but my kids are generally good about trying new things. Like broccoli cheese soup, etc. Good luck, and please stop sending teddy bears to hell.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAlissa
Hi. My name is Lorie and I lurk, I am the lurkness monster, the durkey-lurkey, get the point. Love your blog.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCrazyForHer
Hmm... Raise your hand if this is the story of your child's life. Wow, that's a lot of hands.

Frozen blueberries are cheaper. Nuke em for a few seconds. It worked for me....until it didn't anymore.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn, The Daring One
I didn't read all through the comments, you get so many and I don't always have time, but I do love your comments section almost as much as I love your blog... but I was going to say... as others have undoubtedly said...

My kid eats as little a variety as yours, in a slightly different configuration. It frustrates me no end and my mom and dad, too.

I've learned to let it go and content myself with if he eats ANYthing, it's all good. Does he gain weight? Does he produce the stinky poo poo everday or close enough? Good enough.

When he gets old enough, which will be soon. Fix food. Whatever you're eating. Eat what's fixed or don't eat. And I'll spell it out P-E-R-I-O-D. Period.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTitanKT
Hi, just wanted to de-lurk. If it makes you feel any better, I was a picky-eater as a child, and now I am a picky-eater adult, and I am still alive.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
Been reading your blog regularly for over a few months now, and yet, posting for the first time.Hi Alice! I love your writing and can sort of relate to the toddler miseries (being a mother of a rambunctious 15 month old myself!).

Wishing you the best,Gayathri
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGayathri
I'm wondering how much weight I could lose if I stuck to the Henry-approved diet. You may have a genius on your hands there. Or at least a guru.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda
Don't feel badly at all. When I was your son's age, all I would eat was pasta with Prego red sauce, tortillas with chedder cheese (no not a quesedilla, because I refused to eat it if the cheese was melted), and pizza. Somehow I was convinced to try sushi when I was 8, which my parents regretted because that is all I would want from then on, and pasta was much cheaper.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSteph
Hi! My son is four. He and Henry would get along great. Cass's breakfast is comprised of two pieces of toast, butter on one side, peanut butter on the other, and a light (no, I'm not kidding) dusting of cinnamon in the middle. Cut in four pieces. Not a bad breakfast unless you take into account that's what he's eaten every. single. day since the day he turned two.Most days, he gets a piece of 'candy'. Yeah, Flintstones chewable 'candy'........
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdaysgoby
Lurker here! My 4 year old son won't eat anything but chicken nuggets (only certain kinds), french fries, cheese pizza, tater tots, sweets, popcorn, dry cereal and chips/pretzels. We've tried everything! He even went without food for 4 days thinking he'd starve and want to eat anything we gave him. Wrong! We tried forcing it in his mouth which only ended up in he gets chicken nuggets and fries for dinner al the time, lunch too. Hopefully he'll get tired of it soon!
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPink Rocket
Hi :)
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkea
Hi :)
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkea
Hi,I think i am de-lurking. I can't for the life of me remeber if i've ever commented before! I love your blog...this post cracked me up!

My 3 1/2 year old boy is also a very picky eater. At dinner we always make him eat at least 10 bites of his dinner before he leaves the table. (i usually have to feed it to him or he sits there forever) sometimes he gags and says "i can't chew!" or some other excuses but he manages to get all 10 bites down so he can leave the table and play. ( i know force feeding-so cruel!)

I lke your idea about the nutritious smoothies!

January 11, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterruby
hello. just de-lurking... love your blog!!
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersafia

My 2 1/2 year old daughter went through a stage like that, but luckily it passed. I'm hoping she'll keep the good eating habits. But guess what?! Don't be jealous, she STILL does not sleep through the night. (And YES I did the sleep training. The REAL and semi-real sleep training where I let her cry for HOURS until daylight.) No kid's perfect. I'm guessing.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterpastrymom
De lurking to say that with Henry's love of Star Wars, he (or you) might enjoy this short spoof of wholesome vegetables playing Star Wars characters

January 11, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteralice a
De-lurking to say hello! LOVE your blog!!!! :o)
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMinnie
Yo. Lurve. Word.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGina
De-lurk in delight.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPrincess of Cybermob
delurking momentarily!
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdawna
fine, fine, i'll expose myself too. but only to say i just laughed out loud THREE times reading this post and THAT, my friend, may be a new record.
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterleslie
I'm delurking temporarily. This is a perfect opportunity to tell you that I know Sarah (she's my second cousin.. but I usually give up and just call her my cousin), and that I wandered over here from Tallulah's blog and never left. ;-)

Meanwhile, I get to enjoy your great blog, and love Henry even though I have never met him. (I feel very odd whenever I think that I love Henry, and remember that no, I really have not ever met him, and I may never meet him.)

And something vaguely on topic: Henry's list of foods already contains many things my 20-year-old brother will not touch. And he still won't eat ketchup, and I think it likely that Henry will come around, so I think you're doing okay. ;-)
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterChrista
De-lurking myself here . . . For my seven year old son it is hot dogs, hot dogs, hot dogs! And now suddenly no ketchup! Hummus? You've got to be kidding me. Thanks for all your hard work on the blog. Love it!
January 11, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAna
Hello, I'm not creepy!

I was a picky eater until I was about 18 years old. I think there were about as many foods on my list as there are on Henry's until I was that old... then I tried my first burrito, my first french bread, and really branched out from there. I started eating beef at 25. I think it's only been since then that I've been certain I'd be able to eat at most restaurants (but there are still some I won't)... anyway, I'm healthy and I turned out ok and I'm nearly 29 now. =)
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLilie

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