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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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« Wow. | Main | Six foot, seven foot, eight foot, bunch! »
Wednesday
Jan112006

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

Cereal

Oatmeal

Muffins

Yogurt

Blueberries

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

Applesauce

Raisins

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.”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHHHhhahhhhhah. Heh. Hmm.

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)

OK OK!

Seeing as it is delurking week, I'll get brave and say hi. Love reading your blog and especially luuuuv Henry's conversations.

If you can, try to detach from the food related battles - easy to say I know, but hard to do.

When my children were toddlers I tried to take a relaxed approach to food. As long as their food of choice was reasonably healthy, I tried to avoid getting hooked into fighting about it. I seem to remember my 2 year old daughter eating scrambled eggs for 6 months straight and another 6 month period where she insisted on eating baked beans only - cold out of the tin. This memory is possibly gilded by the passing of time, as they are both young adults now - but they both eat everything now.

Love your writing and your descriptions of daily life in NY? The detail of your day to day activities seem supremely exotic (as viewed by me from my home in the south east corner of Australia), but at the same time they seem wonderfully familiar.

Thanks for blogging and sharing.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterleigh
Is it really De-lurking week? If not, I've just been conned into giving up my haven of silent invisibility. Ah well, you do deserve to hear from your readers once in a while. I'm far too young to have kids and relate, but I still love coming back here and reading your posts.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterash
My nephew ate peanut butter, bread, some cereal, milk and bacon! Period! At age two, after tons of testing, the doctors said ignore it,give him a vitamin, he'll be fine. It's a control issue, eating is the only thing a kid can control, and some of them need to. At 23 he's all grown up, smart and healthy and still stubborn. He also started eating hamburgers at 21. (Just think what he might like by 50!) Count your blessings, it makes cooking alot easier, he can make his own. No arguments.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersue
I mostly lurk. I've commented a few times but I'm always afraid I'll be taken as some crazy stalker chick because you don't know me from Adam and everyone else here seems to know you pretty well. LOL

Anyway, my son is similarly picky. Except cross off all that stuff on your list about dairy. He's milk protein-intolerant (has been since birth) so we are down to dry cereal, oatmeal, and those V8 Smoothie drinks made from soy. Oh, and organic snack foods like veggie chips. He has been picky since Day 1, so I don't hold out much hope. At least he got his father's (skinny) body type and not mine...
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterChrista
Yours is probably one of the only blogs I still do lurk on. (Um, grammar?! Sorry.) But I lurk no longer: Hi.

January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMySelf
I was at a restaurant the other night, Piccadilly Pub, that had mac and cheese on the menus for a ridiculously high price of $4 or so, but. It's a chain but probably only in New England. Come visit Boston anytime.

I was a very picky eater and my mom was 100% laid back about it and now I eat almost everything and am very healthy and love vegetables, which I didn't eat at all until I was 12 or so.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterK8
Hiya, you're hilarious.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnne
I am a lurker.. so I am de-lurking..Maybe I should make a new post on my blog today too.. wow two cool things in one day. I so enjoy your antics with Henry.. but they sound alot like Drake.. so uummm eemmm good luck dear.. Drake is now 8. We don't even attempt to eat together .. at the same time.. or even in the same room anymore. NEITHER of us can stand what the other eats. The kid eat waffles and pancakes.. PLAIN.. NO SYRUP.. HE HATES SYRUP. And then I found out that he LIKES Pinto Beans.. the horror.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnn Marie
Since it seems all the cool kids are delurking...

I have no kids, and am quite thankful for it every time I read your blog or my friend's with the 1.5-year-old who loves to grab her hand and drag her around the apartment to look at nothing in particular.

There's a commercial that they play here in London where a kid and his mom are shopping in a grocery store, and the kid throws a screaming, flailing tantrum cause his mom takes his sugary cereal out of the cart. The mom chucks the box of cereal, throws herself on the ground, and starts wailing and thrashing at the top of her lungs in response.

It shocks the hell out of the kid and he stops crying. Then both are happy as they walk away, sans cereal. I always wondered if that would work, but I've had no hapless child to test it on yet.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterteresa
Hi. I don't mean to lurk, I swear. It's just every time I comment in a famous blog, the author 99% of the time doesn't say anything back, most especially if i e-mail them. Maybe I appear crazy, I don't know. I mean, I am a little nuts, after all I have 4 kids, and one of them is a teenager, which is just an overgrown toddler with a bigger vocabulary, who wears more clothes, thereby creating more laundry.

But I digress. I can totally relate to the not-eating more then 2-3 foods thing. I had to make all kinds of whacky rules and get all mommy-nazi-woman (the oldest actually called me this once, so I'm not just pulling that term outta my ass) on their little asses.

Oh yeah, about the leaving it alone thing... I can't either, so you're not alone there. I have a child who's willing to eat a few of those things on Henry's list, with a few slight modifications.

Like, where pasta is concerned, anything canned is suspicious and will be tolerated only very occasionally. otherwise it is PLAIN spaghetti-type noodles. She recently discovered the joys of ramen (which will serve her well if she goes to college) but only the chicken flavord kind, and only one specifc brand. of which she eats two bites, and then walks away.

And I have done everything from waving the white flag to practically force-feeding her an innocent piece of the aforementioned cinnamon-sugared apples because, surely, what child wouldn't want to ingest large quantities of granualted sugar, with merely an essence of apple?

And the commercials on the boob tube don't help. "I want THAT" will be heard ringing throughout the house, and what is wanted is usually some insane thing I cannot figure out why she suddenly wants it. The only thing that has helped is her willingness to ingest that magical, $10/6 pack elixir of the gods, PEDIASURE. And I hate spending the money on it because it's even more expensive per ounce than the formula we buy for the baby. I've resorted to asking for it for her for Christmas and Birthdays, just so we don't have 14,000 "My Little Ponies" and "Barbies" flitting about the house and being possessed by the devil at night, while we sleep.

Blessedly, the family understands and buys the damn pediasure. I think it's the only thing that has kept her from becoming thin enough to completely see through her, whereas now, she's vaguely opaque. And, it does come in a chocolate flavor; it's like vitamin-packed chocolate milk, and she is forever telling me how GOOD IT IS FOR HER, like she's on some tiny 5-year old health kick, complete with lack of yoga and other healthy dietary practices.

So yeah, Hi. and aren't you glad I never commented before? I probably won't again, anytime soon, just to spare your eyes from the bleeding that will result from having read this entirely-too-long-comment, if you have, in fact, read it, which I won't blame you if you don't. Anyhow, Good luck with the feeding thing, and the head infection.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLiz C.
Delurked, once again :) I'm getting used to it; I kind of like it, even.

As I read your update, I was secretly hoping you'd happen upon something, some golden egg (ok, maybe not egg) of a food that he would be madly in love over. But alas, it appears the early-toddler phase of food fickleness (foockleness?) that we're going through is only going to last longer. How uplifting. Whee, thanks! Kidding. Thanks for sharing your clearly emotional take on the situation. I've learned that there's nothing so humbling as parenting.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermike
I don't have children but I still read the whole post because you are so brilliant.

When I was a teenager I drove my mom crazy because I would go through stages where I only ate one food for awhile. One time it was cheese melted in a tortilla w/mild sauce, that lasted a week. Another time it was peanut butter, bologna and radishes (hey, it's actually pretty good).

I grew out of it eventually. I'm sure Henry will as well.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDM
Regular lurker for months. Always enjoy a dose of Finslippy and Dooce and Fussy and the other blogs i lurk with my coffee, while listening to news. Its a nice sweet and sour combination. Keep writing. I'm still mulling the visual of scraping your ears out with a grapefruit spoon.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterxath
I feel underqualified to make a comment because I don't have kids yet. Still trying to convince my friend with the testicles over here. Anyway! I will stop lurking to make the underqualified suggestion that you give Henry an unimaginative piece of food you know he will eat, then wordlessly plonk a choice of accompanying foods on the table and let him help himself in time.

Don't make any Mmmmm noises or say Gosh this is delicious. Just eat. Talk about subjects other than food or dinner. His curiosity will prevail and it will send a message that This Is What Is For Dinner, take it or leave it. Expect him to leave it.

I've seen this work with fussy kids in my family and among my friends. I was the fussiest eater EVER as a child. I came round to courgettes at 23, olives at 29 and tuna at 31. I spent my twenties largely eating toast. Am definitely still alive, and in excellent health.

Good luck Alice - love your writing.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAntonia
I have a 15 year old who has breakfast every meal since she was old enough to wield her own utensils. She eats basically the same things that Henry eats. I gave up years and years ago, trying to get her to eat anything else, because she simply won't.

When I was her age, I was the same way. Even now, I'm not the best at trying new things. The good news there is...I now eat like a human being. I actually love lamb chops, but I never ate one until 2 years ago.

At some point, you just have to let that shit go. He's not sickly, I don't think. And I know only too well how annoying it is to have to make a second dinner, but I'm afraid that never ever goes away. Four people are never going to like and/or want the same thing for dinner every night of the week.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCandy
Just de-lurking to say hello!!

Why can we not leave our children alone? It must be our own parents faults!
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjamie
Delurking to say yes, yes, yes. My son has four things he will eat for dinner. Five he will say, but that is a lie.

The sad thing is he used to eat everything- you know how they tell you to offer them everything so they'll grow up and not be picky? His favorite food at a year old was tabouli, after that it was paad thai (medium spicy), oh and baba ghanouj, and everything but chocolate (!!!) Then one day, he was three and he stopped. And now he's seven and he likes chocolate.

They say not to make a big deal about it because it's a power struggle. So I respond the way I do to any power struggle- with passive aggressive comments and a lot of muttering. Good mommy!
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRobyn
Happy Delurking Week. I don't know if this will make you feel any better, but my mom is always telling me about how, from the ages of 2 to 4, I would eat nothing but macaroni and cheese and hot dogs (or hot gogs as I called them) with an occasional fish stick (yuck) or bowl of cereal thrown in for good measure. And I turned out fine - I was a fairly picky eater until college (although not as picky as I was from 2 to 4), and now I'll eat pretty much anything you put in front of me (except fish sticks, because, yuck).
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJessie
Hello, I've been lurking...that does sound creepy. I'm in the same place with the food, and the not being able to just leave him alone about it. You have my sympathies.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPumpkinMama
I just this past few months have started reading blogs, and I discovered your blog through dooce.com. I just wish that I had started earlier. You are a BRILLIANT writer and (as an English major in college/wanna be editor today) I feel like I am learning something from reading your blog. Which makes it educational! And I can read at work because it's helping me become a better employee! Although certainly I am the only one that thinks so. Everyone else just stares as I fall out of the chair and roll around in my cube with the laughter. The tears and the laughter.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteramanda
We have the same problem. My 7 year old started this crap when he was about 4. His food list is WAY shorter than Henry's. I'm jealous.

Oh and I've never lurked. I'm much too vocal to do that!
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Rani
Hello! You're an amazing writer.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMark
I distinctly remember being told as a child that of COURSE I wouldn't eat mushrooms, because they are for GROWNUPS, and maybe when I was SIX I would appreciate the finer things in life.

Obviously, it worked.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEffective Nancy
*high five*

hang in there. he'll be taking you out for tapas and sushi before you know it.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenteriLLa
Delurking to say I read somewhere that babies will eat anything, but once they are mobile toddlers they develop a caution about new foods. An evolutionary thing to help prevent them wandering off and chewing on, say, poisonous leaves or berries or whatnot. It's not your fault! Blame Darwin!
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjac

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