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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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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)

Way to go with the black bean soup! At least he tried it.

I know it will sound contrary to all logic and reason, but maybe you should keep whipping out the exotic foods around him? I was a child who loved broccoli rabe and shellfish and hated bananas.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterArabella
I'm delurking here. I have nothing to add to the conversation since my wee little one is still on breastmilk. I feel so sorry for one of my good friends though. Her daughter was born at 26 weeks and never learned to suck so gets all her nutriion from a tube in her stomach. The doctors all swore she'd start eating by the time she was six, but she's 8 now and still won't swallow. Everyone though being in school around other kids would make her want to not stick out, but she loves the attention of her feeding tube. I don't really know why I am telling you this. It's just my only experience with child-food issues.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie
As I was reading and saw you about to fall into the CHART trap I was mentally yelling NO! Not a Chart! NO! Too late. I love the way you stand back and watch yourself. "And I yelled, because I was trying to provide him with a model of how not to behave." Brilliant.

In the personal reassurance zone: this will pass. Truly. Try to believe that. It's true--like jac said, above. Just breath.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermarian
It's delurking week again already? I think I may have delurked in your comments LAST year.

My kids are teenagers now but I remember living through many of the things you write about with Henry. You will all live through it, and one day you will all--even Henry--laugh and laugh and laugh about it all.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterminty
As the mother of a 3 month old, I feel like I am watching the "coming attractions" of a horror flick - probably titled something like the The Toddler.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commentercagey
Apparently when he was little my dad only ate scrambled eggs and balogna (i'm not sure how to spell that) sandwiches for an entire YEAR. He is now a gourmet chef who will not only try, but touch and prepare such things as venison and very old, moldy cheese.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJess
Suffering from similar 2 3/4 year old dietary restrictions over here. I can make him chicken nuggets all day long, and we won't touch them. Take him to McD's, he'll eat 8 of theirs. He won't eat raisins plain but his favorite breakfast is raisin bread toasted, then he proceeds to pick the raisins out one by one. I saw Kraft is now making whole grain Mac & Cheese so want to give that a try since its his lunch/dinner multiple times a week. The only way he'll eat yogurt is if I put sprinkles on it and lately HE has to put the sprinkles on HIMSELF which leads to my having to Dustbust them all off the floor. Its all enough to make a mother crazy. But my mother told me when I was his age, the only thing I would ear for breakfast for years was two poached eggs. And now I'm happy to say I'm a well-rounded adult who ingests green vegetables and ethnic foods on a regular basis. Its a stage, they'll grow out of it. The one thing my son will eat like there is no end - refried beans. Go figure. He loves them.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle
I'm de-lurking! Okay, well, not really, because I have of course commented before, but I thought it would be fun pretend I was a lurker, like role-playing. I'll be the de-lurker, and you'll the surprised and happy blogger. It'll be our dirty little secret.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterschmutzie
Hi there - you've passed 100 comments on one post, congratulations! I've enjoyed your site for a long time. I'm not sure if it makes me more or less wary of having kids. I'm trying to suck up all of the advice I can prior to having kids, so I don't end up on Supernanny.

Keep up the terrific, hilarious, and refreshingly honest work!
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAlyson
Delurking! Hello! This is the first time I've read your site, and I have to say that I'm sorry it's taken me so long. I have a 15 month old daughter, so I'm sure that, in a year, I won't be laughing as hard as I did to this essay today.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSaturnCat
"De-lurked." Is that like "de-flowered?"

Where's my toy?
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNorthern_Girl
I'm glad of two things:

1. That your blog is so funny and great.2. That I don't have any kids.


January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMarcheline
My kids LOVE certain foods...right up until I buy the economy size of what ever it is.

I lurk.I lurk every day.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterblackbird
OK, I'll say hi. Hi! I found your site through Mrs. Kennedy's site a while back, and since my husband and I are in the process of trying to start a family of our own, I find your stories about Henry incredible. I can only hope we have such an entertaining child. I love the way you write; you make me spew food & beverage all over my desk with your hilariousness on a regular basis. I also like your hair. OK, back to being creepy...I mean, "lurking..."
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBertha
Hi de-lurking! I'm a mother of 3 1/2 year old Charlie who also is a giant fan of the oh so expensive Blueberry. What is it with little boys and blueberries? I too have the same food issues with my son so please know that you are not alone. What I find interesting is that he comes home from preschool telling me of all the new things he eats there -such as rice, tomatoes, fish cakes!! Apparently the little weasels will eat not what they see adults eating but what they see other children eating. Keep up the good fight - you are not alone!

January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie
I've commented once or twice before, but I guess I'm still mostly just lurking. I check just about every day for new posts -- I really enjoy your writing. And, with a kid of my own a little younger than Henry, it's helpful to see what's coming. Not reassuring, maybe, but helpful.

Hang in there! :)
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJulie
Hi Alice! I found your site from Mimi Smartypants whose site I have been reading for 3 years. One day a bunch of months ago she linked to you and I got hooked on you and you linked to Dooce and now I read all three of you as often as you can update.I don't usually comment as I am a 21 year old with no kids who is in a relationship with a woman I really don't feel I have much to add.I love your site though and I love most everything that you write.Good luck getting him to eat regular foods.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAngela
I usually comment and so am I a lurker? Well, no.

Sadly I have no kids so I can't really recommend anything. But Henry sure is funny. I know this comforts you greatly.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterEm
My parents were very sneaky about getting my sister and I to try new things: they made it a competition. Mom would turn to Dad and sotto voce "Which of our girls do you think is a gourmet taster? Nancy Beth? She's pretty brave, but Marsha IS older, so..." And we would stuff things like grilled octopus down our throats (not before I announced to the restaurant that "MARSHA JUST ATE TESTICLES" er, tentacles...)

I usually don't comment, but I reguarly read because you are so very funny. So I guess I lurk. I'd like to think I merely loom, or rather hulk around, but I'll take "The Lurker" on as my new sobriquet. It's very Jack-the-Ripper hot, no?
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNancy

You have yourself one picky kid. Eventually, like after college, he will get over it. I know one child who eats only white things, another on a steady diet of white bread, string cheese, vanilla yogurt, and carrot sticks. They live, it just sucks to take them anywhere. I also coach track and field in college, and have just as much trouble getting my 18-22 year olds to eat. I eat dinner with them every day and model good eating behavior, but they don't care. They won't even TRY new foods, only the same old things that they already eat.

Good Luck!
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMeganann
I've commented before, I think, but not for awhile. I imagine that reading 4,756 comments takes some time. Good lord!

My husband ate only hot dogs, white rice and apples as a child - for years, his family tells me. I think that when we do have a child, I will certainly have to deal with what you are dealing with now. It's in the genes. But Henry *will* grow out of it. Eventually. Good luck!
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMrs. Harridan
Okay, okay, I'll de-lurk too since everybody else is doing it. I echo Marcheline's sentiments. I don't have kids and still can't control the belly laughs that cause my coworkers to come see what it is I'm doing that can't possibly be work because I'm having so much fun!

And I married a man who grew up eating everything on God's green earth and now won't touch ANY vegetable except iceberg lettuce and we all know that's just sort-of-solidified water. So, while he doesn't cry, getting a 32 year-old man to eat food that's not brown and white causes me much frustration too. Perhaps I'll try a chart.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJen Z
I am delurking to share a story:I do not have children, but I was a nanny for several years. One night, I served spinach with dinner. The middle child insisted that he HATED spinach, that spinach was DISGUSTING, that he could not possibly put such NASTINESS in his mouth. Then I asked him if he had ever actually tried spinach. He had not. So I told him that he couldn't possibly hate something that he had never tried and that he would have to take one bite. If he did not like that one bite, he did not have to eat the spinach. He slowly raised his fork to his lips and placed the smallest possible amount of spinach on his tongue...and promptly threw up all over his plate and the table. He didn't have to finish his spinach.Love your blog.
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLN
Just thought I'd add my dulcet tones to the heady chorus of delurking-don't-'worry-about-H's-food-fads people...

My youngest brother (now a strapping lad of 17) went through a phase (as in 3 or 4 years) of eating only the following:

- fish fingers (it's a British thing and, no, nothing to do with mad cow-esque health scares, e.g. fish growing fingers... see

- dry bread & cheddar cheese sandwiches (as in no butter and while you're at it DON'TEVENTHINKABOUTCUTTINGITUP)

- raw cucumber, tomato and carrot plus the occasional apple

- err, that's it.

So, worry not dear finslippy, there is light at the end of this particular tunnel!
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commentert'other side of t'pond
My brother used to live off of ketchup and hotdog bun sandwiches. In his teens he switched to Reese's PB cereal. Last time I was in his apartment it was stocked with packages of pineapple. Is there comfort in the type of obsessive food changing over time?
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

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