Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Hunger Games

My 2 year old likes to "help" me make dinner by scattering food everywhere and refusing to budge from in front of either the dishwasher or the garbage can making it impossible for me to get into either. She also enjoys stealing my giant, fish-shaped cutting board and pretending it's her skateboard. She also points to the stovetop repeatedly and says "This is hot?" She knows it's hot but she keeps checking with me like she doesn't really believe me. But the great thing about Dilly (her nickname) is that she has the palate of a food critic. She eats raw red cabbage slaw, veggie sushi, eggplant parmesan, guacamole and hummus. I know a lot of kids possess this adventuresome trait but since my almost 5 year old is THE PICKIEST EATER IN THE UNIVERSE I really enjoy Dilly's desire to try different healthy foods. (She also scrapes frosting off of cupcakes, just eating the cake part, and hates chocolate chip cookies. This makes me wonder if she was switched at birth but since she still enjoys most pies, I think she's mine)

But back to my 5 year old, The Big A. He's a terrible eater in that if I let him eat plain macaroni every night he would be perfectly content. Red sauce is far too exotic for him. He never met a hot dog he didn't like. And besides carrots, he makes a big federal case out of eating any type of green vegetable. Although he's literally thrown up into his plate when tasked with eating asparagus, broccoli or spinach we still make him do it. I have to give my children something to discuss in therapy one day.

Last night was no different.

I made a salad plus a wheat pizza for Dilly, my husband and I, topped with fresh grilled chicken, balsamic, mushrooms, sautéed onion and asparagus. I topped it with aged provolone and fresh tomatoes for a sort of different type of pizza than the same-old same-old.

The Big A, who helped me grate all of the cheese, dubbed it "Garbage Pizza. It looks like garbage."

"Well, aren't you a treat?" I scoffed as I shoved it in the oven.

"Don't worry," he assured me. "Daddy will like it. He'll eat anything."

That is true. But how did two total foodies like my husband and I get stuck with such a finicky eater?

As I served Big A's dinner, neatly separated into quadrants as per Big A's OCD demands the whining began.

"We're not having noodles!?" he protests.

"Nope, not noodles." I said through gritted teeth.

I had served little chunks of roasted chicken, baby carrots, sliced apples, cheddar wedges and some bright green steamed asparagus with butter. A glass of milk completed what was a very fresh and nutritious meal.

"Arrgh" he grouses as he plops into his seat "Asparagus again?"

I am now sort of furious because I just served a delicious meal and he's already complaining. Also, considering the food that we are always collecting for Lunch Break through our church, I should not need to remind him how many children would be thrilled to get this meal.

And then the negotiation begins. Such as:

"Can I just eat the heads of the asparagus?

Do I have to eat all 5?

If I promise to have a tea party with Dilly can I not eat it?

Can I eat it tomorrow?

Can I eat it later?

I think I'm too full to eat my asparagus."

So now I'm past my breaking point, I already poured myself a glass of red and I'm taking a deep breath. He scarfed up the rest of his simple repast, including all of the carrots, which he has deemed the only non-evil vegetable.

Then he looks over at me.

"Do I really have to eat it?"

"No," I respond, "you don't have to. You can go straight to bed right now at 6:15."

So then, while mugging, gagging, moaning, flailing his arms and acting like I've just given him fish heads, poison or both, he takes tiny bites of the asparagus, chasing each one with milk and then slumping, in a heap, onto his chair. He's only eaten one spear at this point.

Then he does something that aggravates me so much I want to scream.

He begins talking to the asparagus. And himself.

"Okay Big A," he mutters, "You can DO THIS!" He's dead serious, giving himself a pep talk to eat delicious fresh steamed asparagus, crisp tender and smothered in butter. He eventually finishes it all, acts like he's just done me a great favor by dealing with this indignity and clears his plate. This was good night. Sometimes he talks his way out of eating all the greens or my patience runs out before his does.

I give up. I gaze over at Dilly who's polishing off her asparagus, a small slice of "Garbage Pizza", and some spicy beef empanadas my father brought over earlier from her favorite Latin restaurant. She loves empanadas. Like most 2 year olds. I guess if we lived in Argentina.

I don't know when The Big A will realize that boy cannot live by plain spaghetti and chicken nuggets alone. He also likes pancakes and birthday cake but that does not a healthy diet make. I can't help but wonder how two children that came from the same parents and who have grown up in the same home can be so vastly different when it comes to their taste buds.

I guess I'll keep wondering. And I'll keep in mind what every grandmother says with a shrug -- "When they're hungry, they'll eat." But will he ever eat his greens without a fight?