People say that you are like your parents and your children are like you. Of course each person is a unique, but it is undeniable that certain attributes get passed on from one generation to the next. Sometimes they are physical characteristics, other times they are personality traits. People are often proud if they pass on their height or their athletic prowess to their children. But there are also things that you wish your kid did not inherit, particularly when it’s an idiosyncrasy that you can’t blame on anyone but yourself.
Lucas has, for some time, struggled with eating. He has always been very particular about what he puts in his mouth. Our pediatrician reassured us that this was not unusual toddler behavior. She would probably find it even less peculiar if she had known me when I was Lucas’s age. I, too, was a picky eater. Legend has it that I was four years old before I knowingly ate a vegetable. Of course my mother did her duty, hiding puréed carrots and other veggies in my pasta sauce without my knowledge. But it would be an understatement to say that I was averse to trying new foods.
If not for my parents intervention, I would probably still be quite content with a diet consisting only of hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, and spaghetti. At some point, however, they decided that enough was enough. I was going to try new foods. It was painful. The first new food that I tried was strawberries. It went over pretty well. The second new food that I tried was peas. To this day it is one of my worst childhood memories and one of my least favorite foods! I probably sat at the table for three hours stubbornly refusing to eat the four green peas that were on my plate. Eventually frustration got the better of my poor mother, she plugged my nose to force me to open my mouth, and shoved in the peas! They stayed down for a good five seconds before my gag reflex took over, spewing those four little peas and whatever else I’d had for dinner all over me and the kitchen floor.
My mother has been very gracious about our current parenting predicament but I think privately she’s probably had more than one good, hearty chuckle. To be fair, Lucas is a much better eater than I ever was. From the beginning he has eaten a healthy variety of fruits (bananas, berries, apples, pears) and vegetables (kale, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, sweet potatoes). He eats whole grains and lean protein (chicken and pork). What is the catch? Even at 3½ years old, he has insisted on eating these foods only in puréed form. He has consistently rejected solid foods, apart from a few exceptions. Our pediatrician encouraged us not to get frustrated about this considering that his diet was extremely healthy, even if the way in which he consumed those foods was a little unorthodox. After all he could be eating only hot dogs and macaroni…Betsy has patiently followed this advice even though she was the one tasked with making Lucas’s baby food (no small endeavor!) for the last three years. I will admit to being more than a little frustrated on more than one occasion. I just wanted him to try something! A cracker, a cookie, anything! The most frustrating times were when we knew we’d be out of the house for meal time and would have to pack up an entire suitcase (slight exaggeration) of bottles and jars so that he could eat. I desperately wanted to be able to just go out to dinner and order him chicken nuggets off of a restaurant kids menu. No fuss. But Lucas was resolute. Maybe even a little stubborn… As with all things, it’s about timing. We wanted Lucas to try new foods but we also didn’t want to ram our heads against the wall. In the last several months Lucas has shown a lot of growth in other areas (potty training and sleeping in his own bed at night) and a lot more flexibility, in general; so we thought we might be close to a breakthrough on the food front as well. Then one day out of the blue, Lucas asked to try a carrot. He’s been enamored with carrots for a while, probably because they are his favorite color of orange. But he’s only ever pretended to eat them. Well, this day he ate one – one, tiny, miserable baby carrot! A few days later we were out of the ingredients to make his baby food so we decided to just take the plunge and try. It hasn’t been easy but it’s not been nearly as bad as we might have imagined. Lucas has tried a lot of new foods (and only puked a few of them back up)! Some of the foods he has loved, others he doesn’t care for as much. Sometimes it takes ages for him to work up the courage to open his mouth. Sometimes it takes silly songs or crazy antics to get him to try one bite. It often takes A LOT of wine for Betsy and I to get through the dinner hour with our sanity intact. But he is doing it! The biggest breakthrough was the night that we all ate the exact same thing for dinner: homemade chicken tenders and fries, apple slices and carrots. I am really proud of Lucas. I’m also extremely relieved because deep down I’m pretty sure that he got his pickiness and stubbornness from me! Maybe in 25 or 30 years Lucas will have a son that isn’t too keen on trying new foods either. I can imagine myself saying to him, “Well, when you were his age…” I’ll be sure to do my chuckling behind closed doors.