There was a time not so long ago when my darling son ate what was put in front of him. With his pincers grip he would pick up chunks of spinach and gobble them up like Popeye – minus the sailor’s squint and tattoos, of course. But that’s all in the past. I swear blindly that there is a conspiracy at work among the under-two set. It’s as though little Harry surreptitiously nudged my son one day while they were in the sandpit, and said: Hey, man, don’t you know you’re not supposed to eat the green stuff?
Le petit critic
Almost overnight my son developed the sophisticated palate of a cordon bleu chef. Now his little tongue will deftly isolate, then promptly and indiscriminately eject each and any veg, no matter how carefully or cleverly disguised by Yours Truly. Zucchini, green beans, asparagus, spinach, onions, leeks, broccoli, kale, mushrooms, fennel, peppers… The list is by no means exhaustive, though it is exhausting. The offending veggie will ultimately end up on the reject pile my son creates beside his plate, so as to avoid ‘contamination’ with the acceptable food — namely, bread, cheese, crackers, or yogurt. And if my husband and I fail to get the not-so subtly dropped hints in time, you guessed it: plate overboard!
Master Chef Mom
I know I am not alone. Toddlers are notoriously fussy and tempestuous by nature. Conversely, we moms are compulsively nurturing and neurotic. Therein lies the conflict. In my dual role as Mom and Master Chef, I work hard at concocting meals that are both nutritious and tasty. Hell, sometimes I even splurge and buy organic. So when my son winces at the sight of a beautiful piece of grilled asparagus, let’s say, it’s hard not to feel slighted. After all, he doesn’t know how good he’s got it.
In my day…
Vegetables were not friends. Vegetables were bullies, and mealtimes were fraught with an incredible amount of anxiety and dread. We weren’t well off, so the veg that made its way to our table was either canned or frozen. Lima beans were the worst. I remember staring at their cold, green, beetle-like shells long after the table had been cleared. There would be sulks and inevitably, tears…
When all else fails
I do what any other responsible parent in my Uggs would do. I get the greens into the little guy by stealth. By purée, even. Sometimes it works. Sometimes not. In any event, I try not to make a Broadway production at the high chair, which would only make matters worse in the long run. After all, mealtimes should not be wartimes.
Besides, I would be a hypocrite
To this day, when I smell the putrid, gym foot stench of turnip, I want to wretch. So the next time my son’s face screws up like I’ve just offered him rat pellets, I’ll close my eyes and think back to those lima beans. In their own strange way, they help me keep things in perspective.