I thank God daily for my two children who are NOT picky eaters, so when I read (as I often do) that the picky eater I do have is my fault, that I’m just coddling him, and that I have to be persistent, I don’t have to feel bad about myself. My middle child eats anything you put in front of him, and I do mean ANYTHING. My youngest eats anything, as long as it has either fruit or meat in it. But my oldest began his life with reflux, and ever since, has had a complicated relationship with what he eats.
And a few things have come to a head lately. Connor’s growing like a weed, spring is here and he’s running around outside more, and lately, his diet has grown even smaller. He’s skin and bones, and when he comes to the dinner table he MUST be starved, but that’s when the problems start. “I don’t like leftover penne with sauce,” he told me two nights ago, lip quivering, rejecting the one thing I can usually count on him to chow down. “It tastes different after it’s been in the refrigerator.” The notion that “he’ll eat when he’s hungry” is a kettle of nonsense; the lower his blood sugar is, the more likely he is to not eat, and grow crankier, and not eat, and so on. “You will SIT THERE until you eat!” proved similarly unhelpful; he sat there for twenty minutes, sniffling, and not eating, and saying “but I’m just not hungry” over and over again under his breath.
Finally– and I’m not sure where it came from– I had an inspiration.
MOMMY: Who’s your favorite Yankee?
CONNOR: CC Sebastian.
MOMMY: (counting on my fingers) S-E-B-A-S-T-I-A-N. What’s your favorite holiday?
MOMMY: C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S. That’s nine. Sebastian is also nine. Nine plus nine is eighteen. You have to eat eighteen pieces of penne.
Connor considers this.
And he counts out eighteen penne and eats them cheerfully.
The next night, I got him to eat seven green beans and twenty-seven grains of brown rice, using a similar method. He is now asking me, every night, to play this game, and I can’t believe it’s working but it is.
Last night, I thought he had figured out how to game the system.
MOMMY: Who’s your favorite Harry Potter character?
CONNOR: Ron. R-O-N.
Oh well, that’s it, I thought. It was nice while it lasted.
CONNOR: Mom! Keep asking me.
MOMMY: Oh, okay. Um. What’s your favorite fruit?
Which meant nine bites of eggplant. I don’t know how long the “favorite Yankee” method will work, but I’m loving it.