I never thought I’d be the mother of a picky eater. What imbued me with such confidence? Why, I wouldn’t allow it! I’d feed my child normal, adult foods and she would eat them, too. If she whined about it, too bad. I didn’t want to turn food into a power-play, and I didn’t want to have the kind of child who survived on Saltines and gummy worms.
I remember reading a magazine article about a mother who used to be some sort of gourmet city-slicker. Pre-kids, she and her husband would frequent all of the hottest restaurants and try all the newest food fads. She loved food—she was a food writer, for god’s sake! Two kids later, she was eating hot dogs every single night. That will never happen to me, I said to myself. I won’t allow it! NEVER!
So how did I end up here, with a daughter who does indeed survive on white food and air? Lately we’ve been on a mission to expand her eating repertoire, and she was very proud of herself for trying “salad.” That meant a microscopic piece of lettuce went into her mouth for a few seconds before she spit it out.
Here’s how it happened: She was born this way. I believe that now. I know parents of picky eaters and parents of good eaters. Sometimes the parents are picky themselves; sometimes they’re not. Sometimes one kid in the family is picky, the other is not. I think it’s just the way it goes. Audrey never liked eating. She wasn’t a good nursling. She’s always been skinny.
When it was time to introduce solid foods, I wanted to do it right. Don’t feed them rice cereal, I’d heard. If you do, they’ll develop a taste for bland foods and eat nothing else. Okay. So her first food was avocado. Then I made my own baby cereal out of ground oats. I added in pureed kale and black beans and squash. She ate almost anything if it was mixed into oatmeal. Yet we still struggled to keep her weight up, which I wrote about here in Fattening Baby, Naturally.
She got a little older and we fed her spicy foods—pad thai and salsa. She ate it up just fine. And then at some point, the pickiness settled in like a permanent fog. You see, she started making up her own mind—we could no longer shovel kale and oats into her open bird-mouth. She could say no. She was still too little for her age, so my “just make them eat what we’re eating” model didn’t work out the way I’d envisioned. The thing was, she wouldn’t eat it. She would go hungry if I did that. That’s how it began—we started thinking that she’d enjoy eating more if we fed her things she liked—toast and cheese and fruit.
I made a list of everything Audrey will eat on one of my old picky-eating posts, and some people said they didn’t think her diet sounded so bad. Now it’s three years later, and her diet is more or less the same.
While I do (sort of) believe that she is a picky eater by nature, it’s time that I admit that we have been enabling her pickiness, too. We’ve recently embarked on a mission to introduce her to more foods. I’ll post about our progress (or lack thereof) in the upcoming months. 2013 is going to be the year we turn her eating around. Just you wait!