My two-and-a-half-year-old daughter is sitting at the kitchen island, halfway through her second bowl of cottage cheese when she perks her little face up, gesturing me to come closer. “I want pickles, now,” she demands. An impressive (and questionable) taste combo for sure, but what’s most astonishing is that after three picky and often impossible eaters, I finally have a kid with a little culinary variety. My fourth and final offspring is a little foodie, here for all of my menu suggestions and down to try just about anything. And I am here for it!
Until she arrived, I’d been dealing with not one, not two, but three picky eaters. I’m not talking about a refusal of escargot or sushi, either — I am saying they wouldn’t eat a chicken breast or a sandwich. To this day, they refuse hotdogs at cookouts and sort through fruit salad picking out grapes and strawberries only. Veggies (other than peas) are totally off-limits along with soups, salads, and basically any meal requiring more than one or two ingredients. I couldn’t tell you why they don’t like these foods. Maybe it’s something about the way they look or smell — but since they won’t even try most things, I really don’t know — and sometimes I wonder if it is just to spite me.
And to be clear, I am not trying to force feed my kids stuff that they don’t like. I do not require that they have memberships in the Clean Plate Club and I will never demand that they eat a helping of veggies. I do, however, think it’s fair to ask them to give things a try. Just one bite! And if they don’t like it, they are off the hook. But honestly, I haven’t even been able to enforce that.
So, what foods have I been offering these picky people for the past 10 years, you ask? Well, all the things you would expect: mac and cheese, grilled cheese, bagels, muffins, dinosaur chicken nuggets. The real nutritious stuff, ya know? I have had countless moments of frustration during meal time and endless worry about my failure to raise nutritious and explorative eaters.
But, as it turns out (like most things in parenting) it seems I was not in full control of this situation after all (gasp!). Because this fourth kid — the one freebasing salsa verde and carrot-ginger soup — was parented in the exact same way as the previous three. So she is simply either more of a culinary risk taker, or has a totally different set of taste buds than my other crazies. All I know for sure is that her ‘good eater’ status is not to my credit. And that means the eating habits of the other three aren’t my fault.
And conversely, maybe the ‘bad eater’ status of my other three isn’t my fault. Maybe, as long as I continue to provide healthy meal options for my kids, whether or not they actually eat them is something we can take off the long list of things I worry about, and blame myself for. I bet it works itself out. I don’t know a ton of adults living on grilled cheese and goldfish alone, after all. For now I will revel in the joys of mealtime with my little foodie. Next up on the menu, tuna tartar!
Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.