My child is a picky eater. Or it’s something else entirely.

by Miranda on July 3, 2012

A year ago, I wrote about Joshua’s picky eating habits.

I’m (un)happy to report that in a year and then some, nothing has changed.

Mealtimes in Casa de NSJM are kind of…well…I hate them.

At Joshua’s three-year check-up in April, the doctor asked us about his diet. I mentioned that he doesn’t eat a variety of foods and told her that when he tries new things, he gags on them. I told her that I thought there might be some deeper reason why he wouldn’t eat new things.

And then I kind of got The Look from her.

You know the one, right? The sort of judgey but masked as concerned one that doctors have to perfect before they can get their fancy diplomas. The one that says they think your kid is just snowing you and you’re a lame parent because you’re giving in to your kid’s demands instead of just forcing the kid to submit to your parent-ness.

Yeah. That one.

She suggested just not giving him what we know he’ll eat and only giving him what we want him to have. If he goes to bed hungry, he’ll go to bed hungry, but eventually, he’ll learn to eat what we give him and not what he wants and he won’t die.

(Others have also made this same suggestion. The bitchy side of me wants to tell them to go to bed hungry and see how they like it. Thankfully, the Southern side of me, the one with the manners Mama gave me, wins out. Mostly.)

People say we’re allowing him to control the situation. We’re allowing ourselves to be manipulated. We’re the problem.

I think no one but us and his teachers at school know just how particular he can be, but what the hell. I thought I’d give this “let him eat nothing” plan a shot.

So this summer, or, like, two weeks ago, I decided we’d try to get Joshua to try new things. We’d sit down to dinner at the table as a family. We’d put new things on his plate. NO MORE PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICHES.

It was not good. There were tears.

I read that getting kids involved is good. Let them pick out the foods from the grocery store! Let them help you prepare them!

When we go to the grocery store, Joshua ALWAYS helps pick out the foods. He can name over half the fruits and vegetables in the produce section. He will say things like “Mmm. I wike broccoli!” He will not eat broccoli. Or any other fruit or vegetable at the grocery store. Cooked, raw, or standing on his head, he will not eat them.

So then I thought “I’ll let him be my sous chef while I make dinner!” I pulled a chair up to the counter and I had him sprinkle the cheese into the tortillas to make “taco cups.” He proclaimed his love of the taco cup! He was going to eat a taco cup!

He did not eat a taco cup. He ate one tiny sliver of a bite of a taco cup and gagged and cried the entire time and that was after working him up to it for 15 minutes just to put one bite in his mouth.

Bribery worked well for potty training, so I thought we could try it for meals, too. We bought super awesome Spider-man popsicles. Popsicles Joshua has been eyeballing for as long as he’s been able to say “Spider-man!” If he just had ONE BITE of a new food, he could have a WHOLE POPSICLE. For one bite of food.

This worked about three times, but again, it took coaxing him for 15 minutes, after settling him down and getting him to stop crying, and then a 1-2-3 count like we’re giving him some awful tasting medicine. And there was gagging.

Last night we had black beans. We know he likes black beans. He eats an entire cup of black beans almost every time we go to Moe’s. He cried that he didn’t want black beans last night, so we took his plate away. Then he cried that he did want black beans, so we gave him some more. Then he said that he didn’t want to eat them.

We busted out the Oreos to use as a bribe. He was excited at the prospect of an Oreo. He put one black bean on his tongue and gagged and bawled and licked the table (seriously) trying to “get the yuck off his tum.”

Then he burst into more tears. (And no, he didn’t get the Oreo. We don’t reward him if he doesn’t comply. We’re not THAT new.)

Y’all, there are tears in my house every night now. From him and nearly from me. Every single night I feel like the world’s most gigantic pile of fail over his picky eating. Because the world says this is my fault and I’m allowing myself to be manipulated.

But when he’s telling me that he doesn’t want to eat something, there’s not defiance and rage in his tears. Not always.

There’s something like…fear.

Like he is legitimately afraid to try the new thing.

And I don’t know what to do about that. Is this more than just run-of-the-mill picky eating?

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