A good meal gone bad
Dinner used to be my favourite meal of the day. My mother, a fabulous cook, would make the most amazing, mouth-watering Indian dishes and I would proceed to a gluttonous excess. I’ve never been able to approach my mother’s cooking skills - OK, in truth, I could give a person food poisoning with toast – but I appreciate the brilliance of good seasonings, the genius that goes into adding different seasonings to create the perfect blend of flavour in a meal.
Sadly, my daughter has no such appreciation; the only seasonings she will allow on her plate is salt. The tiniest dot denoting black pepper or – shock, horror! – fresh herbs receive mutinous glares, and declarations of “I don’t like the black stuff.’ Even treats like ice cream or chocolate bear little temptation for her. Unfortunately, since giving birth to the world’s pickiest eater, dinner has become my most hated meal of the day, a face-off tense enough to rival a scene from Die Hard.
It’s incredible how easy it is for an innocent and sweet-faced little child to annihilate your self-esteem, like when they casually mention that you have a big belly or ask if you’re a grandma. Don’t ask me how I know that.
And though it shouldn’t matter, it is equally soul-destroying to put a big effort into making something nutritious and appetizing, and have your four-year-old sit there with food hanging out of her mouth – looking as though you’re force-feeding her arsenic – and say, “It doesn’t taste very nice.”
Last week, when this happened, it was all I could do not to throw her plate of food at the wall. At times like this, it’s impossible to remember the advice I read to keep meal time a happy experience for your young one, instead of enslaving them in their room and implementing a gulag regime of feeding them dry bread and water.
I recently had my daughter weighed, with the result she was plotted on the third percentile for weight. A few of us parents of tiny tots tell ourselves that the scales reflect big North American babies, bursting with strength, vitality and Happy Meals, so this shouldn’t really have any bearing on our skinny mites. But the reality is that when you can count your kid’s ribs at a glance and hugging them feels like hugging a sack of bones, those thoughts are cold comfort.
The fact that she’s four and has yet to hit the 30 pound mark recently become a further source of distress, since it meant we had to upgrade to a van to fit in a future three carseats – at the rate she’s going, she’ll be a teenager before she gets to move into a booster seat. This van has had the effect of making me realize that I am not so fresh out of college any more, and middle-age mommyhood is fast creeping up on me. That in turn makes me realize there are worse things than being a mother to a picky eater – you could buy a van and find out that you have become your parents, as happens to all of us in the end.
If I think about it hard enough, I realize that her eating shouldn’t be such a headache. Sure, to parents of picky eaters, meal time can be a chore as you try to make sure your kids eat enough food and that they suffer through their vegetables. But in the grand scheme of things, as long as the kid is healthy and growing (at least a little) – and is lucky enough to have food on the table – how worked up do I need to get about it? Eventually she will probably discover the wonderful world of flavour and tastes, and love food and its seasonings. By that time though, she’ll probably be a minivan owner, with a picky eater or two at home, and realize she too has turned into her mother.
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