Shh. Come here. Slowly. Casually.
God. Seriously. BE COOL. ACT NATURAL.
I need to tell you something but I'm absolutely terrified I'm going to jinx myself and ruin everything, so I'm going to type it out very s-l-o-w-l-y and s-o-f-t-l-y and hope that maybe the vengeful gods above are too distracted right now to pelt my ass with lightning bolts.
(And yes, it IS also Invent Your Own Hodgepodge-y Religious Deities Day today. Thanks for asking.)
So we appear to have stumbled upon a solution to Noah's picky eating habits.
And by "picky" I should clarify: This child has eaten NOTHING since his first birthday. In fact, he has continued to ruthlessly edit down his list of acceptable foods ever since, meaning that up until a few weeks ago he would willingly eat ONLY the following:
1. Dry Cheerios
2. Plain toasted waffles
3. Peanut butter & jelly, though he usually opened the sandwich, licked off the peanut butter and left the rest
4. Grilled cheese, except for the "cheese" part
5. Pizza, but only the crust
6. Individually wrapped cereal bars
And that, my friends, was seriously it. No fruits, no vegetables, no meats. There were, once, a handful of other foods he'd occasionally eat, that have dropped off the list one by one. He rejected macaroni and cheese, for Christ's sake. I became the mother who would have been THRILLED to see my child agree to eat a damn chicken nugget or hamburger or french fry. I hid traces of pureed fruits and vegetables and beans in whatever I could, but seriously, look at at that list. My subterfuge options were quite limited, at best. The kid drank a LOT of homemade smoothies, packed full of dubious combinations like...apple juice, pineapple chunks and frozen broccoli, which he would drink no problem. But put any of those ingredients in front of him, in solid form? Forget about it.
We read books. We ate as a family. We ignored him. We refused to short-order cook and did the whole "division of responsibility" thing where we placed food in front of him and that was that. Well, except for the histrionics and wailing that accompanied every meal. And the no eating. He skipped meal after meal knowing that he'd eventually make it to breakfast where he could get some Cheerios.
We tried playing hardball. We pushed and insisted and threatened and re-served rejected foods over and over. He threw tantrums and whined and was sent to bed early night after night, and it solved nothing except for further entrenching everybody into a miserable battle of wills.
We tried peer pressure and bribery and "just one bite" and a good five dozen other tactics that YOU KNOW aren't going to work but the tactics everybody SAYS will work aren't working and it's driving you crazy because OH MY GOD, the buttons this kid manages to push at dinnertime when all you want in the world is for him to EAT SOMETHING. BESIDES CARBS. AND AIR.
Another problem, besides how incredibly limited his diet was, was that Noah was a s-t-a-l-l-e-r, even when he was served an acceptable or favorite food. Meals stretched on for h-o-u-r-s, or until we gave up and dumped his plate. He sat and sang and turned around and flopped upside-down off the edge of his chair and pretended the spoon was the Millennium Falcon and ate at a rate of one bite per 20 minutes.
This meant he was frequently getting hustled onto the school bus at 12:15 with only a third of his sandwich eaten -- the sandwich he was originally served over an hour before. This meant dinnertime was a constant nag-fest as Jason and I attempted to keep him focused and on task and EAT, NOAH. TAKE A BITE.
One night, during a torturous meal of spaghetti and meatballs (translation: practically naked-from-sauce noodles, one sad little turkey meatball that I put on his plate like always, knowing it will be pointedly ignored but "they" tell you to "keep trying!", and a metric ton of parmesan cheese that he deigned to eat granule by granule)...I got frustrated with the stalling and told him I was going to set the timer on the oven. He had 30 minutes. If he finished before that, we'd have time to do something fun, like watch a movie or play a game or have some dessert. He could choose, too.
If he didn't finish, or at least come close, I'm sorry, you're going straight to bed. BECAUSE YOU HAVE A TERRIBLE WITCH OF A MOTHER WHO STILL MAKES BATCHES AND BATCHES OF PUREED BABY FOOD EVERY WEEKEND TO HIDE IN YOUR MEALS AND STAVE OFF SCURVY AND RICKETS.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that child ate every bite of spaghetti. And then he ate the meatball.
In between bites, he would ask how many minutes he had left, nod appreciatively, then get back to the task at hand.
The next night, I upped the challenge with some fish sticks. Noah has never eaten fish in his entire life, nor any meat or vegetable or foodstuff "cleverly" covered up with delicious crunchy breading. (Meanwhile, Ezra prefers them with a nice spicy cocktail sauce.) I put a plate in front of him, and set the timer again.
Five of 'em, down the hatch, like it was no big thing. "I like these!" he announced.
Since then, Noah has eaten -- WITHOUT PROTEST OR ASSORTED STURM AND DRANG -- rotisserie chicken, steamed peas, roast pork loin, mashed sweet potatoes, bison chili loaded with extra vegetables, chicken nuggets, a tzatziki and chopped tomato pita sandwich, spinach linguine and the inside actual cheese part of a grilled cheese sandwich.
Since the fact that he couldn't see the timer seemed to cause a wee bit of anxiety, we upgraded (with his occupational therapist's advice) to a visual Time Timer clock, which allows him to see exactly how long he has left. His beloved Ms. Meredith uses this to help him with transitions and focusing problems during their sessions, so it seems to have positive connotations for him, and holy mother of Timex, he continues to eat anything and everything we put in front of him.
Is it still, at the core, bribery? Yeah, I guess. He does indeed get to choose "something special" when all is said and eaten and done. Some nights it's a cookie, or a lightsaber duel on the Wii, or a boardgame, or a DVD. Which are exactly the things we LIKE doing with him after dinner ANYWAY...but were all precisely the things we weren't doing all those nights he spent sitting at the table for two hours moaning over a plate of pasta, or the nights he was sent to his room for throwing a massive tantrum over our refusal to serve him peanut butter and jelly 27 meals in a row.
In other words, I DON'T CARE. I WIN AT EVERYTHING. I bet u r jelus like a 23-month-old at his big brother's bday party, amirite?
(Yeah, these photos were a stretch in relevancy. But I am feeling gleeful and reckless. I'M CRAZY, MAN. DRUNK WITH TIMER POWER.)
(OH SHIT LIGHTNING BOLTS EVERYBODY DUCK.)