One the Greater Ironies of my Internet career (or perhaps my Biggest Bullshit) is that I am routinely asked for advice on picky eaters. And I give it to people! When in reality, my track record for non-picky-eater creation is more like one out of three.
I mean, Noah will absolutely eat what you put in front of him (thanks to this book, and a lot of occupational therapy), but I guaran-goddamn-tee you that when he grows up and moves out he will exist exclusively on boxed mac-and-cheese and dry cereal. And he will love it. His harrowing post-mommyblog memoir will be titled This Post Is Brought To You By Kale Salad, or How #BlueApron Ruined My Childhood.
And Ezra, honestly, was just born a good and adventurous eater. Anything that I might have "done" early on that "helped" and could have possibly gotten up on a high horse about (blah blah homemade baby food blah blah restaurants blah blah exposure) was proven to be a load of shit by Ike. Who got all the same food and exposure and hardcore division-of-responsibility stuff as his older brothers, and who has spent almost seven years' worth of dinners sliding out of his chair onto the floor because "this food made my bones fall out."
Eventually, he'll eat. After an hour, anyway, sometimes two. He'll grudgingly admit that the food tastes good. Some previously rejected food might even get a thumbs up, but almost always at the expense of something else, and after all manner of attention-seeking and crazy-making antics.
"This chicken tastes weird," he says of the chicken he's eaten a million times, eyeing me with suspicion.
"This pasta is too slippery," he says, pantomiming an informercial-worthy performance of not understanding how forks work.
"These nuggets are the wrong shape," he says on the nights when I'm like, have some processed garbage, my precious lambs, I'm done.
For the most part, our only consistent strategy is just to ignore ignore ignore. Which eventually leads to him moving on to annoying his brothers. who will dutifully holler "I AM IGNORING YOU, IKE" while also stretching his name into seven distinct syllables because lo, they are so not actually ignoring him, OMG.
We've tried extra positive attention. We've tried extra one-on-one special Ike time. We've tried having him help shop and prep and cook. We've tried sending him to bed early and sending him to eat dinner alone in the kitchen and a visual timer and a three strikes rule and no snacks and no dessert and no screens and I-don't-even-care-go-hungry and NONE OF IT MATTERS.
Night after night, Ike comes to the dinner table, surveys the offerings on his plate, makes a face, melts to the floor, needs to go to the bathroom, needs to get more water, needs to whine about juice, needs to chase after a cat, etc. etc. etc.
Last week, I took Ezra out for a fancy French dinner. We've been trying to take him to more challenging restaurants for his special one-on-one outings (they all get them, for the record) -- places without kids' menus where he can try the sort of food he sees on his cooking shows. (It doesn't help that since we moved, our restaurant options shrunk significantly, and the kids' menus are -- for the most part --goddamn pandering garbage. We took them to a Mexican restaurant and I was like, okay, at least try a taco? But they were all like OH LOOK THEY HAVE HOT DOGS AND FRENCH FRIES! instead.)
I did not take Ike, who was absolutely distraught. He proceeded to then throw a fit because Jason offered to make him whatever he wanted for dinner instead, but would not permit him to fill a bowl with grape jelly and dip graham crackers in it.
Ezra and I (and Hobbes) had a delicious meal and a lovely time together.
The next few days, after pondering YET ANOTHER "how do I get my kid to eeeeeeeeat" dilemma in the advice column queue, I decided to try YET ANOTHER trick on Ike. The self-serve dinner-as-buffet trick. (Basically, don't portion out dinner for your child. Put everything on the table and let them serve themselves, giving them the illusion of control in a world full of chaos and broccoli.) This is a trick I tried on my older children with zero success, as Noah crumpled under the decision-making pressure and it just sort of back-fired on Ezra, who started limiting his choices instead of expanding them.
But I thought maybe, just maybe, it might appeal to Ike, since 99.9% of his mealtime behavior is an attention-seeking stunt rather than having anything to do with the food itself. Maybe he'd relish a little bit more control over his plate vs. trying to control the entire meal with LOOK AT MEEEEEE antics.
He can never know that I wrote this, but...it seems to work? Actually let's pretend I didn't write that. Because I've been here before, blowing up my life for the sake of content, sweet content.
(I also give advice on how to make your baby sleep! And potty training! Like I was some kind of ninja at either.)
This week, I promised to take Ezra out again to a local hot pot/shabu shabu place where you cook your food right on the table. (His interest was peaked by the Rutabaga the Adventure Chef book series, which I highly recommend to any other little foodies or wanna-be chefs out there.) Ike begged to come along this time, and Ezra agreed that was okay with him.
Things Ike Did Not Do: literally anything besides eat and talk about what he was going to eat next. He LOVED it. The stirring and the boiling and the cooking and the make-your-own dipping sauce station! We ate until we were all ready to burst.
So I guess we'll see how things go tonight, when the menu is back to something less exotic and interactive. But for now, for this moment, allow me to waste 1,000+ words telling you what a genius I am, right before he changes all the rules on me again.