As a kid, I consumed enough macaroni and cheese to nourish a Third World country. I loved it so much, I’d scarf down my Brussels sprouts and Spam just to get an extra scoop. Now that’s dedication, considering Spam is actually precooked human meat (thanks, Dad).
My four-year-old son also prefers the cheesy noodles, and as a parent, I’ve likely quadrupled my childhood consumption. Cade is different, though, in that he’ll choose starvation over sacrifice any day. It doesn’t matter how many times we read “Green Eggs and Ham” the moral of the story means nothing to my little food neophobe. I’ve spent the last three years bribing and bartering, persuading and guilt-tripping, hiding ingredients and stretching the truth about taste. Hell, I’ve even created “dinosaur” habitats while animalizing pieces of sausage. My success rate is not even worth mentioning.
Not long before we moved to Bend, however, Cade had an epiphany and ate an entire piece of vegetable and meatball pizza. The next week, I watched in awe as he finished a loaded beef taco. A few days later, I pushed the envelope and fed him a cheeseburger. Then he threw up, and the revolution ended.
Scratch that. It backfired.
We went out to dinner at Deschutes Brewery last month, and I ordered Cade the kids’ macaroni and cheese—his favorite meal (prepared just a tad bit differently), and he refused to eat two bites. I found myself back in Groundhog Day.
Trust me, I’ve done my research. The whole “offering children a new food 21 times before they’ll eat it” statistic doesn’t apply to everyone. With the exception of bananas (I swear, my son is a monkey), food is a daily struggle for us. Just when I think we’re progressing, Cade will have an emotional meltdown over a piece of ham or a single peanut. He’ll cry, grimace and gag until I give up the fight (“If you want it, eat it. If you don’t, don’t.”)… Nine times out of ten, he walks away hungry.
But here’s the thing: he’s strong, energetic and perfectly healthy. And despite his birdlike eating habits (and his “fear” of most foods), he somehow continues to grow. I can’t complain too much anyway. Macaroni and cheese is still one of my favorites, and I still fix a lot of it—“only my kind, Mom.” Occasionally, I’ll offer up a vegetable and a side of salami, because it’s at least three steps up from my childhood mystery meat.
Cade will come around one of these days. He’s only four, after all, and I know I’m not the only mom who packs the same, boring, peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich lunch every day for her picky preschooler.
But the day he tries a bite of salmon, or a piece of broccoli, or even a frickin’ orange slice, I’m going to throw a party.