Sunday, August 13, 2006

Move over, Fran...and bring on the bread and jam!

My son has always loved to read and has a huge bookshelf filled with all kinds of stories. Some are hand-me-down books from his cousins, some have been given to him over the years, and a few were my husband's and mine when we were his age. Somewhere, sandwiched in-between all these books is a small paperback version of one of my favorites: Bread and Jam for Francis by Russell and Lillian Hoban.

The book was actually my husband's, though I remember reading it as a kid too. And, by the yellowed pages and artwork, I suspect it might have been originally belonged to one of his older siblings first actually. I love this story of the little badger who only likes to eat bread and jam and how her clever parents taught her a lesson about having some dining variety by making her eat her favorite food at every meal with nothing else. When I used to read it to my son, I would think to myself how ingenious Francis's mom really was. Make your kid only eat the thing they love and nothing else for days on end and see if it continues to be the only food they want to eat! I've seen this technique used on smokers with great success too. It's brilliant!

If my son had EVER tried the picky-eater thing on me, I was fully prepared to implement the Mother-of-Francis technique. After all, if it worked on stubborn little Francis, who was crack-like addicted to bread and jam, then I'm sure it could work on my son.

But, alas, my son has never been a picky eater at all, so I have never used the method. No, my darling son came out of the womb a "big eater," as we like to call him. As a baby, he would eat so much that I would have to cut him off, because he would continue to eat until he spit up. He has always been very tall, and weighs more than you would think he weighs. But, ironically, he has always looked quite lanky and thin.

To this day, my son remains a pretty good eater. He has picked a few odd things he refuses to eat, like lasagna and hamburgers. It is not uncommon for him to want 2-3 things with breakfast, and I usually only let him have something small with whatever his main breakfast "entree" is. As I'm learning about my health problems and emotional problems with eating, I'm slowly changing what he eats to be healthier foods and hoping that if he continues to have a big appetite that he uses it on fruits and vegetables more.

Now, let's get back to dear little Francis the badger and her obsession with bread and jam. After five years of enjoying a fine-dining son, our house was blessed with a second child. My daughter is truly a joy to behold and people just gravitate to her wherever we go. But, quite frankly, passivity and obedience is not her strong suit. My little girl came out of the birth canal with an opinion and a unyielding spine to back it up.

And, now that her vocabulary has advanced a great deal, we find her opinion comes spewing out quite often at the dinner table. You see, my little "Francis" is much pickier than her brother and way picker than any stubborn badger. If she could eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or a banana at every single meal she would. She has never liked vegetables of any kind. She doesn't like anything with sauce on it either, except for the occasional spaghetti, and even that is hit-or-miss at times.

The child doesn't eat macaroni and cheese, for Pete's sake! What kid doesn't like mac-n-cheese, I ask you? Her intake basically consists of a few fruits, breads, and sometimes meat. Her likes are so random and there is no real pattern. She most often eats a lot early in the day, and by dinner she's not interested in food at all. And, some days, she just doesn't want to eat, period.

Today was a good example. This morning, my husband made her the same bowl of oatmeal that I always make her and a banana. (Surprisingly, she has been able to eat an entire small banana for a very long time now, and I definitely have to ration those out to her.) She ate most of the banana and a bite of oatmeal. At lunch after church, we ordered her a corn dog and fries. (I know, not healthy, but what kids' menu is these days!) She ate a piece of bread before her meal came, and I knew what would happen next. Yep, she snubbed the corn dog and ate a few fries and that was it. Of course, later, she was rewarded with ice cream at her grandmother's house (this was NOT in my presence...grr). For dinner, she drank her milk and ate a few grapes and several mandarin oranges and didn't touch anything else on her plate. She abruptly got out of her chair, decidedly excusing herself to play without as much as a nod goodbye to the rest of us who were still eating.

What she does like to eat, baffles me somewhat too. She can eat a whole banana, but refuses to even taste a strawberry or blueberry. She devours entire hamburger in one setting, but forget about a chicken sandwich. She will eat the Canadian bacon off the top of a pizza and turns her nose up at the rest of it.

But, the worst thing about my daughter's eating habits is that when she decides she will not eat something, there is no forcing her. She will sweetly let you know she is "all done" and walk away leaving you in her dust. And, prepare yourself for a royal tantrum if you even think of making her sit back in her chair or eat more. You cannot try to trick her or bribe her into eating either. No airplanes going into the hanger here, even when she was an infant. And, she will hold out her refusal to eat regardless of threats of timeouts, spankings, no playtime, you name it. She doesn't care. And she will hold out through it all with a devilish-but-adorable smile on her face, all while my son is looking on. In this arena, I can honestly say my two-year-old is actually being a bad influence on my seven-year-old!

I can't help but think my son must be wondering why he didn't pull some of this crap on us long ago. Tonight, I even openly confessed to my husband, "What do we do? I can't make her eat. I don't know what to do anymore." .

And, the stubbornness with food only has me worried about other things that are sure to crop up over the years. If she has us baffled now, what will we be like when she's seven, twelve...or, gasp, sixteen. I shudder to think what might become of us then! Will she walk out the door at seventeen with car keys in hand and inform us that she IS going to party with her friends on the beach whether we like it or not?

So, if I could text little Francis's Mom, you can be assured I would tell her she was a very lucky parent to have a little badger whose mind was swayed by a few days of bread and jam. Because, if Fran ever met my daughter at her school, those badger parents would have been in for a much rougher ride. Wide-grinned and eyes twinkling, my girl would show Francis how to wear her parents down quickly, leaving them feeling like complete and utter failures. And, when she was finished with Fran, that little raccoon would get bread and jam whenever she wanted with no questions asked. And her parents? Why they'd just be throwing their paws up and wondering what to do next...


Blogger Shelli said...

Don't force. Have you talked to your pediatrician about it? As for down the road, she will soon learn the maning of consequences. Don't worry.

7:06 AM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger LadyBugCrossing said...

#1 Son is a picky eater. We don't make him eat. If he's done, he's done. There is no more. We have an alternative dinner - peanut butter sandwich and milk - if he hates what is being served. He makes it himself. No vegetables are ever harmed in the making of his meals. :-)
The nutrtionist told us not to force, but not to make him a totally separate meal. He can make his alternate meal.
If he's done, he sits and waits for the rest of us to finish. I think your daughter can do that. She doesn't have to eat, but she has to be a member of the family. If she doesn't want to do that then she can sit in time out. That worked for us quite well. He wanted to get down to play - if you can't play you may as well sit and be social.
Best of luck to you!

7:58 AM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger Alison said...

My 5-year-old has never liked to eat. It's really weird. He seems to grow & gain weight fine--he's always been close to the 50th percentile for weight, while his older brother who can eat like a pig sometimes has always been in the 10th or 20th! Yet, he's never seemed interested in food. Not even cookies or stuff like that. Some days I am not sure he eats!

Yesterday, for instance, we went to a pizza buffet for lunch where he agreed to eat one piece, or more like MOST of a piece. (He will also pick off the ham from a pizza but leave the pizza. At one pizza place we ask for a slice of ham pizza with the ham separate, then my husband eats the pizza while our son eats the ham!) At dinnertime, he begged for chicken nuggets from McDonald's, even though we suspected he really just wanted one of the Hummer toys. But we were all sort of fending for ourselves last night instead of having a family dinner, and my husband was going out anyway so he agreed to get the nuggets meal. Sure enough, our son barely picked at one nugget, and then dropped them all on the ground. (Supposedly an accident, but I wonder!) And he won't even touch a french fry, by the way! A while later, he begged for a peanut butter sandwich, the one thing he will usually eat (but no jelly!!). We agreed since he had lost his chicken. Of course, it had to be cut into a circle with this Pampered Chef circle sandwich cutter we have. So my husband handed me the sandwich & cutter, apparently intending for me to let our son push the cutter down himself after I lined it up right. I thought he was giving it to me to do, so I cut the sandwich and handed it to our son, who screamed & cried for ages because I had cut it instead of him. We refused to make him another, and he refused to touch the sandwich I had cut, so he had no dinner, and never seemed to miss eating, either! Total for the day=3/4 slice of pizza. Ugh.

He is now eating at the school cafeteria in kindergarten and I *hope* he's eating his food there! I like their selections better than when I pack his lunch and he will ONLY allow me to pack peanut butter! He says he's getting food there, but I don't know if he's eating...I think the peer pressure of seeing the kids around him eat may help, though!

Oh, and he's that stubborn with everything else, too. Or really more so. I dread his teen years!! He has been known to just get up and walk out of a restaurant on his own at 4 years old, while we were eating, and I can just see him getting up & leaving the house & me never knowing where he is! Or just not coming home for days if we give him a hard time. Unlike his brother, he never seems to care what we think about what he does, and I'm trying to figure out how to change that NOW while he's still little! (Oh yeah, he's also a total ladies' man at 5 years old. Already has a girlfriend at school. Had several last year, and claimed to be engaged to 3 girls when he was 3! All the more reason to dread his teens!)

8:18 AM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger TC said...

My son is a very picky eater but wasn't always. He ate anything until he was 2 years old and then it was like someone flipped a switch.

He gets it honest though, his father is worse than he is.

9:54 AM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger Suburban Turmoil said...

Our girls are food twins! Mine is so very picky, it's unbelievable. And her favorite food from last week is the one she won't touch this week. It's frustrating, but I just make sure all her options are healthy and then let her choose what she wants. I also make sure she gets a multivitamin in her every day (I use the liquid and put it in her milk- she doesn't even notice).

Don't worry about this too much- I was a picky eater until I was about 7 and then it totally went away. I'm hoping the same thing happens with her.

12:44 PM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger Babaloo said...

My younger son is much more picky then my older son. He goes in waves though where he'll pick at his food hardly eating a thing to days where he eats more then my older son and I combined.

I'm sure your little one is getting all the nutrients she needs at this age. I would definitely worry more about the beach party when she's 17 then her picky habits now!

1:50 PM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger daysgoby said...

Oh my goodness - I had forgotten all about Frances!
I loved that book!

5:26 PM, August 14, 2006  
Blogger Crazy MomCat said...

Thanks everyone for the reassurances and commiseration on this picky eater thing! It sure helps to have advice from other moms who have been there!

8:27 PM, August 14, 2006  

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