Sweet, beautiful Thanksgiving. About 48 hours from now, I’ll be tryppin’ hard on turkey, stuffing, and cranberries. As will everyone around me. Everyone, that is, except for the Mayor. Sure, there’s the possibility that being at Grandma’s house brings out his best behavior, but there are other forces at work. The boy who once gleefully wolfed down huge portions of salmon and bok choy is now in the middle of a fussy eating stretch that would make Randy from “A Christmas Story” seem like a joke.
I used to stay up for hours after he went to sleep, preparing his food for the next day. It was the only thing that kept me connected to my old restaurant life. Instead of cranking out dinner for a couple hundred people a night, I just had one very needy guest who had no clue what he wanted to order. But it never mattered, because he ate anything I made for him. Flounder, English peas, hybrid fruits, couscous, all welcome on his plate. Then teething happened. Watching him devour sweet potato risotto and lamb meatballs devolved into me banging my head against the wall while he catapults chicken nuggets and mac and cheese across the room. How he doesn’t look like Skeletor at this point is beyond me.
Dinner time has become the low point of my day. He could spent the first 11 hours of the day building me a life size Mega Bloks replica of Amanda Seyfried in a Catwoman outfit riding the Millennium Falcon, but the second the oven timer goes off, he becomes my sworn enemy. Every time I’m forced to see another meal go uneaten, I feel a piece of myself die. With that in mind, I decided to apply the Kübler-Ross model to the situation. I give you the five stages of dealing with a picky eater
Everything’s ready to go. The Mayor is in his chair, drinking his milk through a silly straw. The rice is at a good temperature, the chicken is cut up in to perfectly grabbable pieces. All veggies have been pureed to avoid detection. Nothing can go wrong this time.
“Is it still too hot? I could have sworn it was good. Did it hurt your tongue? I’ll go put it in the freezer for a minute to cool it down. Watch some Elmo and have a few crackers while you wait….OK, its should be good now. Do you want to try another bite, buddy?”
There’s a knock on the door. Oh, we have a guest coming over for dinner. Hello there, Mr. Hoover, won’t you join us? The tension in the room is mounting. The Mayor sees me plug the vacuum in and the fear sets in. He frantically shakes his head back and forth and begs “Nooooo, peeeeze!” as I attach the dusting brush to the hose. I pause with my finger on the power button, last chance to do this peacefully.
The first salvo consists of a ball of rice and what was once a Stegosaurus leg. I fire back with a three second burst of noise from the vacuum. His ensuing rage results in heavy casualties, a quarter of his dinner is now on the ground. Fortunately, I’m holding a device capable of cleaning said mess. After a few back and forth exchanges, about 40% of the food is lost, while only 5-10% has actually been consumed by its intended recipient. This clearly isn’t working, maybe you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
The last weapon I have at my disposal is dessert. I come back from the kitchen with two Oreos in my hand. Years of negotiating fantasy hockey trades have prepared me for this moment. If I can get Steven Stamkos for next to nothing, I can definitely get an almost 2 year old to eat chicken for cookies. I can see the gears spinning, he knows the only way to get the sweets in his belly is to stuff his mouth full of this “nasty” stuff in front of him. The balancing scales are swaying back and forth, as if to say “How much do I love cookies, and how much of this chicken that I hate equals one cookie?”
The Mayor is nothing if not stubborn and principled. One bite of chicken and half a spoonful of rice later, he demands payment.
“Not yet, buddy. You need to have six more bites before you can have your cookie.”
“OK, four more bites, how about that?”
And on it goes until negotiations completely fall apart. I literally walk away from the bargaining table, chomping away at my chocolate and cream conciliation prizes. The other side of the table is not a pretty sight. Sugar deprived tears mix with smears of cauliflower puree. He’s the living, breathing definition of a hot mess.
One of us is pounding the table with food stained fists, while the other is hiding in the kitchen, sitting on the floor, clutching a pretzel rod between two fingers, pretending it’s a cigarette. Both of us are fighting back tears. The irony of it is that my son’s unwillingness to eat is driving me to stuff my face with Pirate’s Booty, Goldfish, and Cheez-Its.
I pull myself off of the ground, wet a facecloth, clean the boy up and remove him from his chair. His tears dwindle as the two of us snuggle with Baby Bear on the couch. I cave in and give him the damn cookie. I’ve fought enough battles with him for one day. All is forgiven when I hear him say “Love you!” It’s amazing how little he has to do to absolve himself of any wrongdoing. The kid could burn down the house, and I’d be over it by the time we were standing outside and he said “Firetruck, wooooo wooooo!!” He knows exactly which cards to play, and that look in his eyes when he stares at…..wait, he’s not even looking at me.
Son of a…he was talking to the cookie.