Like every parent, I want my kid to be exceptional. Like every parent, I want her to be (eventually) better than me. I HATE losing but I will be so proud the day she owns my ass at Cranium.
When she won the genetic lottery and didn’t inherit my celiac disease, I was thrilled that the world would be her culinary oyster. Except, if she saw a beautiful glistening oyster, dressed with a plump wedge of lemon and spritz of hot sauce, she would hiss and push it away like it was a mound of fresh vomit.
Fair enough, most toddlers aren’t eating their way through a seafood menu but this is her reaction to everything I cook. Ok, everything except buttered toast, buttered bread, Cheerios, one type of yellow noodle with a sh-t ton of butter, strawberries, blackberries, 2 spoons of yogurt, plain scrambled eggs, torn up pancakes and French toast she can dunk in syrup and anything you would find in an ice cream truck or at the till of an all-night gas station in Topeka, Kansas.
This is not a balanced diet. This is not the diet of a girl curious about the world around her and keening for adventure in love, life and flavours. I will have failed at this game if when she’s 18 (on her trip around the world before law/medical school), she sits down at a table in Paris, sets her fancy hat on the seat beside her, touches up her lipstick in a beautiful vintage compact and leans in to the curious waiter to whisper, “Could I just have the popsicle menu, s’il vous plait?”
NO. Not my girl. I work every day at avoiding that terrible scenario. The first step is just trying to get her to stay at the goddamn table for the length of 8 squares of toast, 4 animated sips of juice and whatever fruit she is stoked on. I had drawn the line with having the iPad at the table, but I caved. Because I am often trying to cook, shave my legs, iron and catch up on Mad Men while she is eating, this distraction that keeps her still and concentrated is too easy to not employ. Otherwise every meal ends up with her running a tight barefoot circle in front of the cabinet with the reflective surface, singing a song about popsicles and spreading toast crumbs in a sprawling radius while I sit under the table with a dishcloth covering my head, my bong and a stew pot of sangria.
I get it. She’s almost 3. This is where attention spans go to die. What is her incentive to stay there? I took apart the baby seat because it positioned her awkwardly so she’s not strapped in. I don’t have my culinary sh-t together to make it so we all eat at the same time. Part of the struggle is I didn’t sit much at a dinner table when I was a kid. I don’t know how this works. With a single Mom, meal times were spent in front of the tv, shoveling with intent while watching Fantasy Island repeats. Or I slammed the food down standing in front of the microwave so I could get back to reading the new Bop, Teen Beat or Baby Sitter’s Club. (Each so richly varied and different from the previous issue.)
She gave me false hope at 7 months when she started eating solids – easily devouring bright pesto splattered pasta and not blinking when I gave her a pickle on a lemon wedge. I prematurely threw my arms to the heavens and declared “The threat of Picky Eaters has been banished from this Kingdom/Kitchen.” Split screen that jubilation with a shot of her three weeks ago, gingerly dipping a carrot (had never eaten before) into a tsp of ranch dressing (never eaten before), taking a lizard lick and declaring it “too spicy!” Mother f-ck. I jinxed this sh-t so early.
I guess this is where I don’t give up or give in. I bake stuff with stuff hidden in it. Throw some sprinkles on a flax muffin and call it a cupcake. Make my own popsicles with avocado and coconut milk. Be a good example and have varied foods and flavours around and moan and exult about how GOOD they are, how DELICIOUS this is, how Totoro and Woody and Elmo would give their LEFT NUT to have a bite.
And then. While changing her diaper last week she declared out of nowhere, “I want to eat my poo-poo.” Kid, I’ll make it into a f-cking hummus if you eat it with a 7 grain cracker.