picky eaters

Clearly I have never had children but I found this article very amusing, probably because I can be somewhat fussy about food sometimes:

My nitpicky son makes mealtimes hell

Tan Keng Yao

I have a 20-month-old son whom I love dearly, but there are times when I would love him even more dearly if I could feed him his meals intravenously.

He has a hate-hate relationship with food. He refuses to eat most things offered to him, making mealtimes hell for me, and for his caregivers when I’m at work.

He will eat only mee suah, rice, cod fish, Chinese-style soup, potatoes, carrots, broccoli, papaya, grapes and fresh milk.

There is something from every food group here so, theoretically, he is not nutritionally deprived. But it would really be nice if he had a less selective diet.

Even within this diet, there are items that are suddenly not acceptable to His Royal Highness. He may eat carrot one day and eye it with suspicion the next. While he eats grapes, he spits out raisins.

Some days, he will deign to accept the food proffered, only to push the entire load out of his mouth while making a face as if to say: ‘Woman, why are you feeding me dog turd? Are you out of your mind”

And those are his better days.

On bad days, he acts as if the spoon that bears the food actually holds a heap of smouldering coal. Attempting to avoid said coal by squirming violently, he will, at the same time, try to knock it off the spoon. Managing to overturn his bowl of food scores him extra points.

Anything that I manage to force into him on these occasions is spewed out projectile-style. This causes me much grief.

He does not care whether pasta sauce can be washed out of his clothes or that oatmeal on the floor looks like puke and is just as bad to clean up – but I care very much. After all, I am the one trailing behind him with the dishrag.

Usually, a mealtime like this ends in tears – mine mostly.

It’s not as if I feed him all sorts of horrible mashed-up baby food. In my attempt to widen his gastronomic repertoire, I have served kid-friendly food such as french toast, macaroni and cheese, oatmeal with raisins and honey, eggs hard-boiled, soft-boiled, steamed, scrambled and fried, pasta and even mini fish burgers. Stuff that I would eat myself.

Pffft, says my son. He also declines to eat things often favoured by toddlers such as banana, yogurt and sugar-coated cereal.

This is not a good sign. What self- respecting toddler rejects sugary cereal?

I also constantly try to feed him adult food off my plate. Does he take it? No.

There is no method to his madness.

On some days, he gets by with very little food. Mystifyingly, his severely limited calorific intake does not seem to have dampened his energy one bit.

A typical day sees him whirling around the house as fast as his matchstick-thin legs can take him, destroying things with superhuman speed and strength. (Case in point: He dragged a big Corningware pot off the kitchen counter and broke it.)

Yet, his paediatrician assures me that he is doing fine. His height is even in the 90th percentile of boys his age.

I don’t know where he gets his energy from but it is possible that he gets an extra boost from solar power.

Surely, this food-hating toddler is not mine. My husband and I have healthy appetites and a love of good food. It has been suggested more than once that I might like to consider doing a DNA test.

After one particularly bad mealtime in which I morphed into a psychotic b***h screaming, ‘EAT EAT EAT!’, I decided to seek answers on how to get him to eat a wider variety of food. I surfed the Internet, posted questions on forums and asked my friends, and received these pieces of advice.

‘Your toddler is trying to assert his independence.’ Good to know but this does not solve my problem.

‘Try mixing Bovril (a meat extract) into his food. I’m told this works wonders.’ This would have worked if not for the fact that my son has recently started to reject all food that looks dark, such as chocolate.

‘Don’t turn mealtimes into a battlefield. Be patient.’ When one buys a piece of fish fillet for $6.50, a bag of panko for $3, a bag of butter rolls for $2.90 and spends time preparing the food and assembling bite-sized fish burgers, and all he does is take two nibbles of the butter roll, one needs to practise serious meditation in order not to lose one’s cool.

‘Don’t feed him anything until the next mealtime. Then he’ll be hungry enough to eat.’ I do not think he feels hunger. I think he is a cyborg.

I was also advised to try feeding him a special nutritionally balanced formula to fatten him up. I almost guffawed. My son, who won’t eat anything that looks and tastes like real food, drinking artificially flavoured formula? In my dreams.

So, for now, my search for a solution continues while my son continues to subsist on love and fresh air.

His father and I are taking him to Hong Kong for a trip soon and I have no idea where to find homecooked mee suah there. Will my toddler starve to death in the land of dim sum and roast goose? That will be another story. Wish me luck.

The Straits Times, Lifestyle, 2 October 2011, page 11

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