"Until about 8 months ago, I was the parent of a picky eater. Before you groan at the thought of yet another story about how a formerly chicken nuggets-eating child is now a gourmet, fear not. My five year-old remains such a bizarre—dare I say, contentious—eater that I’ve dumbfounded even the most experienced parents with my tales of his refusals of plain pasta and toast. He has never once allowed a bite of hamburger or macaroni and cheese to pass his lips, and his current favorite food is pea shoots. And no, I’m not going to boast about his charming, eclectic tastes. Have you ever sat through a meal with a child who eats three pea shoots and then listened to him whine until bedtime because he’s hungry?
So clearly, this is not a story of a boy transformed. Most nights he can be found sitting at the dinner table, thinking up Dada-esque excuses for why he can’t sample anything on his plate. “My arm is very itchy, so I can’t eat anything.” Or: “Your shirt is too blue, Mama, and it’s making me not hungry.” Whatever might happen later to make him change his ways is nothing I can possibly imagine (and believe me, I’ve tried).
What did happen recently is that I had another baby, who, when he began eating solid food about 8 months ago, turned me from the mother of a picky eater into the mother of one picky eater and one child who eats anything. A child who, I should probably be embarrassed to say but am not because I still can’t believe I actually gave birth to someone who loves food this much, literally snatched a cheese cracker twist out of someone’s hand at a party recently. Slung on my hip, he just whipped his fat little fingers out as we passed her in a doorway and whoosh—it was in his mouth in under a second. He was eating curry at 6 months (only because it didn’t occur to us to offer it to him sooner) and is so excited at the sight of the refrigerator door being opened that he can’t sit still in his high chair.
And here’s the thing: we didn’t do anything different with him than we did with our first son. It seems so clear to me now that all of those hours I spent wondering and fretting about what hand I might have had in turning my older son into such a nightmare at the table were wasted. I could have used them to do so many things, like write another book, or go for lovely evening walks in the park near our apartment, or eat ice cream after dinner. I could have been so happy!"