Tag Archives: picky eater

My Daughter Builds A Candy Pipeline Into Our Backyard

My six-year-old daughter Brontë pretty much never stops talking. “Using her words” has never been one of her stumbling blocks.

It’s simultaneously adorable and exhausting. If I’m scrambling to get lunch ready, she’s demanding I go check out the portal she made in the living room. It takes you to a castle, she tells me, but the people will be VERY SURPRISED when you suddenly show up, so I have to be careful but GO SEE IT NOW.

Portal to a Scottish Castle

Sometimes she has magic socks that take her to outer space and I need to go with her so I can encounter aliens who will give me magic powers like throwing out time barriers, an actual power she once invented for me.

It doesn’t even quiet down when I’m trying to pee. She’ll follow me in to inform me that I’m Batgirl and she’s Poison Ivy. She runs past me at breakneck speed, back and forth, over and over, while telling me I need to stop her by throwing one of those Batarang deals that I have in my pocket.

Which I pretend to throw, in hopes it’ll pretend-knock-her-down for three seconds so I can finish peeing in peace.

But I “miss,” and then she has to lecture me about the importance of taking down bad guys, like her, if I’m ever going to make a decent Batgirl.

It’s so constant that the other day, when she quietly walked in from the back yard and tiptoed all the way down the hall without saying a word, I knew something was up.

So, I set down my tea and book and quietly walk down the hall to see what she’s up to…

She’s got a giant bag slung over her shoulder. She steps quietly into her room and soundlessly closes the door.

“BRONTE? Please come out and talk to me.”

She walks out and sweetly says, “Yes, mother?” (“Mother” is her ‘tell.’)

“What were you carrying into your room?”

Turns out, it was a five-pound bag of peanut M&M’s. (Or as Brontë calls them, “M’s.” And she has a point, because that second “M” is somewhat redundant.)

“Where did you get that?” I asked.

“From Eva,” she said.

Ahhhh, it suddenly made sense.

You see, our backyard shares a fence with at least five other families. I say “at least” because I don’t go poking my nose into other people’s business, but at least three of those families include little kids, because my kids have found them.

On the left, we have friendly neighbors with a daughter who was in Brontë’s Kindergarten class. Her mom runs a daycare, so there can be ten kids who climb up on their play structure to shout back and forth with mine, who also have a play structure with stairs. I sometimes wonder if they could climb up their relative play structures during an emergency and light torches, Game of Thrones style, to call for aid…

And in the back, there’s a family with at least two little boys who sometimes whisper to my girls through holes in the fence. The dad plays loud rock music from the 90’s all the time, and someone also lights up skunk weed on the regular, but with all the shifting breezes, I can’t be sure it’s him… it could be the adjacent lady with the really clean yard who sometimes shouts obscenities at our barking dog (Sorry, lady! We pull him inside when we catch it) or Monster Jim, that ex-hippie that all the neighborhood kids love, who is retired now and spends his days slowing down time as he ponders the jasmine…

But on the right, there’s a little girl named “Eva” who is eight years old. This is a BIG deal for Brontë, who is incredibly proud to have secured such a mature friend. Eva attends the same school as Brontë, who will seek her out and casually say “hi” in front of all her Kindergarten classmates, gently signaling how she has a private life that includes mingling with an older, far more sophisticated set of kids.


At any rate, Eva and Brontë have been passing toys back and forth for months. Brontë will go into her room to fret and examine each My Little Pony before selecting the choicest batch to pass onto Eva, who will pass back whatever toys she’s selected for exchange. Brontë will play with said toys until the next week, when a new exchange is scheduled.

(And despite all of my pleas to take decent care of her toys, absolutely nothing has worked as well as her trying to impress Eva. Brontë would be mortified by passing back damaged goods.)

Well, eventually I reached out to Eva’s mom and offered to let Eva come over and play. Turns out, it’s actually Eva’s aunt who lives next to us and Eva’s mom is just visiting every week. We ended up with some beautiful vegetables from Eva’s aunt’s garden in exchange for letting Eva come over and play with Brontë for hours on the weekend.

And it further turns out that Eva’s mom has a hard time convincing Eva to eat anything but vegetables. Have you ever heard of such a thing? That must be why Eva was willing to part with the gargantuan bag of peanut M&M’s that Brontë struggled to noiselessly cart off down the hall…

Because if Brontë had her way, she would live off pesto pasta and cupcakes. Whereas Brontë’s little sister Bridget will tear into a Baby Back rib with a frighteningly Viking-like face of plunder-ecstasy, candy has become such a massive power struggle in our house– ever since Brontë was once diagnosed with anemia from rejecting every food source of iron in favor of cream puffs…

Which leads to parenting dilemmas: I remove candy because I need Brontë to be hungry enough to eat her dinner, but don’t want to remove it entirely because I went to school with a kid whose parents only fed him the most organic, free-range stuff. He got carob instead of chocolate, bean-paste instead of PB&J’s, and would dig through the trash for half-eaten Twinkies because he was obsessed.

Beyond that, I have real weakness when it comes to innovation. I mean, if my kid worked up the entrepreneurial chutzpah to leverage social skills into a candy pipeline square into her own backyard, I’m loath to take that away from her. The kid doesn’t have a job or a driver’s license, but she still somehow managed to secure enough candy for the next several months. I’m not about to quash that kind of outside-the-box thinking.

Her eyes scan mine, seeking my reaction, nervously blinking.

“Well,” I tell her, “You better hide it well in your room so your sister doesn’t tear into it.”

She cracks a grin before scurrying into her room, squirreling away the candy somewhere where it’s not immediately obvious. I wonder briefly whether or not I made the right call before remembering that Brontë has never liked peanut M&M’s. That’s what John and Bridget get at the movie theater, not her…

I don’t catch her eating M&M’s for days.

I’m beginning to wonder if it’s functioning as some sort of untapped trophy.

Until the day I tell Brontë she needs to clean up her toys and I catch her asking her little sister Bridget to pick up the Legos.

“Pshh,” I think. I’ve been trying to wrestle Bridget into picking up her toys without incident for the past six months.

But Bridget does it. She cheerfully cleans up the Legos she didn’t even play with without a word…

And then Brontë gives her a handful of peanut M&M’s, which Bridget scarfs down with gusto.

Should I stop this? I mean… Brontë is outsourcing her duties to her younger, more vulnerable sister in exchange for candy. 

On the other hand, Bridget is finally motivated to pick up toys without a three-hour tantrum and series of possibly-ineffective time-outs that end with mutual hostility. And Brontë just reinvented Capitalism in her own backyard. 

I shrug:

“Good job, guys. Let’s go read some Dr. Seuss.”







Friday Sibling Face-off: Baby Sister Wins

So, as I talked about here and here, my four-year-old daughter Brontë is a force to be reckoned with. She’s sharp, melodramatic, and loves to be in control. She can also pinpoint your psychological weaknesses within seconds and mercilessly exploit them with  her endless talking powers.

Her baby sister Bridget is only two, which is a massive difference in terms of child development. Bridget still can’t say much and doesn’t understand most of the world’s rules yet, which Brontë hasn’t failed to notice.

Gave my kids flashlights and let them explore the backyard at night. They claimed they saw ghosts

Brontë loves her baby sister to pieces, but she likes to boss Bridget around. A lot.

And since Bridget is still so young, her own powers hadn’t fully blossomed…

Until last night.

Brontë is in for a real challenge, folks. We may have a Dark Horse in Bridget, after all. Here we were, thinking we had this cute little cherubic baby girl with pink cheeks and giant eyes and it turns out we’ve had an iron-willed Titan all along…

Just wait until you hear what happened last night.

John and I were planning to make pork chops, corn and spinach, but we were both tired and didn’t want to face it. The kids had been crazy all day and John got a promotion at work (yay!), which is awesome, but he’s scrambling to take on a bigger workload and coming home ten shades of drained every night.

So we decided to order a pizza from Round Table instead. John wanted to get a Wombo Combo. I said we should get half of it with just pineapple because Brontë is incredibly picky and hates meat, mushrooms, olives, and anything that isn’t cheese or fruit. I just wasn’t in the mood to watch her pick everything off her pizza again while screaming for a fork then getting angry about how hard it is to eat pizza with a fork, again.

John tried to talk Brontë into adding some salami by asking what she wanted on her pizza. She said “cheese.”

“What else?” he asked.

“Sauce,” she said.

He rolled his eyes and ordered a pineapple pizza half. We all watched Hotel Transylvania before it arrived. Brontë  is picky about her food but likes her movies spooky.

We watched the movie until the doorbell rang and then set up the table. Brontë reminded us where everyone is supposed to sit.

We’re in Minnie Mouse’s House, one of Brontë’s “Happy Places”

John gave her a plate with a slice of pineapple pizza. She demanded a fork then set about picking off all the pineapple. Once Brontë received her fork, Bridget jumped up and ran over to the silverware drawer, screaming “TOO! TOO!”

John looked baffled.

“She wants a fork too,” I told him. John grabbed her a fork and her face broke into an enormous smile.

John plopped some parmesan cheese and red pepper packets into the table as I distributed brown, recycled-paper napkins and glasses of water.  I tore open a parmesan cheese packet and sprinkled some on Brontë’s naked cheese slice, hoping to tempt her into actually eating it.

“TOO! TOO!” Bridget yelled. I sprinkled some cheese on her slice as well before discarding the cheese envelope onto the table.

Brontë picked up the discarded packet and stuck her tongue in it. When she was finished, she grabbed another and shook the parmesan into her mouth.

Seeing this, Bridget stopped mid pizza-stream and grabbed a packet herself.

Except it was a packet of red peppers.

“NO, BIDGIE!’ Brontë screamed. “YOU CAN’T EAT THAT!”

Sometimes I want to paint this baby’s face with woad and hand her a spear

Bridget stopped, balled her red pepper clutching hand into a fist, and gave her big sister a cold, defiant stare. She doesn’t have a large vocabulary, but that stare was the  toddler equivalent of “F- you, I do what I want!”if anything is.

Without breaking gaze, she ripped open the packet, dipped her tiny finger in some peppers, then stuck it in her mouth.

We watched.

Bridget still didn’t break her gaze. Her eyes started watering and she coughed a little bit, but she stuck her finger back into the packet without flinching and shoved another finger-load of pepper flakes into her mouth.

Everyone was quiet, including Brontë.

Bridget kept on dipping her finger in and eating more peppers while staring down her sister. Her little face grew pinker and pinker until her nose started running hard. I grabbed a napkin to wipe it, but was too transfixed to interfere.

Bridget face turned bright red and she coughed again, but just kept dipping her finger in and eating peppers until she finally put the envelope up to her mouth and finished them off.

Then she she chugged her glass of water, broke into a sweat, and pretended everything was fine. I kept wiping her nose and refilling her water, but she never cried.

Don’t let the pink tutu fool you. This baby will DESTROY you

We ate the rest of the meal in silence, completely mesmerized. Brontë quietly ate her pile of discarded pineapple. Bridget drank about five glasses of water in a row before jumping up from the table and smiling huge.

That kid is iron-willed. I don’t know if I could eat a packet of red peppers and I have an enormous  tolerance for spice. I definitely couldn’t have done it at age two.

I’m still not sure how to feel about this. On the one hand, that was AWESOME. I can’t tell you how proud I am to have made people with ovaries like those… a two-year-old who will finish off a packet of red peppers straight, out of sheer spite. If this girl were on your team, she would NEVER sell you out. Not even after being captured by the enemy.

On the other hand, am I equipped to handle wills this strong? What if my girls start having Sister Boss battles someday? It will be another Clash of the Titans, played out right here in middle-class America.

“Look, it’s gonna go down like this… act natural”

On the other hand, what if they get along and start to conspire? Like this photo here, where they are clearly scheming…

Between Brontë’s psychological mastery and Bridget’s raw physical endurance, I don’t know what that future holds. Right now, I’m envisioning Brontë as the Mastermind and Bridget as the Enforcer, but only time will tell.

Epic Battle #1:

Brontë= 0. Bridget=1













The World of Kid Food Vs Adult Food

pickyeaterI don’t know about the rest of the world, but in America, we believe there is such a thing as “kid food” and “adult food.”

Kid food is soft, bland, and unchallenging. It may be sweet, but never spicy. Adult food, on the other hand, includes stuff like sushi, bitter vegetables, and anything with pepper.

We even believe that science backs us up on this. Kids have more tastebuds, we are told, so they taste everything more intensely.

In fact, we think it might actually hurt them. Many moms panicked after hearing I used cinnamon in my children’s smoothies, gasping “Is that okay to feed them??”

But here’s my problem with that kind of thinking: kids around the world don’t eat the same way ours do. I’m sure Japanese kids eat sushi, and Scandinavian kids eat herring. I can’t imagine Eskimo babies digging into Mickey Mouse-shaped chicken nuggets before napping in their igloos, yet they survive.

So have we, for many centuries, since long before we could get our hands on boxes of rice cereal and jars of Gerber food.

Having had two babies myself, I’ve seen them go through periods where they will try just about anything…

And I mean ANYTHING. A couple of years ago, my daughter Brontë ate a spider.

We were in the shower together when I noticed a giant spider walking across the bathroom floor. Since we were both soaking wet and had shampoo in our hair, I reached out of the shower to drop a giant bottle of Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Wash on the spider, figuring I would flush it once we got out.

Then I hurriedly washed the shampoo out of my hair, closing my eyes as water splashed my  face.

When I opened them, not thirty seconds later, the shower door was open and Brontë had crawled out. The bottle of baby wash was laying on its side and spider legs were disappearing into my baby’s mouth as she chewed.

Jumping out, I pulled her mouth open to see if I could fish the spider out.

But it was too late. She had swallowed it and was giggling happily like she hadn’t just eaten an enormous spider.

AHHHHHH! I tried my best to remember what the spider looked like and started googling furiously… it didn’t appear, at least, to be one of the poisonous spiders people commonly find in California. Everything turned out okay.

But it was hardly the last crazy thing my kids tried to eat. I’ve had to pull cat food and hairballs out of their mouths as well as play-dough and loose change.

Yet somewhere  around age two and a half, my daughter Brontë started getting pickier and pickier about her food. She eyed dinners with increasing suspicion, nervous about anything I tried putting in front of her.  It might look like an innocent sandwich, but she seemed sure I’m trying to slip monkey brains in there somewhere.

It’s gotten really frustrating. How can a kid who once ate a dead spider become so picky?

Lately, she’s been wanting only “white” food. By that, I mean white bread, white pasta, and popcorn. The other day she begged me for Cream of Mushroom soup.

“You want mushroom soup?” I asked, happy that she wasn’t begging for more bread.

“Yes,” she chirped, “It’s white!”

Hmm. I’m not happy with her current level of fussiness, but here’s what I think may be going on…

Kids grow up all around the world, meaning there are different types of food available. If an Eskimo or Scandinavian kid refused to eat fish, for example, they would be in a world of hurt. So they are open to trying whatever’s around.

But there are also lots of poisonous foods in the wild. It’s easy to eat poisoned mushrooms or berries on accident. If a food goes rancid, it could kill you, so maybe there’s a natural aversion to anything green… it could be mold. You never know.

Since trying out brand new food is like playing Russian Roulette in the wild, maybe we evolved to stick to food we’re already familiar with. Thinking anything that looks or smells different is “weird” may have saved our lives, once upon a time.

If this is the case, then the whole “kid” vs “adult” mentality may be backfiring. We end up serving our babies sweet, bland, tasteless food for the first decade or so before suddenly throwing sushi and strong cheeses at them. It’s like going from the merry-go-round to an upside-down roller coaster.

No wonder it freaks them out.

I don’t know… anyone else have kids that would eat pretty much anything until one day, when they suddenly only wanted mac-n-cheese and spaghetti-O’s?