Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pickiness, and Why It Matters

What's she eating here?  Some form of pasta, no doubt.
Princess Goat is now 3 1/2 years old.  And what I have seen in so many other kids, have long feared and had hoped to avoid in my own, now appears to be coming to pass:  my toddler is starting to get picky.


It's bad enough that I'm always, still, a little worried about her eating enough food in general (thanks a lot, judgmental child growth specialist, I'll never forget YOU).    Now I have to worry about her eating enough of more limited food options. 

Here's what pickiness looks like around here:

Scene 1:
Her: "I don't want to eat that!"
Us:  "You love it! You've had it lots of times!  You like it "
Her: "No, I didn't!  It's yucky!"
Us: "No, it's not!  It's delicious!"
Her: "No!"
Us: "Just eat a little bit!"
Her: "No!"
Us: (ARGH...)


Scene 2:
Her: "I don't want to eat that!"
Us: "You've never had it before!  Just try it!"
Her: "No!  It's yucky!"
Us:  "No, it's not!  Just take a bite!!  Just taste it!"
Her: "No!"
Us:  "One bite!  It really is good!"
Her: "No!"
Us: (really, really ARGH...)

It's Scene 2 that can be truly aggravating - where we have a perfectly good and tasty dish that SHE WON'T EVEN TRY.

It's one thing to have food preferences, even strong preferences.  She doesn't have to like everything we eat - I can understand that she doesn't like blue cheese, or tomatoes, or

But to not even taste something, to not allow yourself to explore something new and potentially fine, that's a loss (and you really missed out on something wonderful with that toasted pistachio ice cream, kid). 

Most kids are, to a greater or lesser degree, picky, and most grow out of it.  So why do I care about this?
  • Pickiness can be unhealthy:  I'd rather not rely on the gummy, bear-shaped vitamins or the fortified breakfast cereal for all our nutritional needs, so we need some variety in our diet to get all our various vitamins and minerals.    You know, fruits and vegetables. 
  • Pickiness can be rude: Someone takes the trouble to cook for you, then you should do them the courtesy of eating it.  At least tasting it.  That's just good manners.  
With convenience foods and fast foods, it can sometimes be easy to forget that cooking and preparing meals can be a labor of love.  Sometimes it doesn't taste that loving (okay, my version of mac and cheese was probably pretty horrible), but one should still acknowledge the time, the effort, and the caring.
  • Pickiness is closed-minded and boring:  The point of food, and the point of life for that matter, is to be filling, enjoyable, and open to the range of experiences.  
It's a good thing, a healthy thing, to be open-minded.  May I remind you of the toasted pistachio ice cream?   Our life, and food, experiences ought be continually expanding, getting larger, and getting more interesting.  Trying new foods is fun.  Yes, sometimes the food you try might be okra, but thankfully, most foods are not okra.  
Perhaps I'm overthinking this.   I'm sure she'll grow up to be as adventurous an eater as anyone.  And just because she won't try the breaded tilapia doesn't mean she will grow up to be a boorish bigot.  And the truth is, she's really not that bad, compared to other kids (my cousin who threw a tantrum at age 8 because I didn't have cheese pizza that one time, I'm talking about you). But I'll still keep asking her to just try tasting things.  Just a bite.

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