Feeding toddlers requires real negotiatingPublished 8:43am Sunday, October 6, 2013
Column: Pass the Hot Dish, by Alexandra Kloster
There oughta be a law. Columnists who aren’t parents should not be allowed to offer unsolicited opinions about children, especially the care, and in particular the feeding, of toddlers.
Many moons and two kids ago, I wrote a column disparaging the practice of tricking children into eating healthy food. I wrote, “Who is zoomin’ who at the dinner table? Lately I’ve seen a lot of media attention focused on a movement to masquerade vegetables in ‘kid-friendly’ fare by hiding them inside foods that are more palatable to the short set. I don’t understand.”
I do now, and I am heartily sorry. With experience comes understanding. With understanding comes humble pie, and if I could get my daughter, Clara, to eat some, I would.
When I was little I ate whatever my parents put in front of me, and I expected my twins, Gertie and Clara, to do the same. What I’d neglected to remember was that by the time I was forcing down creamed corn and iceberg lettuce I’d already developed a fear of what would happen to me if I didn’t. No popcorn during “The Dukes of Hazard.”
The girls don’t understand the power of such bribes and threats yet, so trickery is the soup of the day, and if I could get Clara to sip a little soup, I would.
I’ve tried rolling peas in sweet potato fries and hiding broccoli in a buttery mashed potato paradise, but Clara’s not fooled. All my efforts get the Heisman. She picks up the offending vegetable, stiff arms it over the side of her tray and drops it, never taking her eyes off me, cool as a cucumber, and if I could get her to eat a cucumber, I would.
Friends, I don’t like to compare the twins or praise one over the other, but maybe in this case it will spark a desire to follow suit in Clara if I tell you that Gertie will eat anything. Gertie eats with gusto and undiscriminating zest. Feeding her is a joy. Hear that, Clara? How do you like them apples? Any chance you’d eat an apple? Please?
Nope. Clara doesn’t care what Gertie eats. Clara is a tough nut to crack, and if I could get her to eat some, I would.
With little left to lose or eat, I looked for inspiration in a book about how spectacular French children are, how their first words are, “Oui! Oui! Hericot Vert!” French babies sleep 12 hours a night, dress themselves, and after picking up their preschool diploma from the Sorbonne, they occasionally look up from their Proust and ask for more spinach.
I can’t remember the title, but it was written much like the book “French Women Don’t Get Fat” in that it was incredibly frustrating and made me feel bad about myself. In addition to knowing how to tie scarves correctly, French women also raise superior children. Maybe it was called “French Women Don’t Get Brats.”
Whatever. I took it with a grain of salt. What if I put a bit of salt on your carrots, Clara?
The irony is that kids’ food has never been better. I can’t believe the stuff I find at the supermarket — savory blends of organic beef, quinoa and vegetables, smoothies of apple and mango, breakfast cereals of oats, dates and chia seeds all housed in convenient pouches the girls can feed to themselves.
I remember eating two things that came from the store, fruit cocktail in a can of syrup and Gerber high meat dinner. Do you know what was in high meat dinner? Me neither.
The only problem with these ingenious pouches is that if, say, a 15-month-old little girl squeezes them hard enough she can create a gourmet geyser that ends up in her mommy’s expensive pre-child purse. That Clara, she really is full of beans, and if I could get her to eat some, I would.
So what do I do? I’m not going to starve her or force her to eat food she clearly hates right now. I’m also not going to give in and let her live on her favorites, yogurt and a little more yogurt.
I guess all I can do when Clara looks repulsed by my meatloaf and disgusted by my roasted vegetable medley is take a deep breath, remind myself that I do not negotiate with terrorists and keep trying. For I am the leader, the top banana, the big cheese, the whole enchilada, and if I could get her to eat any of those things, I would.
Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears each Sunday. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and her blog is at alexandrakloster.com.