Give Peas a Chance

"Why don't you love me anymore?"

“Why don’t you love me anymore?”

When my son was a baby, I genuinely believed that I could raise him to be a child who loves vegetables. I wasn’t entirely delusional; I knew it would be difficult to pull off. I was working against heredity, after all. I myself was a picky eater as a child, and to this day my relationship with vegetables is complicated. I’ve only recently come to like broccoli, tomatoes and I have an on-and-off affair, and I won’t eat a beet with someone else’s mouth. Yet still I was unwavering in my conviction – the boy would NOT follow in my own, vitamin-deficient, footsteps.

My campaign against veggie-prejudice began the moment my son was ready for solid foods. I voraciously scoured the city’s farmers markets and co-ops in search of nature’s finest produce. Once procured, I lovingly roasted, steamed and pulverized it into mush. My kitchen transformed into an organic baby food factory as I spent evening after evening dutifully hunched over a food processer. And initially my efforts seemed to pay off, as he gobbled the vegetable mush with gusto. He relished daring combinations: parsnips and apple, pumpkin and peas, even carrot and rutabaga. We routinely and lovingly scrubbed green bean puree out of his ears, nose, hair and baby chin fat. I’d done it! My god, I had done it! My dogged determination would be rewarded with a veggie-lovin’ toddler!

How very wrong I was.

One seemingly innocent McNugget was all it took. There was no turning back. So now, dear friends, I submit to you the following list of items by almost three-year-old would prefer to put in his mouth over a vegetable:

  • Goldfish crackers
  • any combination of pasta and cheese
  • fuzz from the floor
  • nuggets, chicken
  • nuggets, fish
  • nuggets, other
  • sippy cup of apple juice found under the entertainment center (aged two days, yielding earthy, complex aromas and a pleasant midpalate acidity)
  • Oreo cookies, frosting only
  • 2-ply Charmin, 1 square
  • Cheerios harvested from between sofa cushions (preliminary results from carbon-dating indicate age of 3 – 6 months)
  • Cat hair, fresh-plucked from unsuspecting family cat
  • His own boogers

Bon apetit!

A Hot Mess

Why does it seem that the time and care devoted to meal prep is directly proportional to the amount of said meal that ends up on the floorImage?  Take this recent dinner as a case study:  fresh kale, lovingly sautéed with carrots and organic ground turkey, tossed with homemade marinara sauce, served over organic whole wheat rotini and delicately sprinkled with ground parmesan reggiano.  If there was a season of Top Chef expressly devoted to toddler meals, that dish would have carried me right through to the finale.  Provided, of course, the judges panel did not also fill up on apple juice prior to deliberation.  A lovely little plate indeed.  A lovely little plate that hit the floor faster than a fat kid who dropped a Twinkie.

If it comes in stick, tot or nugget form – he’s all in.  Anything fresh, homemade or (appalled gasp!) GREEN and you can just forget it.  I present him with the plate and wait for that knowing grin that says, “Listen lady, you and I both know how this is going to end.”  I know I’m no slouch in the kitchen, so I’ve managed to avoid taking it as a personal attack on my culinary skills.  But I’m starting to think no good can come of cooking.  Let’s face it, homemade crap is just messier.  And messy equals fun!  Pasta with red sauce?  Splat!  Cheesy garlic mashed potatoes?  Fling!  Whole wheat vegetable quinoa salad?  Well that shit may as well be confetti.  (Seriously, still finding the remnants of this one whenever I clean the floor.  I imagine strippers have similar issues with body glitter.)  But still, my fighting spirit won’t let me throw in the dish towel.  Even if my meals will always be David to a chicken nugget-y Goliath.  At least the dog will always be well-fed, while my kitchen floor gently weeps.

Dining with Toddlers is Fun for Everyone!

Training Manual for Childless Restaurant Staff:  A Practical Guide to Winning Parents’ Approval and Increasing Earning Potential!

As a parent of a toddler, I can imagine no worse fate for a server than to wind up with the table comprised of frazzled parents and their insufferable offspring.  I feel your pain, I truly do.  I submit to you, the following guidelines.  When followed to the letter, they will net you major financial gains.  Because the truth of the matter is, lavish enough praise on their progeny and parents are pretty much the biggest bunch of chumps you’ll ever encounter.  Let’s dive in, shall we?

Host or hostess (who themselves appear to be in violation of child labor laws):
Seat us promptly.  Do not request I park my stroller in a designated area.  Do not refer to myself, husband and child as “two and a half for dinner?”  Yes, I have heard this.  No, I did not laugh the first time.  Nor will I laugh the 1,734th time.  Stop it.  Stop it now.  To the same end, do not make me ask for a high chair.  Yes, the toddler attempting to pry himself from my arms and launch himself onto the floor will, in fact, need some manner of containment device.  Unless you are waiting for an available straight jacket or restaurant-grade baby kennel, make haste with the high chair.

Server:
IMMEDIATELY upon approach, begin lavishing my child with compliments and praise.  Extra points for referring to his as “Mr. Handsome”, “Little Man” or “a young James Dean, except smarter..and you know, more together” You will feel the urge to touch the cherubic boy child; resist at all costs!!!   This takes our interaction into creepy town.  I do not know where you have been.  Nor do I care to know, as it is probably infinitely more interesting that my usual haunts (i.e. Target, my sofa) and I will be jealous.  Do not, under any circumstances, be skinnier than me.  Male servers, you can sit this one out.  You’re off the hook.  But ladies, know that the dying embers of my body-confidence are stoked only by the notion that you are able to maintain that flat stomach consuming a diet comprised solely of tap water and left over lettuce garnishes.  If you tell me about how you “can’t get enough of the fettuccine alfredo!”  I will fucking eat you.

When you bring the drinks (Yes, I am having a drink while out to dinner with my baby.  Perhaps the knowledge that I am a far more generous tipper with a one-gin-and-tonic buzz may wipe that judgmental look off your face?) do not place them within reach of pudgy baby arms.  In fact, take what you believe to be arms-length and double it. The lure of off-limits consumables has something of a Stretch Armstrong effect on toddlers.  Ditto that for scalding hot plates.

As soon as said plates hit the table, just go ahead and grab that check as well.  Leaving us to linger will not encourage increased consumption of food or drink.  It will only increase the likelihood that some unfortunate bus person will be scrubbing leftovers from the floors, walls and ceiling.  As a matter of fact, grab some takeout boxes while you’re at it.  Chances are we’ll only make it through half the meal before Junior’s saint-like patience is exhausted and screeching ensues.  No need to box it for us.  Whisking our plates off to the kitchen and returning with carefully separated and labeled containers or leftovers encased in some manner of tinfoil waterfowl may be impressive to some patrons, but rest assured those minutes are critical and we have foil at home.

Finally, the goodbye.  Now this one is important.  Timing is everything.  When you see us begin to return the now food splattered books and toys into our Volkswagen sized diaper bag, you may want to make your move.  We’re still easily swayed to throw down a few extra bucks for proper parting fanfare.  “Bye bye, sweetheart!  I’ll miss you!  Really I will.  In fact, you’re so painfully adorable I’m that doubting my own life choices.  Forget this freewheeling lifestyle of mine, I must leave immediately and attempt to conceive a child who I hope will be just like you.”  Disgustingly placating?  Maybe.  Will it work?  Absolutely.  Extra points if you acknowledge the hellacious mess he’s made in a congratulatory manner.  “Looks like someone sure enjoyed his meal!  Good job, buddy!”  Good job indeed…good job indeed.

Hippy Hippy Shake

Every once in a while, the universe gifts you with one of those little moments that makes you realize your former, pre-child life is not as distant a memory as it now seems.  That you’re still closer to the days of gritty rock shows and random boozy after parties than you are to mom jeans and Lifetime movie marathons.  Exhibit A, a recent scene from family breakfast:

(Early morning in a sunlit ((if only slightly dirty)) kitchen finds J rifling through a terrifyingly disorganized cabinet in search of toddler-kibble.  Not what one would describe as a “morning person”, J bristles at what is discovered.)

J:  Why is the new box of granola open?  There is still a bunch left in the old box!   Awesome.  Really.  That’s not wasteful at all.  Hey, by the way, when did you start crapping money?  Hook a girl up, homie, because I need some cash for lunch!

(S, accustomed to such displays of morning-related bitchiness, looks up from his coffee cup and responds calmly)

S:  But I had to open the new one.

J:  Oh, you HAD to, did you?  Well, Rockefeller, pray tell why?

S:  I HAD to open the new one, because the old one was all shake.

J:  (brief pause)  Um….beg your pardon?

S:  You know.  It was all the little broken pieces.  He likes the big nuggets.

J:  Ah yes.  Of course.

(Delighted with the fact that a well applied drug reference was not a forgotten relic of the marital lexicon, J smiles knowingly and resumes breakfast preparations.)

*If you were considering submitting this anecdote for consideration as Inappropriate Parenting Moment of the Year, know the review board is already considering it for recognition in the “Best Practical Application of a Marijuana Reference” category.  Fingers crossed – this feels like our year!