Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My Picky Eater: A Story of Intestines and Tough Love

When Ava was about 13 months old, she stopped eating all fruit and veggies. Just stopped for no discernible reason. The girl was barely walking and not even talking yet, and was already making the iron hammer of her will known throughout the house.

I blame her daddy. Jason's childhood stories of outlasting both his parents at mealtime showdowns have achieved mythical status in our family. So when she stopped, I just didn't put up much of a fight. To be honest. I KNOW! Thus, my tradition of losing Mother of the Year began. My excuses are these:
1. We were getting ready to move to Australia.
2. I got pregnant with Nate and was tired.
3. I wasn't sure what to do.
4. And I blame Jason.

Fast forward 4 and a half years to now. This girl has still never allowed a piece of fruit or the tiniest morsel of vegetable to pass her lips. Not once. When I try to sneak it in something, she knows. It is eerie. When Nate was about 18 months old, he figured out that Ava had a fruit aversion, so he would chase her around the house with a half-eaten apple in his hands. She would scream like he was carrying a severed head. We are talking almost phobic levels of aversion here, people.

Allow me to share what I call "intestinal math" with you. The game everyone can play:

No fruit + lots of cheese= serious plumbing problems.

I'm just sayin'. So we have had some *issues* at our house. Involving tears and drama and not pooping. There. I said it. So, two nights ago I had a sit-down with Ava. A sorta "come to Jesus" type of conversation. I told her that she's a big girl now, and that part of being a big girl is being able to make hard decisions and good choices. That things would, um, get moving again if she ate fruit and veggies. We talked for awhile and she said she'd think it over.

Last night, I was in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner and I thought, it's now or never. We had some grapes in the house that were remarkably good, so I took one, sliced it in half, and carried it into the living room. Ava was sitting in our rocking chair, holding Grace for me. I knelt in front of the chair. "Remember what I said yesterday about making good choices, babe? Here's a grape, and you need to eat it now."

Then the thunder cracked right outside our window, lightning flashed and a great chasm opened in the earth. No, not really. But you would've thought that the four horsemen of the Apocalypse had stopped in for tea by the way she reacted. "Wait. Wait!", she wailed. "Babe, I'm not going to make you do this. It's your choice. But it's something that will help you and it tastes good. You take medicine all the time that is yucky. YOU WILL LIKE THIS."

You shoulda seen her. She sat in the chair, clutching Grace, big tears forming and sliding down her cheeks. We talked for a bit, mentally rehearsing her eating this grape. (I know, I know!) I said, "Okay, if I sprinkle a little sugar on it, will you try it?" She nodded, sniffing.

So I did. I went into the kitchen with this measly little half of a grape and put a few grains of sugar on it and brought it back to her. Do you ever have moments where the utter ridiculousness of a situation just smacks you in the face? And not just the ridiculosity (hee hee!) of the situation, but that of the emotional weight you have placed on it. This was one for me. Here I am, kneeling before my teary-eyed five year old daughter holding out a grape for her to try. No, wait--not a grape. A sugar-encrusted grape HALF. A piddly one half of one grape! And I am holding my breath. Please, just eat it. Just try it. Just take a bite. TRY IT!

Well, after taking several deep breaths, as if I'd asked her to dive to the depths of the ocean, she popped it in her mouth. And chewed. And gagged. And swallowed. And the heavens did open. Yea, verily.

There you have it--a minor miracle! Then she ate the other half and gagged a little more. In the time honored method of mothers everywhere, I said, "Don't you dare spit that out!" But she didn't. And I was so proud.

Hey--it's a start. I had her eat another grape this morning, but this time with no sugar. See? I am so hardcore! Tough love, y'all. Tough love.


  1. We use bribery with Luke. You can have applesauce it you'll take a bite of this tomato. He often will lick the morsel being dangled in front of him. To his credit, he will eventually bite the offered food with gagging to follow. Applesauce has paved the way for many eating accomplishments!

    (You're mom has often said that David would have starved if it had not been for Mac & cheese.)

  2. This is so hilarious ! Especially the brother-sister bonding experience of Nate chasing her with fruit.I applaud your efforts-even encrusting with sugar. I say a mom does what a mom has to do. Let me know when she asks for fruit. That will be a hallmark moment ! Bless her little heart. I'm just saying she has her reasons.. they make sense to her, huh?

  3. Brava, Ava!

    You have some major parenting chops with your "This is your choice" moment. You might get Mother of the Year yet.

  4. LOL! Oh my goodness, I have those moments all the time with the kids where it feels like I'm being punked. Like, "What would this look like to an outsider, exactly?"

    I never put up a fight when it comes to food, either. I figure they'll come around eventually and I can't force someone to eat something anyway. But then, I have a child who yells "NO!" at broccoli, so it's possible I'm way off base.

    Did Ava say anything about the grapes, or is she taking time to process her emotions? Poor thing.

  5. Sugar on grape halves! Tears! Gagging! This is hilarious. I'm impressed with you both :)

  6. Oh so funny! My bosses son HATES fruit too. And we threaten him with it all of the time (he smells it and gags). Oh and he LOVES cheese. Interesting huh?

    Loved this story (as usual;).

  7. oh the joys of motherhood:)
    Good on Ava for atleast "trying" a sugar coated grape!
    I need to tell you the story of the Spring Roll on our recent trip home with Ava in the backseat!

  8. Thanks, guys! :) Though I can still count the number of grapes eaten on two hands, we are making progress.

    Cassie, I couldn't really get a straight answer out of her. I asked her if she like it and she said, "I'm not sure." I think she doesn't wanna go on the record!

    Of course she drinks fruit juice but will not acknowledge where said juice comes from.

  9. Oh, bless her little cotton socks. What a funny story. I particularly like the being chased with an apple/severed head bit. Well done for getting her to try the half grape though and well done her for having the courage to try it.

  10. Severed head, indeed, you funny funny woman. Their palates certainly are mind-boggling -- how can anyone NOT LIKE A GRAPE, for heaven's sake?? With or without sugar?? But there you have it. Best o luck with the blockage, etc...