My daughter recently turned two. Where before she was Shirley Temple in "The Little Princess," she is now one of the kids from "Village of the Damned." Just like that.
This abrupt change in behavior includes her eating habits. Where once she'd eat anything—even spicy foods—she now subsists upon bread (she just had an empty hamburger roll for lunch), yogurt, and clementines. She also frequently requests hot sauce, though she has never had hot sauce and, if she actually acquired some, I'm sure she would deeply regret it.
I'm at the point where I I'd rather she eat something than nothing. And while I won't cook an entirely separate meal for her, I will let her gnaw upon the discarded crusts from my pizza and call it a day.
As with all aspects of parenting, this sometimes makes me feel like a terrible mother. But I've been relieved to find out that I'm not the only mom who's gone through this phase. Here are a few other bizarre food obsessions my mom friends have observed in their toddlers:
- Hard-boiled eggs (especially the yolk, which both I and my mommy friend think is gross)
- Toast with butter and honey
- Plain Greek yogurt with strawberry jam and chia seeds mixed in (these children are obviously way healthier than my own)
- Pickled everything: eggs, okra, olives, veggies, etc.
- Meat tortellini (but not tri-colored because that is NOT OKAY)
- Tortino's Pizza Rolls
- Bean burgers
- Chicken nuggets (I'm with you, kid)
- Quesadillas, also known as "bean pizza"
- Buttered noodles
- Plain old beans
Looking at this list—and observing my own daughter's eating habits—I don't know why I still try. When I made her a smoky corn chowder, she coughed repeatedly, with a confused, displeased look on her face that bespoke a suspicion that I had just tried to poison her. When I made a delicious lemony shrimp dish with white beans and couscous, she ate it begrudgingly, turning down the leftovers later in the week. When I tried a recipe for chicken "cheesesteak" sandwiches, she was unwilling to even eat the melted cheese. Blasphemy! And despite her love of bread, she was not thrilled with the onion bread rolls I had used for this particular meal.
There is just no winning.
And when she doesn't want something, she doesn't simply say "no thank you," which would be perfectly reasonable. Rather, she pushes the plate or the cup or the food item away so forcefully that it sometimes flies across the room, screams "NO!", and strikes a melodramatic pose of abject suffering.
My inability to get her to engage in polite behavior is one thing. Her eating habits are another and, luckily, according to her pediatrician and other sources of toddler-related wisdom, not something worth worrying about. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a preference for just one or two foods, or a complete refusal of certain foods are normal behaviors at this age. Toddlers can also be fine with much less food than we think they need and if they eat a ridiculously tiny amount at one meal, they'll make up for it later on.
Lunch looms on the horizon. I plan to offer her a mix of her leftover egg white flatbread sandwich from yesterday's breakfast and her leftover grilled tilapia from yesterday's dinner. She will end up eating the flatbread and will point to the rest while saying "gar-bage can?"
She will ask for yogurt.
I will eat the remnants of her meal off her plastic, shatter-proof plate.
I will call it a day.