You know, I’m not really a big fan of all those “what not to say” posts. Because I think that most of the time people mean well, and the people who don’t mean well are going to keep right on saying whatever they want to anyway.
But hey! There’s a first time for everything, right? And today I feel like ranting about What Not to Say to the Parent (that would be me) of a Picky Eater (that would be William).
So what should you not say? Probably pretty much anything you are thinking of saying. Just don’t say it. Because William is 14, and you can be pretty sure that whatever you are dying to tell me I already know about and it won’t work. If you want a list:
- Don’t tell me he won’t grow or that he will be malnourished. He is almost 6 feet tall, he’s had his blood checked, he takes a vitamin every day, and I cannot remember a time he had to visit a doctor for an actual illness.
- Don’t tell me that if I just don’t give him the food he wants he will eat the other foods I want him to. There are things that William will NEVER eat.
- Don’t tell me to force him to eat vegetables or else. See above.
- Don’t tell me that I’ve spoiled him by not making him eat whatever you think he should eat. When you have a child who is this picky, you feed him whatever he will eat because he needs calories, even nutritionally inferior calories.
- Don’t tell me what YOU would do if you were me. Let’s make a deal, okay? You do what works for you with your kids, and I’ll do what works for me with mine.
How picky is William? He won’t eat any vegetables except baby corn cobs. He won’t eat any fruits. He likes pasta with salt and pepper, but only angel hair (spaghetti under duress). He won’t eat hamburgers, pizza, or macaroni and cheese. He likes crab, canned tuna, most chicken, rice, Asian food, ice cream, milk, some juice, bread, and most (but not all!) sweet things. This isn’t a complete list, but you get the idea. William’s pickiness is difficult enough that it has an impact on his life and his family’s.
William has ALWAYS been picky. This is not my fault. I did not do anything different with him than I did with my first three kids, who are now grownups who eat pretty much everything, and who were not particularly picky as children. Shortly after I introduced William to solids, he started spitting out his baby food. In would go the spoon, then squash (or whatever) would spew through the air. It didn’t matter what I tried. Even bananas! What baby doesn’t like those?
It’s a good thing that he was breastfed, because that continued (no lie!) to be his main source of nourishment until he was about two. For a long time the only things he would eat were butter and sugar sandwiches and he wouldn’t drink cow’s milk unless it was sweetened too. So really, I look at what he eats now and feel like we’ve come a long way.
I realize now that William wasn’t just going through some kind of phase like I assumed back then, and that this isn’t something that he is growing out of like I’d hoped. He has actual issues that cause his eating difficulties, and had I realized this back when he was a baby there were likely therapies that could have helped. But I cannot beat myself up for what I did not know, and now William is an adolescent who can try new foods himself if he decides that he wants to.