Work with me, please.

Greening the Boy


Newsflash!  Jay has expanded his diet from three vegetables to five just within the past three weeks.  He will now eat green beans and spinach in addition to broccoli, white potatoes (mashed or fried), and sweet potatoes (mashed or roasted).  He tried collard greens yesterday.  Although he clearly was not a fan of the greens, he took a few bites and I was proud of him for making a show of trying to like them.

Hubby and I would periodically put something new on Jay’s dinner plate and encourage him to try it in exchange for a mickey (our token economy whereby the kids earn recycled bingo chips for doing good things and use the chips to buy TV/computer time, treats, McDonald’s, etc.).  One night recently, Jay shocked us and ate the spinach.  I think he even surprised himself when he realized that he liked it.  A few nights later, he ate the green beans.

Fortunately, Mae has eaten green vegetables well since her high chair days.  Spinach, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, kale,and collard greens are regular in her diet.  Pretty good for an almost-seven year old.  Getting her brother up to speed means less time on meal preparation.  Some nights, we have had three different vegetables, or three different meals altogether.  Hubby kept saying that we should cook one meal, offer it to the kids, and then . . . oh, well!

I admit that I have been a total wimp and enabler in this area, especially with regard to the three and half year old.  Some things I would not readily tell a pediatrician or child psychologist:  I have

  • prepared multiple dishes for one meal in order to accommodate the differences in our preferences;
  • placed on the back burner dishes that Hubby and I enjoy, thinking that “one day” we’ll get to eat them again;
  • fed Jay his dinner, as recently as tonight, because he eats more and faster if I feed him; and
  • read to him while feeding him and fed him in front of the TV so that he is distracted and likely to eat more.

He is not a skinny kid (maybe it is the starch in his diet), and he will surely not starve if he misses a meal or two.  However, what he will do — or would do until very recently — is claim at bedtime, just as a hand is on the light switch and lips are set to say goodnight, that he is hungry.  It would take a banana, slice of bread, or extra cup of milk to get him to settle down.

I remember clearly what my siblings, cousins, and I were told if we said we were hungry after dinner time when we were kids:  “Go to bed.  If you go to sleep, you won’t be hungry.”  End of conversation.  Really.

For some strange reason, that does not work in my house.  One night, this past November or December, Jay woke up at approximately 2:30 am whimpering and asking for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I thought he was talking in his sleep, which he does sometimes, and I tried to soothe him with, “You’ll have a nice breakfast.  Go back to sleep.”  I went back to bed.  Well, Jay kept saying that he wanted a sandwich and the whimper turned to a full-on cry.  I thought, “no way” and decided not to budge.  Finally, Hubby gave in and took the kid downstairs and made him a PBJ.  Hubby left him alone at the kitchen table and returned to bed.  I couldn’t see Hubby’s face in the dark, but I imagined that his eyes and mouth were pulled unnaturally close to his nose.

Even when he likes the food on his plate, Jay can take up to an hour to finish dinner if left to eat at his own pace.  He gets up.   He sits down.   He is on his stomach in the chair.  He is under the table, walking around the table.  He plays.  He sings.  He leans back dangerously in his chair, or worse, falls back in his chair, scaring us all and making knicks in the wall behind him.

Nowadays, the goal is to send Jay to bed on a full belly of at least a partially nutritious meal, and do so within a reasonable amount of time (i.e., before he claims that he is too tired to take a bath).  I am pleased that he is opening up to new tastes, and we will keep putting a little of this and a little of that on his plate.  Tonight, he ate rice for the first time in over a year!  (Yes, I know that white rice has limited nutritional value.  However, I am a SC girl and white rice is culturally important to me.  I have great food memories associated with white rice.  For one, it reminds me of my father’s mother.  I spent a lot of weekends with her as a child, and she cooked rice every weekend I was there, and probably more often than that.  I used to beg her for a plate of hot rice, nothing else.  I would add butter until the rice turned yellow.  Mmm, mmm good.  Even though I rarely cook it anymore, I plan to keep it in our diet.)

This afternoon, I sent Hubby a text that I need to have a mammogram and ultrasound next week for a closer look at a lump I found a couple of weeks ago.  He texted back that we should go vegetarian, or mostly vegetarian, because meat consumption has been linked to breast cancer.  My first thought was that vegetarianism would complicate our meal planning just as it is finally starting to improve.  I’ll have to think on that one.

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