Ahhh... the dining habits of a two-year-old. One day nothing but wheat bread with peanut butter (crusts off) and the next day three full-course meals with snacks, desserts, appetizers... whatever he can get his hands on.
What is it with toddlers and their ability to fast for days at a time yet put on weight? It sounds like something from my most horrible nightmares about dieting. Jack will begin to cut a tooth (a one-to-two month process) and will immediately begin rejecting food, sometimes just out of habit. I suspect him of really being able to eat but fasting to annoy me when he wakes up in the night reciting the names of various foods: "S'getti, cookie, cackers..." All the starchy, carb-filled foods.
When he does eat, nothing can touch. It's actually okay for carrots and macaroni and cheese to intermingle, but forget casseroles, lasagna, quiche or any other food that is a mixture. After all, Mommy may have put something healthy in there. He wants his food out where he can get a good look at it.
My friend has a little angel who innocently requests a type of food only to reject it when it's served in favor of something else. Tears, tantrums and fasting ensue if she doesn't get her way. Her mother is kept busy running a one-woman diner. "Of course," we all think to ourselves, "she's ridiculous. She should have a little discipline." Oh right. The child wants food! And just maybe this is the day she'll actually eat it.
Another friend has a child who has watched way too many Oreo commercials. One day, while we were on the phone, she kept interrupting our conversation to say over her shoulder, "No, you are not done. Pick them all up. NOW!" Her three-year-old had split apart an entire bag of Oreos licked the cream filling out -- discarding the unwanted cookie part on the kitchen floor. If that were at our house, Jack would be trailing after him eating the cookies right off the flloor. They're convenient, already split apart, and illicit.
A couple of women I know try to avoid the lack of nutrition that comes with selective eating and fasting by subsituting sugarless cookies and healthy snacks. I guess that works out okay for the kids, but what about the poor parents who have to eat up the leftovers when the child is finished? I think we're all in agreement that we'd rather have a leftover bowl of Honeycomb than a slimy cold bowl of oatmeal. Even Goldilocks wouldn't eat it.
That takes us to the logical conclusion of toddler fasting: parental obesity. Well we're not going to just throw all that perfectly good food away, are we? One mother doesn't bother fixing herself lunch anymore; she just eats her child's leftovers. I go the other route: 27 little tiny containers in the refrigerator each containing three beans or a spoonful of mac and cheese. Then every couple of weeks or so I throw it all out because it's green and leafy in a manner more suited for a laboratory than a stomach. But see, it wasn't wasted. I did save it.
I've got a lot longer to go in the fast lane. Ideally Jack will begin to eat regularly in a few years around the time he gives up the pacifier, the bottle, gets potty-trained, and starts school. But those are other stories.
(Editor's Note: This article was written nearly 14 years ago for a mom's club newsletter. Jack is now 15.5 and eating everything in the house. His younger brother still resides in the fast lane on occasion.)