Wednesday, 8 October 2008

A fruity issue

Can you tell Husband is away? Can you? Does it show? No, of course it doesn't. I normally post 2 days in row, don't I? Anyone?

Moving on...

As he was climbing out of the bath this evening, I had the following conversation with Boy #1:

Boy #1 (face assuming a 'cat who got the cream expression): "I did something really cheeky at school today, Mama."

Me (stay calm, stay calm, no-one asked you to step into their office when you picked him up): "Oh yes?"

Boy #1: "Yes."

Me: "So... what was it?"

Boy #1: "Well, for pudding today, they gave us grapes..."

Oh god. The Fruit Issue. I knew this would come up sooner or later. Now don't judge me. But Boy #1 hates fruit, in it's natural form at least. He does eat it, but not knowingly. He gets it in juice, smoothies, yoghurt, muffins, and in any other way I think of to hide it. He just won't eat it when it looks like fruit.

Note: this is not a family phobia. I love it, Husband too, and Boy #2 will go into stealth mode whenever he sees anyone with an apple, hunting it down until it's in his chubby little hands...

I know, I know, I should force the issue. Fruit is an important part of a healthy diet. But food has been something of a sticking point for Boy #1 for a very long time now. Up until age 1, he ate well, in fact he ate pretty much everything. And since I was doing all the cooking myself (even down to making my own chicken stock, god help me), he had a very healthy and varied diet. But then, aged 1, he cottoned on to how important it was to me that he ate. Being a working mum (at the time), food was one of the few things I felt I could deliver on to meet my internal blueprint of a 'proper' mother. Hence the late night stock making sessions.

(Don't worry - I'm so over that now. In fact, I was over it the moment I realised Waitrose did a salt and additive-free liquid version, though sadly that epiphany didn't happen until I was weaning Boy #2. So any Annabel Karmel disciples reading this out there planning on making their own chicken stock, step away from the chicken. And get yourself down to Waitrose...)

Anyway, back to Food. And how doing it by the baby-friendly recipe book made me feel slightly less guilty about being away from my son for 9 hours a day. My older son may be a lot of things - cheeky, adorable, hilarious, an emotional rollercoaster, an interesting contrast of confident and shy, affectionate - but slow on the uptake he is not. Even aged 1 he spotted that it bothered me when he didn't eat.

So, he stopped.

Well, he stopped eating for me, at any rate. For other people, he would eat just enough to get by. But for me? No way, Jose. And I'm not talking toddler tantrums or willfullness. No, he just wouldn't eat, not without a knock-down fight, anyway. I tried all sorts of tactics; I stayed calm, I got cross, made it fun, I was furious, I was defeated, I was guilty. But nothing really made that much of a difference.

Eventually I took the decision that I would not turn meals into battlefields. Food is important, yes, but so is not having a phobia of it, and I could see where things were leading. I also knew that he was doing this entirely to manipulate me. No-one else, not really, just me. It was hard, but I backed off. Every time he refused more than a few mouthfuls of something that I knew he had eaten properly the previous day for someone else, I counted to 10. Of course, it still upset me. It still drove me crazy. But I tried - and on the whole, succeeded - to let it go.

It's taken 4 years but now he eats most things. Sometimes protesting, rarely the entire plateful (though that's happening increasingly often as he gets older) but he does eat. And grow, more to the point. It's not as if he's one of those children who will only eat chicken nuggets and chips either; he will eat pretty much anything, his repertoire doesn't just include sausage and mash. He loves fish (of all kinds and including squid), couscous, lentil sauce (admittedly he doesn't know it's lentil - so sue me), anything Italian, Indonesian food, chinese food, you name it.

But fruit? Forget it.

So, back to my sinking feeling during our bathtime conversation.

Boy #1: "Well, for pudding today they gave us grapes."

Me: "....and?"

Boy #1: "I waited until no-one in the kitchen was looking, and then I, then I, tipped them under the table!" (Big triumphant smile).

We discussed this further, of course. I explained that tipping food away is not acceptable behaviour, and that perhaps he should just leave them next time. He told me that this is not allowed. So then I suggested that perhaps he share them with his neighbours - when no one is looking.

Was that the wrong thing to do? Am I encouraging him to flout authority? Or am I simply teaching him coping strategies? I mean, he does eat, for heaven's sake. Just not fruit.

Not that he knows of, at any rate.


  1. I applaud the way you have coped with the non-eating and would have also told my youngsters to share in those circumstances. I hope no one did themselves an injury on those poor grapes!

  2. it's a coping strategy. applaud it. once he's a teen he won't stop eating and you'll need help coping. x

  3. I agree, you are giving him coping strategies. It's a bit much to tell a child they have to eat everything including things they dislike. It can only lead to bad things, ie. vomit.

    And you coped really well with the food issues. Miss M (3) is going through a tough stage at the moment as she eats like a bird. She's never been a big eater but is eating even less.

    I think I need to relax a little and just see what happens.

  4. I have a just-about 13 year old who still claims to be allergic to vegetables. He literally almost vomits on them, but will eat anything once it's pureed into a pasta sauce. (Alas they don't do Heinz Hidden Veggies over here.) I wouldn't worry about how you get fruit into him, just that he eats some.
    As for the grapes on the floor. That's a lawsuit waiting to happen!

  5. Can he take packed lunches instead? If not, I think the 'share with neighbours' thing is fine.

    The school must have a bit of flexibility. I don't think any child eats EVERYTHING, and there are lots of picky eaters out there. In our day, children were made to sit in the dining room, on their own if necessary, till every last mouthful was finished, missing playtime if necessary, but those days are gone, thank goodness.

    At some point, I guess you'll be phoning up to ask what their policy is... but for now, I say, hurrah for coping strategies. (All we learnt at school, was how to bend not break the rules, to use a famous quotation.)

  6. AM - so do I!

    RM - roll on those days, that's all I say! (Not meaning I want him to be a teenager, loving the early school years, just that the chance to get upset at his eating TOO much seems a long way off)

    Hi Jo, it's the worst thing when they don't eat, I found it really hard to chill out about it. Having tried everything else though it seemed the only thing left to do!

    EPM, we occassionally get the gagging on the vegetables too. I guess that the tactic of telling him how each of them will make him grow big and strong (potatoes for strength, carrots for eyes - and I know that was disproved, but he doesn't - broccoli for.. teeth and nails?) doesn't work so well when they can go online and tell you you're talking rubbish...

    Iota, no packed lunches I'm afraid. I don't think it's the food per se that's the problem - he eats the main course up with unflattering (to me) haste. It's just that this school doesn't do any puddings other than fruit. That's to be applauded of course - it's just a little tricky with Boy #1.

  7. One Thanksgiving we had the cousin and his new clan (married into it) over for the big meal. There were lots of other people at the table as well. The Man - being an incredible cook - had furnished the table with a culinary delight.

    My cousin - who had previously been a resident in my home - and all his (new) family - wouldn't eat anything but the buns.

    I was appalled! I looked at that mother with very critical eyes. What's wrong with glazed ham plus vegetarian offerings? They even passed on the dessert!

    I never invited them again for a meal. Now I never invite them period - but that's another story.

  8. All this right here....."Well, he stopped eating for me, at any rate. For other people, he would eat just enough to get by. But for me? No way, Jose. And I'm not talking toddler tantrums or willfullness. No, he just wouldn't eat, not without a knock-down fight, anyway. I tried all sorts of tactics; I stayed calm, I got cross, made it fun, I was furious, I was defeated, I was guilty. But nothing really made that much of a difference."

    You do not understand how great this makes me feel! This is my problem with Jonathan and I thought I was the worst mother ever. Oh my Lord, thank God I found you. Do you know how literally I mean this? because I do! It makes me feel like there is hope!

  9. I mean, and OK, I'm not trying to take over the comment section, but I feel the same way. It is me he won't eat for. he will eat for the sitter, for daddy (a little) but not me at all.

    He's started taking a couple of bites here and there, but normally...n.o.t.h.i.n.g.

    OK. Sorry. I just can't believe how this post is written because on that one part I totally could have written it!

  10. Oh crap. Forgot to answer the question you posed at the end...I think it was the right thing to do. At least someone who likes fruit can have it! Right?

    Then the cleaning people don't have to clean it up.

  11. Not eating fruit is such a common (especially boy) small child thing. I can't believe the school hasn't come across it before. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. (I have 2 non fruit-eating boys. One, age 11, now manages a quarter of an apple every now and again because he is health-conscious, and the other, age 7, has a glass of apple juice every day and that... is... it. I have learnt to relax, like you, because the alternative is some kind of force-feeding, which I'm sure would be illegal. I'm just waiting for the day some scientist or other publishes a report PROVING that fruit and veg are bad for small boys, with data to back it up, and then all the clever mothers whose kids eat f and v will have to start whipping them off their kids' plates, saying "oh no you don't, not until you've had another couple of biscuits first".)

  12. Aims, there is nothing wrong with glazed ham. Nothing! These people are clearly incredibly rude. Kids, I can cope with their not eating (clearly; I've been broken in by an expert on that one), but grown-ups? Grow up. (And it's just the fruit Boy #1 wouldn't eat. I'm sure he would love the rest of that thanksgiving dinner... Never realised, btw, that Canadians celebrate it too. Shows how ignorant I am.

    J's Mommy: breathe... And you are totally not alone! I know just how you feel because I too was surrounded by friends who's kids obediently gobbled up everything on their plate. But it's alright, there are loads of us out there. And the interesting thing is that lots of those biddable kids who ate well at 1, 2, and 3, become much fussier as they grow older. You - I PROMISE - will find the opposite. Just stay as relaxed as you can. If he's eating at the sitters, he will not starve. We found (and I'm sorry I can't say this happened earlier, but there you are) that things started to improve slowly once he hit around 3 - 3 1/2. And e-mail me if you need support!

    Iota, thanks for the solidarity and the supportive words. As J's Mommy said, it's good to know I'm not doing this all by myself. Though I was rather hoping he would grow out of it by age 11. Oh well - more fruit for the rest of us, I suppose!

  13. aagghh.. this all sounds so familiar! Small Child ate all stuff up until 14 months and the got very faddy... especially on the fruit front which bugged the be-jeezus out of me as we love fruit too! Now its not so bad... preschool managed it over me as they didnt make it an issue. (classic mother error!)
    Now she eats fruit and I actually find myself thankful for the Lazytown TV show as they promote apples as sports candy = SC loves em! (Did I really just state I loved this program? Have you seen it?!?)

  14. Have lots of sympathy. Littleboy 1 has been a difficult eater since day 1 (although the one thing he does like is fruit). I used to get so angry with him I would virtually be throwing his food across the kitchen while he watched in wide eyed bemusement. He still won't touch any kind of vegetable but I have stuck to my guns and not given him junk instead - he just eats a rather eccentric but essentially healthy diet consisting of about 4 meals that I have to give him in rotation. Everyone tells me he will not be fussy when older - I live in hope. (In contrast his brother eats everything - thank goodness).

    I well remember the Annabel Karmel stock - I think I may still have some in a frozen bag of ice cubes at the bottom of the freezer!

    There is actually a 'class' here in Nappy Valley called Mange Tout that encourges them to eat fruit and veg.....although I think it's mainly aimed at toddlers.

  15. I have the AK books - very good as they are thick enough to prevent one buring the table with hot saucepans!
    You did the right thing. Never make food an issue. I always move swiftly on if I feel I'm losing - usually to the next course!

  16. I am not in favor of making children eat things they don't like. Eventually they grow up and eat just about everything. I know mine did and we never made a fuss about food. Sharing the grapes was a good idea, rather than tipping them under the table. Food should never become an issue, too much is made of it causing all sorts of problems. As long as what you offer him is healthy, I see no problems with it. He really won't go hungry.

  17. Wow, you've really worked at the whole healthy diet thingy, well done you! I just think that we don't owe anybody an explanation where our children's eating habits are concerned, you can't judge anyone until you've been there... He gets loads of fruit anyway, in all the guises you present it to him. I think (for what it's worth!) that you should congratulate yourself and just let it be... MH

  18. Hi all, sorry, I missed your comments for some reason, so here goes...

    TG? You did say that, I have seen it, but anything that promotes eating fruit is fine by me. Sadly, Boy #1 is not fooled...

    NVG, ah the stock, it haunts my dreams (or nightmares). Hopefully we're on the home straight now, but thanks for the tip on the classes. I would never say never about anything.

    TW, good advice, it's the only way. And yes, who needs pan stands when you have recipe books?

    Irene, you're right. I just hope the school sees it the same way. No comments from his teacher yet, so I'm hopeful!

    Thanks MH, and yes that is pretty much the point I've reached. You're so right about not judging anyone on what their children eat. Now if only we could convince everyone of that who has never had to deal with a fussy eater.

  19. i think it's outrageous if the school puts children into a position where they feel they cannot offer food to another person. oh dear my hackles are up now. i feel so cross i may come down tomorrow, join the protest and chuck a vegetable pasty on the floor.

  20. Grit, does it have to be vegetable? Can't it be meat? It has much better sliding qualities...


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