Sunday, May 11, 2008

I'm a Carbitarian

Picky Eaters Club

Michelle at In the Life of a Child just started a new blog carnival called The Picky Eaters Club. I'm so exasperated thrilled to say I qualify for full membership. *sigh*

My husband, Jeff, will eat anything. When he was a kid, the only food he recalls not liking was green beans. Now, he will even eat those. (He's also a gourmet chef, so even though he WILL eat anything, he's a little intimidating to cook for.)

Our youngest, Jonathan, follows blissfully in Daddy's footsteps. There's nothing he won't eat. He only refuses food when he's trying to be like his big brother. Although he did just announce to us that he is 'allergic' to sour things. That, however, is, like most things in Jonathan's life, just for show.

Then there's me. I'm the kind of person who finds one boring food she likes and then eats that one food religiously until she dies. Drives my husband crazy. Whenever we go to a restaurant, I get either 1) a chicken caesar salad, 2) chicken fettuccine alfredo, or 3) a grilled chicken whatever burger. I also hate Hate HATE trying new things. Hate it. Jeff's always trying to get me to try new foods, and it always makes me so cranky. Then add what I WON'T eat to my recent discoveries about what I CAN'T eat, and it just goes downhill from there.

So you can see, of course, that our dear firstborn, Master James, inherited his picky personality. He comes by it honestly.

While James got his natural pickiness from me, it is, I believe, the Cherokee Indian blood flowing through his veins that makes him One With the Animals. He has such a big heart for living creatures of every kind, a healthy trait nurtured lovingly along by his beautiful grandma, herself an avid animal lover. We are so thankful that James has that extra soft spot in his heart, and we are doubly thankful Grandma understands and shares that with him.

However.

At age six, James simply cannot bear the thought of what to him amounts to cannibalism. His heart truly breaks for the innocent cow that had to DIE just so our family could enjoy spaghetti and meatballs. Thanksgiving traumatized him to the core as he actually saw a fully cooked DEAD BIRD sitting on top of Grandma's stove.

James therefore declared himself to be a vegetarian. As soon as he discovered there was an entire culture of people who never ate meat, he knew that was the life for him. (This does not include McDonald's cheeseburgers, ham sandwiches, bacon, or sausage, all of which he eats happily.)

One problem.

Like all six-year-olds, he hates to eat his vegetables.

We explained to him, as our forkful of broccoli hung in the air outside his firmly-pressed-together lips, that vegetarians EAT vegetables.

He requested ramen noodles.

We reasoned with him, as he watched baby carrots roll around his plate, that he couldn't really call himself a vegetarian if he wouldn't eat vegetables...

He requested buttered bread.

We reminded him, as his little hand blocked from view the repulsive cauliflower he hoped would disappear, that he only had to eat six bites of it because he was six years old, and he should like it anyway, because it was a vegetable, and wasn't he a vegetarian?

He requested tortilla chips.

Finally, in exasperation, I muttered to him, "You're not a vegetarian. You're a CARBitarian! You only like carbs!"

He perked up instantly, "What are carbs?"

After a brief explanation in which we attempted to expound upon the evils of an over-carbed diet, he proudly announced, "That's me! I'm a carbitarian!"

It's been his proud declaration ever since.

We tried explaining to James that God gave us meat to eat. It's right there in the Bible, in Genesis 9:3, and we think it has something to do with our need for additional nutrients onaccounta after the flood, the 'waters above the firmament' no longer protected humans from direct sunlight. The result of our explanation? He faced at a very early age the eternal, critical question: How can a good God allow that kind of evil?

Well, we said, first of all, that if God is the One who gave us the animals for meat, then it wasn't evil, because God is inherently good. (Okay, maybe we didn't use the word 'inherently' on our six-year-old.)

And then we explained that the problem was not God. The problem was sin. Evil happened because man made bad choices, not because God didn't care. In fact, it was actually God's love that allowed evil to continue for a time, because He does not wish for any to perish, but He longs for all to come to repentance. So He is waiting to gather as many souls to Himself as possible, and He will not pour out His wrath against evil if there is still a chance to redeem one more person.

James wanted to know if we would eat animals in heaven. I told him I didn't think so. This one nugget alone makes James long for heaven with tear-stung eyes. It's the most beautiful sight I've ever seen.

Who knew that 'eat your dinner' could spiral into such a theological conundrum?

So what do we do with our little carbitarian?

Well...I hope I don't get blackballed in blogland for saying this out loud, but to get James to eat his dinner, we actually just...insist.

Mind you, we don't force platefuls of distasteful entrees down his gullet. But we do have a few rules. If the rules are followed, rewards ensue. If the rules are not followed, well...what's a good word for the opposite of 'reward'?

Here are our rules.

1) You have to try at least one bite of everything.
2) No complaining.
3) You have to eat the number of bites that match your age for the main foods on your plate.

We also have a few rules for ourselves.

1) Make life easier by sticking mostly to what the kid likes.
2) Make life easier by sticking mostly to what the kid likes.
3) Make life easier by sticking mostly to what the kid likes.
4) Use gummy vitamins as the treat for eating all your bites.

What's our 'opposite' of reward?

Well...we count to 3. I can't remember what comes after 3 because it's been so long since counting to 3 didn't work. Actually, we usually only get as far as 1 before the kids comply.

But underneath ALL of that is this one foundational principle we measure all things food-related against, handed down to me from on high by my very wise mother, who successfully raised SIX picky eaters to adulthood, where she gleefully passed us off to our spouses, who now have to deal with our food issues while she sits blissfully enjoying the imitation crab salad she had to avoid for her 30 plus years of parenting.

That principle is this:

Are your kids still growing? Are they basically healthy? Do they have energy?

Yes?

Then you're doing just fine.