|Your food is killing me.|
April 30, 2002
Last night Mrs. T sent home a very fitting assignment for M. The children were to draw a picture of themselves eating that evening's dinner. They were to pay careful attention to their sense of taste. I laughed when I read it because M has the most delicate palate. Everything makes him gag except for marshmallow cereals and fast food burgers (without condiments or cheese, of course). We have been struggling since he was two years old to entice him to sit at the table and at least try a bite of everything on his plate. The fights and dramatics that ensue would seem to warrant a call to Child Protective Services from those listening from the outside. It sounds like the kid is being tortured; and, for him, it feels that way. His repertoire of dinner fare is limited to those foodstuffs that are white (boiled chicken breasts, plain pasta with butter, an occasional piece of mozzarella cheese, and apple slices).
Last night, we grilled homemade turkey burgers on our new charcoal grill. I warned M when he came home from school about what was on the menu. He seemed fine with it until his father brought in the thick burgers nestled warmly in toasted buns. M began to panic. Those burgers did not look like fast food burgers and the bun was too hard. The meat was too spicy and it didn't stick to the bun properly. "Can I have something else?" He pleaded. We have tried to stand firm in our rule that he must eat what is placed before him before he can ask for something else.
"I'm going to throw up!" He kept threatening.
"You're not going to throw up," We insisted. And then he gagged hysterically on his food.
"I can't eat this!" He protested. "You don't love me!"
This behavior is something we should be used to by now, but the frustration never wanes. And, the energy of fighting against him is more easily sapped now that he has discovered other battles to wage against us. If it was not for H's agreeable dinnertime presence, I might give up on constructing a meal. H takes his time to eat, savoring each morsel, purring with contentment at mealtime, and trying new foods at least twice. Last night, I even made brownies for dessert- a reward if M ate his dinner. But this meal would have consequences for M. He kept spitting out the food and letting it drop to the floor like an infant starting solids. We sent him to his room to settle down. He kept shouting," Nobody loves me! I want to move out of this house!"
I went in to calm him down, "Where do you want to move?"
"Call him and ask him if you can live with him. But, if you go, we will miss you very much." I retrieved the phone for him and let him call my father. He wasn't home. M was falling deeper into despair. " You can't live with Nana because she will make you eat spaghetti with sauce, and pork chops, and broccoli, and steak."
" Where can I live then?"
"I think you are stuck with us."
He slumped in the hallway and begged with puppy dog eyes to be accepted at our table where the three of us were enjoying our brownies. I made him sit at his place and complete his "Taste" homework. I suggested that he draw a picture of himself crying at the table with hamburger falling out of his mouth. Instead, he drew a picture of himself with a huge smile and an enormous burger in his hands. This is what he wrote:
"My Mom and Dad made burgers on the grill. They were spicy and hard. I did not like it! I wanted to throw up. Then I went in my room and cried."
That sounds about right. I wonder if Mrs. T, in her 25 years of teaching kindergarten, has ever had a student who suffered so much through such an innocent assignment.