Friday, November 15, 2013

Feeding a Four-Year-Old: the Most Impossible of Tasks

At Atticus's parent/teacher conference last week, his teachers showed concern over the fact that Atticus has not once been willing to eat the snack that is offered at school.  When they asked him what kind of snacks he eats at home, he answered, "Chinese broccoli."  (Last year when his teacher ran into the same issue and asked the same question, he answered, "Paneer.")

We do not eat Chinese broccoli and paneer as snacks in our house.  I promise.  And I know both of those foods are nutritious and a sign of good food management on our part.

But here's my problem.  The kid won't eat but a small handful of foods and it is driving me insane.  I have tried everything to introduce (a nice word for literally trying to force down his throat) diversity into his diet, but it's not happening.  And surely, yes, we could argue that Chinese broccoli and paneer are diverse and they are, but I mean diverse variety.

I have tried everything.  I am at my wit's end.  Here is the list of what I have to work with:


String Cheese
Flat Cheese (Colby Slices)
Shredded Parmesan Cheese
Plain Spaghetti Noodles
Turkey Bacon
Chicken Noodle Soup
Chicken Tenders
French Fries
Graham Crackers
Chinese Broccoli
Indian Potatoes
Garlic Naan
Sticky Chips (Chips and Cheese)
Celery and Carrots with Dip
Peanut Butter
Soft Pretzels
Pretzels and Chips
Carrot Fruit Smoothie

What I have listed here is the entire list of food my four-year-old son is willing to eat.  Okay, not entire. I did not include the myriad of sweets he is willing to eat as those are many and not the point.  This list is literally every food I have to choose from when making his three meals a day.  Notice, while peanut butter and cheese are on this list, bread is not.

And maybe this list looks long to you, but please consider that three times a day, seven days a week equals 21 meals a week, not including snacks.  Also, please note what is not on this list:  pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, lunch meat, bread, spaghettios, meatballs, bologna, pretty much any other food a kid will normally eat …

Please.  I beg you.  Any suggestions?  I have tried the following:

1.  Only served the food that the adults in the house are eating and waited for hunger to do its job.  (NOTE: It is a lie when they say children will not let themselves starve.)

2.  Hidden new foods in foods he approves.  (NOTE: My son is very smart and very particular and head-bangingly stubborn.)

3.  Bribed him with treats or iPod time or toys.  (NOTE: Somewhat limited and positive results.)

4.  Screamed at him.  (NOTE: This never feels good or right, but in the moment …)

5.  Sent him to his room.  (NOTE: Our current strategy, and by strategy I mean what I'm doing to avoid a real come-to-Jesus moment with him).

Suggestions?  Advice?  Offers to reprogram him?  Is every kid like this?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Problem with Writing Memory

I just finished a really great read, Annie's Ghost, by Steve Luxenberg.  The book follows Luxenberg's  search to find out about the sister his mother hid from her family her whole life.  A few weeks before his mother dies, she reveals the sister to a social worker who then mentions her to the family.  All are shocked.  

As a writer and journalist and son, Luxenberg takes on the awesome task of trying to uncover the sister Annie's story.  This involves a thorough investigation into the mental health system in Michigan, particularly focusing on the city/asylum called Eloise in Detroit.

Here's an interesting paragraph that nicely crystallizes the essential problem with writing nonfiction, particularly distant histories:

(Anna, in this paragraph, is a cousin who knew his mom's secret about Annie, the hidden sister):

"This is a case history of the difficulty with reconstructing long ago events, of the intricate patters of trouble caused by time and memory.  Here I am, reinterpreting my mother's life, trying to replace the distorted picture that I grew up believing with the part that had been airbrushed out, and now I have two versions of this key moment when Mom is declaring her desire for secrecy.  While I have no doubts about the crux of Anna's story -- I know, after all, that Mom did keep the secret -- which version comes closest to how Mom actually expressed that desire?  Was she elliptical and polite, "I would appreciate it …," as Anna's first version suggests?  Or did she issue the equivalent of an ultimatum, "Anna, you are welcome in my house only if …," as her second version implies?  And even if Mom's exact words had been imprinted somehow in Anna's memory, what about Mom's inflection,her demeanor, her body language?  Was she stern, or sad, or nervous, or demanding -- None of the above?  All of the above?  -- when she branded Annie as a taboo subject in her house?

Those nuances lie beyond my reach.  I cannot wrest them, undistilled or unvarnished, from Anna's memory.  Fifty years later, this is the best my cousin can do."