He’s Got Your Number

The other morning I was sitting in the rocking chair in Babyman’s room, eating a bowl of cereal while he played with blocks.  Eventually (as is the ritual), he clambered up into my lap and said “C’I have some twiggies, Mommy, please?”  (He calls it twigs because, well, that’s what it’s called — Trader Joe’s Twigs, Flakes, and Clusters.  Which is appetizing, no?  But anyway.)  So I gave him a spoonful, not noticing that there was the tiniest little chunk of strawberry embedded between the flakes.  Moments later, Babyman made that face that triggers the old “palm under the mouth” reflex from mothers everywhere, and I was holding a ball of chewed-up cereal in my hand.  “Oh, did you get a bit of strawberry in there?”  He looked at me very seriously.  “That was scary, Mommy.”

Scary?  Really?

Not long ago I mentioned to Babyman’s teacher that he doesn’t really care for fruit and she looked at me, agape, before recovering: “I’m so surprised to hear you say that, because he eats everything here.”

Naturally, I chose not to believe her; why would Babyman eat fruit from his teachers when he spurns it from his mother, who puts a heaping teaspoon full of love into every meal?  But then I began to notice little things.  Like he came home one day and asked for honey.  “When have you had honey, Babyman?”  He replied in singsong, “With aaaapple sliiiiices!”

Of course!  Apple slices and honey!  I should have thought of that myself!  And would you know, for the next few days he got apple slices with a bit of honey “dip it” at every dinner, and would you know…he spurned it, every time.  Daycare – 1.  Mommy – 0.

My husband and I oscillate between a sort of militant, he’s-going-to-eat-grapes-so-help-me attitude and an I’ll-pick-my-battles approach.  Some weeks I give him fruit on his tray at every meal, and other weeks I stick to the tried and true — which is to say, freeze-dried bananas and mangoes from Trader Joe’s, along with mango smoothies.  To be honest, it sort of depends what comes in the old CSA.  If there’s a lot of melon, I give melon a try.  If it’s a lot of plums, well, I don’t really like plums, so I don’t force it.

But here’s the thing: If he eats everything at daycare, and some things with me, he won’t touch nutritious food with a ten-foot pole if he’s with his grandparents.  My mom says, “I know you want him to eat those banana chips, but he just doesn’t like them.”  Whaaaat?  He LOVES them.  He asks me for them every afternoon.  But he knows that if he just holds out long enough, eventually Nana will give him some chocolate frozen yogurt.  And if there’s gonna be yogurt, he might as well save room.

It’s brilliant.  And frightening.

Daycare is like a little socialist state populated entirely by toddlers: they all call each other “my friend” and they all eat the same snack at the same time.  He knows this, and he goes with it.  At home, he’ll weather the melon weeks stoically, because he knows that eventually we’ll get tired and go back to bananas.  And with Nana, well, let’s just say that on “Nana Thursdays” he wakes up and declares, “Today I will play with race-cars — and eat chocolate!”

So he’s got my number.  That’s cool.  Between the four or five people who care for him the most over the course of the week, we’ve got our nutritional bases covered…all the way down to the occasional (ahem, Thursday) treat.  But I do know now that he ain’t a baby anymore.  He’s in the “testing twos” — and we’ve all got to stay on our toes.

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