Thursday, March 10, 2016

Seeing Green

The good news is, my son is definitely NOT color blind.  Wyatt can spot the tiniest speck of any green vegetable, no matter how carefully disguised, and once it's been located, that's it.  He won't eat it. I was telling Jayna recently that I preferred he had spaghetti instead of mac'n'cheese because at least he was getting some vegetables.

"Vegetables?" she repeated.

"Yeah, the tomatoes in the sauce."

"There's not really much there, Mom."  She thought for a second, probably picturing the hefty pile of Parmesan I add to his spaghetti, and said, "So, by this logic, I guess cheese pizza also has vegetables?"

"Yes," I said.  I mean, obviously.

"But wait," she said, "aren't tomatoes actually fruit?"

Ugh.  Technicalities.

And anyway, she's not one to judge.  When she was just a little younger than him, and I was pregnant with Skyler, we used to read Franklin's Baby Sister.  Franklin's mom (a turtle, mind you) was expecting a baby, and Franklin would ask every day if it was time for the baby to come.  His mother would pat her tummy (again, no idea why) and say, "Not yet, but soon!"  Jayna loved this book, despite the questionable science.  We read it at least once a day.  

However, she too hated vegetables.  I remember one night sitting at the dinner table for ages one night because she had a mouthful of broccoli tucked into her cheek that she refused to swallow.  I didn't want her running around with food in her mouth, and since I had only one child, I could afford the wait.  But my patience ran out after about forty-five minutes and in total exasperation, I said, "JAYNA!  WHEN?! Are you going to swallow that bite of broccoli?!"

She looked at me with her big blue eyes and the little bulge of broccoli in her cheek, and answered in the sweetest voice, "Not yet, but soon!"

I don't normally completely despair of my son's dietary habits because he eats a lot of fruit.  I'm afraid I'm going to jinx myself by writing this, but he eats apples, pears, oranges, and bananas, and frozen blueberries by the bagful.  And blueberries are a superfood, right?

But the other night, after having major success last night getting him to eat some cauliflower curry, I decided I would reintroduce him to my good friend, broccoli.  I put a small morsel -- maybe half a Wyatt-mouthful -- onto his plate as I was serving his dinner and said, "Tonight I want you to have just this tiny bite of broccoli."  Before I had even set the plate before him, that broccoli had bounced back into the serving dish.  I barely even saw the blur that was his hand tossing it back.

"No, come on.  You can do it," I insisted, fishing the same piece out and plopping it onto his plate.  "It's tiny."  Back in the dish.  I served him again.  "Just one little bite."  Dish.  "Please." Dish.  "Pretend you're a brachiosaurus, and this is a tree." Back in the dish.  That poor broccoli was like a tennis ball at Wimbledon bouncing between his plate and the serving bowl. "I heard pirates really like broccoli.  Pretend you're a pirate."  I know, I'm the BIGGEST LIAR.  But it didn't work anyway.

Finally, Matt said (in his stern daddy voice), "Wyatt, keep that on your plate or eat it."  And so there it stayed until he had eaten the rest of his no veggie (not even by my standards) dinner, and it was lying on his plate all by its lonesome when he hopped up, ready to watch a movie with Lilly.

"Nope," I said, "you're not excused until you've eaten your dinner.  ALL. OF. IT."

He made a face and a sound of utter despair. My kids have a flare for the dramatic.  (No idea where that comes from.)  

Then a lightbulb came on in my head.  I remembered playing "baby sea otter" as we walked around the neighborhood the night before -- he jogged along beside us, using his "big swimming arms" because he was an otter swimming in the ocean and didn't complain at all about being tired or ask to ride in the stroller that he's now way too big for.

"Hey, Wyatt," I said, "pretend this you're a baby sea otter, and this is your clam."  I tore off the tiniest chunk from the already-small stalk of broccoli.  It was maybe the size of a pea, I'm not kidding.  "Just be a baby sea otter and try this much, and then you can go." 

Sure enough, those were the magic words.  He brought his two hands close to his chest, clutching that tiny, teeny piece of broccoli, just like those adorable otters.  In fact, that's what we all said -- "Ooooh, that's just adorable!" -- because he really likes it when we say that.  He grinned his dimply grin lifted the broccoli, if it could still be called that in such a minute amount, just in front of his mouth.  We were all watching him, holding our breath.  Would he do it?  Would he actually eat that microscopic bit of broccoli?!  He licked it.  He made a face.  

"Come on, Wyatt....!!!" My voice was tense but eager.  "Just pop it in your mouth and be done with it!"  This was serious white knuckle intensity, the kind you don't get from any Hollywood popcorn flick.  Trust me.

Finally... FINALLY! He put the broccoli in his mouth.  And promptly gagged.  I was staring at him, mentally willing that broccoli into his digestive system, but I heard a low moan from Matt, "Noooooo....."  My little guy has the strongest gag reflex, and it looked for a split second like everything was going to come back up.

But he fought past it!  Oh yes he did! He chewed!  He swallowed!  Angels sang!  We cheered!  

He declared, "Mmm!  That was good!" and gagged again for good measure.  

"So that's just gratuitous gagging," Matt commented as we all sighed happily and wiped the sweat from our brows and got up from our seats.  Some of us may have even brushed a happy tear off our cheeks.  And for a second, I seriously considered trying to get him to finish the rest of that little stalk of broccoli.  "Do you want some more?" I asked Wyatt.

"Nononononono!" He shook his head and waved his hands vigorously in front of him.

I decided not to push it any further.  I'm slowly learning, after more than sixteen years of motherhood, that you can guide your kids a lot -- and you should definitely try to shape them into kind, polite, compassionate people who recycle and make their own beds just because they enjoy a tidy room and even eat their vegetables. But ultimately, these are things they have to decide to do on their own.  With a huge helping of immeasurable grace, it can happen, too.

One tiny speck of a green vegetable was in Wyatt's stomach, along with the rest of his dinner.  (*praise hands!*)  And I hope and pray that someday, preferably before he's an adult, he'll be able to eat broccoli without having to pretend he's a baby sea otter.  It could make for some awkward first dates if he doesn't.

And after all, blueberries are a super food.

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