To my picky eater

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Darling child,

Tonight I served green eggs and ham for dinner. The irony was completely lost on you.

Green Eggs and Ham

You pushed it away without trying a bite, just as you do with most of the the conventionally colored meals we eat the remainder of the week.

I do not like them Sam-I-am.

You are probably as relieved as I am that we don’t fight about it anymore. The bribes to eat, the threat of punishment, the starving-you-out, the timer… all of those tactics produced zero eating and a multitude of stress.

Not in a car, Not in a tree.
I do not like them, Sam, you see.
Not in a house. Not in a box.
Not with a mouse. Not with a fox.
I will not eat them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere!

I’m glad we’re past that. Now we both know that you eat for YOU, not for me, and we are both the better for it.

But just because we don’t fight about it doesn’t mean I don’t care what you eat, because I care immensely.

You see, there are many different reasons to eat. Most of the world eats because they’re hungry. They eat whatever is put in front of them, because the choice is the little on the plate before them, or hours of painful hunger. Hunger is a great reason to eat.

Those with slightly more resources eat to be healthy. They have a choice, and need to choose a balance of foods to give them energy and nutrients. Food is human-fuel. Energy for living is a great reason to eat.

(As an aside, sweetie, there are many that eat for comfort, hoping that the full feeling in their tummies will somehow make the ache in their soul-hole go away. Your mama is one who too often eats to feed her feelings, and I’m working hard to know when my soul needs Jesus-food rather than ice-cream. Sadness is not a great reason to eat.)

Sweetheart, in this land-of-abundance we call home – we have never gone hungry, and we are spoilt for choice. So you don’t eat meat? That’s okay – there are a dozen other protein choices for you. You don’t like what’s on the menu? That’s okay, another snack or meal will be served within hours. Even as a picky eater, you can still never have to deal with hunger, and you can still find a healthy, balanced diet among these options.

My precious child, I am not worried that you will be hungry, and I am not worried about your health. The thing that concerns me most is not that you are missing out on food. The thing that concerns me is that you are worried out on what food represents: relationships.

Yes, we eat to abate hunger and to fuel our lives, but more than that I want you to know that food is the centerpiece of us living our lives together. We eat for joy. We eat in community. We eat for shared experience and shared conversations. We eat to welcome people into our home, and we show our acceptance of hospitality and welcome in their lives by accepting the cup of tea and plate of food which is passed our way. Meals together are the bedrock of friendships and communities: a shared pot is a shared life.

Dining together celebrates the diversity of cultures and tastes in God’s big world. A bite of a foreign dish is, quite literally, a taste of their world.

So, my beloved one, when Mommy urges you to try a bite, please know that it’s not because I’m afraid you’ll miss out on calories or calcium. It’s because I’m afraid you will miss out on community. I’m concerned your pickiness will, if left unchecked, lead you to say no to tastes and flavors of friendship. I’m afraid it will cause offense among those who might risk opening their lives and homes to you. I don’t want you to miss out on ministry and missions trips and pizza nights with friends because the food-issue causes so much tension.

I could not, would not, on a boat.
I will not, will not, with a goat.
I will not eat them in the rain.
I will not eat them on a train.

I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them ANYWHERE!

Your Daddy and I sometimes joke among ourselves that perhaps, one day, there will be a boy you like, and he will ask you out on a date and will take you somewhere special. We joke that he will order a dinner filled with tastes and textures you have never tried before, and that you – starry eyed and hormonal – will choose to try a hamburger for the first time rather than hurt the feelings of the anxious youth with the cute haircut and nervous smile. We tell ourselves that maybe, on that day, you will – for the sake of nascent love – sink your teeth into something new and say:

I like green eggs and ham!
I do!! I like them, Sam-I-am!

Because love is a great reason to eat.

you might also like: a mixed bag…. and my only original and best parenting tip

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16 thoughts on “To my picky eater”

  1. Bethany Armstrong

    Well, Bronwyn, this is officially my favorite piece you have ever written. I love it. It made me think, and it made me laugh, and it made me save it as a PDF and put it my “Save for the Boys to Read Someday” file. Nice work. 😉

  2. haha – could so relate to this – I had a picky eating daughter, thank goodness she has finally (now 30 years old) got to the stage of trying new things – but we still cant eat a banana in front of her!

    1. Can’t even eat a banana in front of her? Wow! Poor girl…. I can’t imagine suffering at the hands of other ruthless public banana eaters all my life!

  3. Our son is like me: he’ll try anything and likes much of what he tries. Our daughter loves food from all over, but is not in the least carnivorous so her choices are a bit limited. Still, they’ve found that when overseas they can each find much to enjoy, and that food is often the planking on the bridge of hospitality that brings people into community. I bet yours will get there too, Bronwyn, sooner or later.

    1. I’m more like you and Kyle. Jeremy is a little more like the Fall ladies. I often tell Teg: “mommy has the most fun of all eating, because I get to enjoy EVERYTHING.” Glad to hear travel has extended your children’s culinary boundaries… That is very encouraging to me!

  4. I was definitely a VERY picky eater as a child (I’m still picky, but not as much) and I’m sure my mom had similar concerns. However, I had never thought about this issue becoming a barrier to community. But as you so eloquently state—-‘breaking bread’ together really is an essential part of building relationships. Thank you for this charming, yet profound, post! It’s definitely provided me food for thought (ok, that pun WAS intended ) in case our future kids inherit my picky eater genes.

  5. Beautifully written. I was sort of a picky eater but that changed quickly because my mom was on my case. Now I am ever so grateful that I love trying new things, although most times its just that one time 😉

  6. I really enjoyed this article as a cross-cultural trainer! We live in the Netherlands and are constantly surprised to find that in fact food doesn’t represent relationships here! Food is not the fuel that keeps the party going; it is not the basis of shared community! So we have saved this article to help when we train Dutch workers going to different cultures to try to get them to understand that actually: “Meals together are the bedrock of friendships and communities: a shared pot is a shared life.”
    Thank you!!

    1. Kathy, that is FASCINATING! Definitely something i want to ask people about when I visit the Netherlands next month!!! (I do wonder with my daughter though: if she were in the Netherlands and offered bread and cheese for breakfast and she refused it because the bread was too dark and the cheese wasn’t mozarella, would she still not be causing offense? Even if food is not an overt basis for community, would the refusal to eat at someone’s table not be seen as a snub of their hospitality at some level, or would it just be seen as “oh, I guess you don’t need to fuel up this morning, and that’s ok?”)

      1. Just came back to this blog post in preparation to quoting you and realised you’d responded! Sorry! To be honest I think she probably wouldn’t cause offence but the response would be as you say in the last line! The dutch are generally very direct and ‘say it like it is’ so perhaps would not be offended by your little ‘truth-sayer’. But yes – maybe at some level it would be a snub but I’m just not so sure!

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