Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It's What's For Dinner

Every father fears for his child’s future. It’s easy to lose sleep at night worrying if your little boy will do well in school, make friends, or ask if he can join ballet.

But for me, one of my worst fears was almost realized before my son turned two.  He quit eating meat.  Not that there’s anything wrong with being a vegetarian.  There are plenty of actors, university professors, and even real people who don’t eat meat.  I am just not one of them.

For me a balanced meal is one that includes beef, pork, and chicken.  So I was understandably dismayed when my son turned up his nose at his meat one afternoon. I grew concerned when he did it again the next day. I was severely alarmed the day after that. On day four of his self-imposed meat strike I considered calling the nurse hotline.

Surely a child whose father grills ribs in the garage in December just because he misses the charcoal taste should be more inclined to be a meat eater, shouldn’t he? It didn’t matter what kind of meat it was. Hamburgers, chicken strips, fish sticks, even hot dogs, barely identifiable as meat, were rejected.

With a two-year-old, one’s options are limited when it comes to convincing him to eat. You can pretend the spoon is an airplane, a rocket ship, maybe even a helicopter, but if the toddler isn’t into winged modes of transportation, you’ll get nowhere.

I don’t know why parents think that forks resemble airplanes. And I don’t know why we expect children to respond to this. Maybe it is a holdover from prehistoric days, when food was brought to hungry cave babies by pterodactyls. Maybe it's supposed to appeal to the inner risk-taker in a child. Certainly any kid who thinks diving headfirst off a toddler bed into a pile of freshly folded clothes can see the inherent risk in eating food delivered by a flying fork, and he should respond in excitement.

Just when I was seriously considering thinking about calling the doctor, even though my son's next checkup wasn't scheduled for six months, he returned from the dark side. After I put on a veritable air show with meat on a fork one day, my son ended his meat refusal policy.  Maybe he finally saw the error of his ways. Maybe it was the pterodactyl noises. Or maybe he just pitied me making a fool of myself.

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