I knew when I put dinner in the crock pot that tonight would be the night. Penne pasta with chicken in red sauce; what person in their right mind can refuse something that tasty?
It seems almost unfair that karma would have such a good memory. I can remember being a supremely judgmental seventeen-year-old who watched from the perch above my nose as my sister catered to her son’s four food groups: hot dogs, chicken nuggets, ramen noodles…oh wait, there were only three.
And then I started having children and along came Rex.
The child won’t eat. Actually, he’ll eat plenty as long as it is in one of his four food groups: hot dogs, chicken nuggets, ramen noodles…huh. Sound familiar? But at the seriously over-ripe age of six I am determined that it’s time for him to move forward into main stream dinner foods. (I should add that he will eat apples and grapes if I threaten to throw his stuffed animals in The Incinerator.)
It’s so easy to judge a parent in my situation. You think that if you simply don’t give them the option they will finally cave and choose food over starvation. Let me disprove that method right now: Rex has repeatedly chosen a 6:00 pm self-induced hungry early bedtime over chicken and rice. He has no problem not eating and would not be the first child to die from starvation in a pinch because he wouldn’t eat the rice and beans. Kids are way more stubborn than we give them credit for.
Tonight I came prepared. I made sure that he didn’t just come to dinner hungry, he came starving. I held back his afternoon snack and gave him nothing but water in hopes of adding desperation to the equation.
“Mom,” he said at dinner as I dished up the pasta, “I could sure use a hot dog…hot dogs are sure good, aren’t they Mom?” Then he smiled at me, all beautiful dimples and bright blue eyes plus a “feed me” look that would put any puppy to shame.
“Yeah,” I said, “There aren’t going to be any hot dogs tonight Rex, it’s pasta for you. Here’s your bowl!”
“Oh, um, no thanks Mom!” then he scatted from the room like a cat running from work boots.
Forty minutes later. “Gee Mom, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Something’s wrong with my tummy…maybe you could get me something to eat?”
“Sure!” I said, “I’ve got some noodles downstairs for you–”
“Ramen noodles?!” he clasped his hands in front of him like it was Christmas morning.
“No. Penne noodles. From dinner. If you’re hungry you can eat what everyone else ate.” I tuned my heart to 101.6 The Grinch and coldy ignored the drooping face. This is what makes you a good mom, I told myself. Good mother’s know when to put their feet down.
Me and my feet weren’t prepared for what came next.
After reading to Harrison and June I went in search of Rex. I hadn’t wanted to rock the boat and he knew we were reading, so I assumed he was busy playing before bedtime. Instead I found him laying on his bed in what appeared to be slumber.
I leaned in to kiss his cheek and he let out the most heartbreaking little sob you’ve ever heard in your life. Quickly covering his eyes with his hands and trying to hold his tears in, he curled away from me and cried.
“Baby!” I said, patting his weepy little shoulder, “What is the matter?”
“Well,” he said through little sobs and gasps and sniffs, “It’s just about a peanut butter sandwich…sob…I don’t know why…sob…I’m crying…sob…I’m sorry Mom!”
That’s when I sat up and took quick stock. My cute little nephew is now a 20-year-old man who eats everything in sight. I looked down at my little blond boy, crying over PB & J, and lunged from his room, sprinting to the kitchen where I threw down the fastest, most mouth-watering peanut butter sandwich the world has ever seen.
He’ll grow up, and someday I’ll wonder why no one eats the peanut butter anymore.