It’s only penne pasta

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.


  1. Kendra says:

    Oh, this broke my heart! Sweet little Rexy, trying so hard not to be upset. I’m with you, the kids will grow up fine, at least that’s what I keep reminding myself when all Jillie wants to eat are jelly and butter sandwiches and skittles! Miss and love you…

  2. Aww, poor kid!! I’m sure he will turn out mostly OK. 🙂

  3. Brenda says:

    You’re a good mom:-)

  4. Yep, you’d have thought ramen noodles were spun from GOLD, by the quantities I was buying it in for Daisy when she was younger. (Of course it didn’t help that the hubsters was a ramen fiend as well.) But now, at the wise old age of almost-fifteen-mom, she’ll eat whatever I put in front of her (except shark & squid – which are a.o.k. w/ me since the idea of either curdles my blood). She’s strong & healthy and, best of all, quite content w/ the concept of food = fuel. I can’t say the same for some of her peers these days, as we’re aware of an alarming increase of eating disorders amongst the girls at school. I’m grateful that we hung in there with her, even for the fussy stage, and she can avoid food battles & have a healthy opinion of her body & how she powers it now. Worth every embarasing mac n’ cheese-in-the-high-priced-gourmet-restaurant adventure we had…as well as those occasional nights when her preferred snack of choice is raw ramen sprinkled in seasoning. (Bleck!). It gets better. And he’ll always remember & cherish the memory of the time you superheroed-up & saved the day w/ PB&J. You’re a good mom. ::hugs::

  5. I am a subscriber, so I don’t usually come and comment, but had to today. Our oldest is now 7, and at the age of 2 was diagnosed PPD-NOS. He also has texture issues. For literally 2 years and 4 months, he ate ONLY Ritz crackers with peanut butter, yogurt, and drank milk. When he was 3 we found out he was severely lactose intolerant, so that took the yogurt away, and Lactaid milk is so ridiculously expensive that we had to limit that. At some point we worked things out, and today he’s eating a bit better – he’ll try a bite of almost anything. But meals are still a struggle. On nights when I’m fighting so hard for that 2nd bite, I remember back to our Ritz cracker days, and soften up a bit. He’s healthy, strong, and honestly, most people don’t even know he has autism anymore. So I guess his awful diet didn’t do too much damage. 😉

  6. This one had me in tears. My baby was born with a heart defect and has had three open heart surgeries so far. She is 9 months old and has been fed with a feeding tube her whole life. I fight every day just to get her to taste baby food. I love that you gave Rex his pb&j…I pray every night that some day my sweet little girl will put something in her mouth…anything.

  7. Ahhhh takes me back to the days of a younger Jacob. Diet pretty much the same too just add mac n cheese to the mix. And not the cheap mac n cheese It had to be Kraft until I found a knockoff that would “suffice.” The child lived on pb&j for dinner for many years. Somewhere along the line, probably around 8 to 10 we started insisting that he at least try what I had made for dinner. Gradually his tastes expanded and apparently so is his waistline while he is away on a mission! I remember the day he finally succumbed to our delicious mashed potatos (they have cream cheese in ’em for cryin’ out lound!) and now he can’t get enough of them! I have often wondered what was going through his mind when it came to food. Fear of the unknown? Texture issues? I don’t even think he knows!