This here bringer of the pooper to the fun party

Short stack

One of the most obvious things I inherited from my father, other than the shape and length of my body, my chin, my forehead, my ears, and that highly flammable sense of righteous indignation that usually erupts in the middle of 1) the local news, 2) traffic, and 3) phone calls with customer service personnel who do not speak English, is a love for greasy spoon diners. The dirtier the place the better, maybe because that is somehow proportional to the amount of butter they use in their pancakes. If my father were given the choice between an expensive dinner with the current Republican president or a lunch alone at a truck stop diner that is cooking its hamburgers in a vat of bacon grease collected over the period of fifteen years, he’d say, DO NOT FORCE ME TO MAKE THAT CHOICE, GEORGIE.

Our favorite local greasy spoon is a place called The Blue Plate, and we often go there for brunch on the weekends, mainly because it’s one of the only non-chain sit-down restaurants that has something on the menu that Leta will eat. She always orders the home fries which are basically potatoes cut into squares and then fried. And then she eats half of a bottle of ketchup. Is it the healthiest meal? Of course not, but we’ve run it by her pediatrician who has eight kids, one who was exactly like Leta, and he said, look! She’s getting potassium! And ketchup is sometimes made out of real tomatoes! So stop coming in here with these stupid concerns and call me when she’s managed to lodge a quarter in her nostril.

A couple of weeks ago when we were on our way to brunch Jon quietly talked to me in the front seat about how he wanted to try to get Leta to try pancakes that morning. We both understand how important it is to provide a united front when it comes to disciplining your kids (when spanking, both parents should use the same wooden instrument) or trying to teach them anything, and we’re usually very good about that, except when it comes to her eating habits. Because that is a battle I specifically chose to stop fighting. It was taking years off my life and making me so crazy that getting up from the dinner table and counting to a hundred was not calming me down one bit. In fact, it gave me more time to think about HOW INSANE my child was that she wouldn’t eat a peanut butter sandwich. WITH JELLY. WHICH IS SUGAR. SUGAR ON BREAD. A kid who won’t eat a certain type of sugar. So trying to exert any influence on that was like going, you see that nuclear bomb over there? I think I could defeat it with this here spitball.

But I was in a good mood that morning, had slept in past eight o’clock and that had made my brain a little woozy and disoriented, and I was all what year is it? So I agreed to support him in his attempt. There we were whispering in the front seat of the car about how we were going to convince our daughter to eat a pancake. If that is not the dumbest first world conversation. Other ones we’ve had in the past few weeks:

This iPhone is too heavy.

Someone was using my favorite treadmill this morning, so I was forced to use the stationary bike.

This refrigerator isn’t big enough. Let’s buy another one and put it in the garage.

So we’re sitting there waiting for the server to bring us our food, and when he sets down Jon’s plate Jon immediately mentions that he can’t wait to eat his yummy pancake. I don’t say anything because I want to gauge Leta’s reaction, and it is exactly what I had expected it to be: “Pancakes are yucky!”

Yes, pancakes are yucky, puppies suck, and rainbows are boring. And the old part of me that gave up this battle a few years ago is starting to rumble a bit, and I have to bite my lip. Because I want to stand up and yell IT’S NOT LIKE WE’RE ASKING YOU TO SEVER YOUR OWN ARM WITH A BUTTER KNIFE, KID. But I remain calm and say, “Actually, Leta, pancakes are pretty good. They taste like cake.”

And in turn she replies, “But cake is yucky, too!”

Jon and I ignore this obviously misinformed statement and continue to mention the yummy pancake for the next half hour, and occasionally he offers her a bite. She continues to refuse. Want a bite of a yummy pancake? No. How about now? No. Now? No. Mmmmmm, this yummy pancake is really yummy, would you like a bite? No. How about I grab it off the plate and aim it at your head like a frisbee? No. Are you even paying attention to me? No.

And this is where the teamwork, the united front comes in, because it suddenly occurs to me to tell her that the syrup tastes like candy, and right when I say that Jon nods furiously and suggests that she dip her finger in the syrup and touch that finger to her tongue. The mere mention of candy causes her to sit up straight, and for a second we both get the sense that she is trying to figure out if it’s worth it to give in and let us win, especially if we’re telling the truth. What if it does taste like candy? Wouldn’t it be stupid to sit there with all that candy a few inches away, just to prove a point? And the voice inside my head is going HAND HER THE BUTTER KNIFE AND DEMAND THAT SHE REMOVE HER ARM.

So she gives us both this look, like, you guys are so cute, look how hard you’ve been trying. Just this once I’m going to indulge you, but don’t say I didn’t warn you! And I’m waiting for the bleaaaah and yuuuuuccck and moaning and wailing, and I’m holding my breath as she dips her finger in the syrup. And as she brings that finger to her mouth the overwhelming aroma of AWESOMENESS hits her tongue, and without even tasting the syrup she yells, “I LOVE IT.”

What?

“I LOVE IT!”

Excuse me?

“I LOVE IT AND I WANT MY OWN. MY OWN PANCAKE.”

I’ve never seen Jon move so fast, he was out of his chair running to find the server. And in the five minutes it took for him to bring Leta Her Own Pancake we sat there holding our breath, not looking at anything other than the table, afraid that if we moved at all that particles in the atmosphere would shift and she’d change her mind. She’d say something and we’d barely nod or shake our heads. Briefly I looked up and caught Jon’s gaze, and I knew we were both thinking the same thing: that pancake would taste no where near as good as victory.

She ate every bite of that pancake, and she has eaten pancakes every single morning since then. It’s the first thing she asks for in the morning, Her Own Pancake, and I don’t think Jon has ever experienced more joy standing over the stove. Partly because she loves them so much, but mostly because I think he knows that I am now more willing to follow his lead in certain matters when it comes to our very unique daughter. Thank you, Jon, for expanding our daughter’s diet from four to five things.

  • I love how you guys take advantage of everyday things to find new ways to love each other. Thanks for sharing your lives:).

  • “We sat there holding our breath, not looking at anything other than the table, afraid that if we moved at all that particles in the atmosphere would shift and she’d change her mind.”

    Every one who has managed to live through parenting a 2-4 year old can relate to that; thank you so much for saying it out loud. Perfection.

  • Ris

    When I was little I survived on dry Cheerios alone for about six months, no joke. I read stuff like this and want to hug my parents and apologize over and over again. Now I’m 24 and eat many varied and exotic things. It gets better!

  • Victory! Congrats all around.

  • Our seven-year-old eats chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, pizza, pop tarts, and manicotti. Therefore, whenever we want him to try anything Italian, we tell him that it has manicotti sauce on it.

    It doesn’t work.

  • Angela

    SCORE!!!!! Ahhhhh…. the victories and thrills of parenting.

  • Apparently I have the boy version of Leta, and he’s got a rebuttal for every argument we pose.

    The other night he said he was moving to grandma’s. We tried to guilt him out of it by saying, “Wow. I’m going to be very sad and miss you sooooo much.” To which he promptly replied, “Yeah, it will be hard, but you’ll be OK.”

    Jesus.

  • nice story. hysterical as always (amazing how many uses we can find for that butter knife, self surgery is a new one)

    but give me a break Heather, a pancake?!! that is a piece of… sorry too cliché.

    call me when you get her to eat broccoli!

    btw, my daughter (at 19) still refuses jelly with her peanut butter. i think it may be some sort of conspiracy.

  • Nice work. Now I want pancakes, with butter and syrup and bacon, lots of bacon.

    I was going to suggest that you place a pancake near the poor girl and then have Coco LOOK AT IT.

  • Alice

    Good work! I hate the constant food struggle. My son has to be reconvinced about things he loves like pancakes, and even ice-cream. Let me tell you there is no bigger idiot than a mother trying to force her child to eat an ice-cream.

  • Blair

    I would literally eat anything as a kid, with the odd exception of raw tomatoes. What was wrong with me? Are all kids as generally finicky as Leta, or are they exceptions?

  • Too funny. Gotta love the pancakes! I know you lived in LA…did you ever go to “The Griddle” in Hollywood? Giant fluffy pancakes stacked high with tons of different flavors. We got banana (the bananas were in the batter mix and on top) I have no affiliation to this place, I just went there this weekend and our jaws were on the table when the pancakes were placed in front of us…it is brought to you by the owner because she loves to see the reactions. Yummy…okay, now I’m hungry.

    Side note: Furminator Rocks! – It is not kidding around, I also got the shampoo…

  • What are the other 4?

    Malka’s in “her beige period,” right now – and we have discovered that she’ll even eat EGGS if she can “dip dip” them in syrup.

    I’m currently on a quest to see how well syrup and broccoli go together.

  • Anne

    I was gonna recommend that book by Jessica Seinfeld too. I’ve only heard about it, but I’ve witnessed very picky children eating squash and carrots mixed into mac and cheese. They had no idea they were eating healthy food. Such a great trick!

  • “How about I grab it off the plate and aim it at your head like a frisbee.”

    GOT to be one of the best lines ever.

    And now is where I pause to say count your blessings. (But not in the tacky way it sounds.) But seriously, at least she’ll eat five things. It could always be worse. (You never tire of hearing that, right? …And then hearing the “my daughter” stories that follow.) My daughter, who didn’t learn to swallow due to severe dysphagia and reflux until very recently (and she’s almost four), survives on a diet of milk and condiments. Ranch. Ketchup. Mustard. Sour cream.

    Oh, and a Scooby Doo multi-vitamin. =)

  • I love it! We have the same battles w/ our 4 year old on an almost nightly basis. She eats chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and um…yeah that’s it. Every morning — mini pancakes. But the MUST be mini, not “regular” size.

    I try to get her to sample new things, and normally that turns into a screaming match and I lose my mind. The other night she cried and wailed about not wanting to try roast beef. And then she tried it. And was all, “oh wow, this doesn’t taste like dog shit.”

    I think she comes by it naturally. When I was a kid my dad made me sit at the dinner table for THREE HOURS because I refused to try fried rice. I had to sit there with a plate of cold fried rice in front of me. I never did try it.

  • Betty

    My 4 yr old is on the same pancake road, but she actually doesn’t even like the syrup.
    She likes maybe 6 things.
    pancakes. m&c. cheese pizza. oatmeal. apples.
    Usually.
    Every single day of preschool she has chicken noodle soup. Which I still puree (not the noodles) so she doesn’t know there are, gasp, “vegables” in it… heaven forbid she finds a miniscule chunk of carrot, celery or onion.
    Boy do I feel your pain/frustration/”whatever!!!”

  • JK

    omg, i laughed so hard when i read this that coffee came out of my nose. i swear.

    i have a 7 year old, and she WON’T EAT MACARONI AND CHEESE!!! I KNOW!! it’s crazy. i mean, who doesn’t like pasta and cheese?!

    every time i get her to taste something different, i too experience that surge of excitement.

    I love these kinds of posts–keep it up!

  • Ah Dooce, you poor poor child! Your heart must be broken trying to get her to eat things, I have to admire her stubbornness though! Gotta love a child that stands by her principles.

  • I remember the tweet about this. How exciting. My kid won’t eat anything “good” like ice cream or chocolate or cookies. He whines for pineapple or grapes or fucking bananas…what a wussy.

  • I have to give myself props, because just before I read it, I thought to myself – let her try the syrup first.

    But then, I have been at this for close to nine years now.

    I am jealous though…greasy spoon diners are not allowed in my part of Connecticut.

  • For years I’ve said that the sweet taste of victory is just like maple syrup with a hint of deep frier fat and a delicate ketchup reduction served on a butter knife while sitting in a pleather booth at a local diner.

    Everyone just laughed at me. But you know the truth.

  • Sadly, I also think cake is yucky. And I’m 27 years old. People keep asking me to try different versions — and I do — but I still hate it.

  • Susannah

    thank you for this post! my 5-year-old son does not eat much of anything, and not in any predicable pattern, but he LOVES candy! thanks for making me laugh out loud and know I am not alone.

  • Heather-

    You lucky dog, you! I’ve been fighting the picky eating battle with #1 for more than eight years now and I have never, ever been able to convince him that anything he has already decided he doesn’t want to eat is even remotely edible. Pineapple=poison, vanilla ice cream is vile (although strangely he will only eat chocolate shakes if they are made with vanilla ice cream– he’s infuriatingly idiosyncratic too). And when you said that you were going to try to get her to eat something new in a restaurant, I was waiting for a very public meltdown to ensue. We only do our halfhearted attempts at getting him to eat anything new at home, where no one has to watch him gag and no one can see the steam rising from my ears.

  • Leta sounds like a 4 year old. Wait, she IS 4!!

  • I love this story! I love that Leta is so unique.

  • Jon and Heather: 1
    Leta: 5 Million

    Nice of the little tyke to give you guys a victory.

  • Anonymous

    Love your site… I don’t have kids of my own (unless you count animals and you should) but I really enjoy reading about your trials with Leta. I still think she’s a candidate for Asperger’s Syndrome but even if she isn’t, she’s super fun.

    Thanks for all the fun posts and keep up the great work!

  • Anna-Laura

    i suggest getting her to try eggs by dousing scrambled eggs in syrup. my brother and i loved it as a kid, and i still have fond memories of drowning my scrambled eggs in syrup (we’d each eat about 4 eggs this way– i think we were around 7-9).

    i don’t do it any more, of course, since i like the taste, but sometimes i’m tempted….

  • Katherine

    Now that she’ll eat them, I know you won’t want to upset the very balance of the universe. HOWEVER, I can’t let this post pass me by without mentioning that we only last month found the best pancake recipe in the entire world. It’s been under our noses for 15 years, but we never tried it. The Buttermilk Pancakes in the Joy of Cooking — the most basic cookbook — are the best pancakes we have ever put in our mouths. They are SO SWEET and so much better than any other pancake I’ve ever had. I can’t say enough about them. (Not the regular ones, the buttermilk ones.) Even if you can’t get Leta to try them, by all means you and Jon should get right on it.

  • Shannon

    I’m so glad Leta has learned to embrace the awesome divine power of the pancake. I mean, come on, they made a whole house of them that went international. It doesn’t get much better than that.

    In fact, my own two-year old daughter said her first prayer this week. What did she pray for? Pancakes.

  • i’m 20 and still have major issues with food…i will eat a lot of things, now, but when i was little i once went a year eating mostly bologna and hot dogs (which now i can’t stomach) and until i was a teenager i’d bring pb&j sandwiches with me when we went out to eat because there would be nothing on the menu i would eat. i dont eat vegetables. i don’t eat red meat. i have issues trying ANYTHING new. i didnt eat plain pasta til i was 14, same with scrambled eggs.

    good luck with Leta. my only word of advice (which i think you already probably know) is DONT MAKE A FUSS. to this day i have an easier time trying new things around people other than my family, because if i tried, oh, say, a pepper at home my parents would be all “LOOK! IT DIDNT KILL YOU!”, etc. the more they bug me about it, the more my innate stubbornness makes me not want to try anything new ever again.

  • As a parent isn’t it amazing what we have to do to convince our kids to eat. I’m going to remember the “it tastes like candy” thing the next time we get to a sticking point.

  • Melissa

    Have you read Cheese, Peas, and Chocolate Pudding? It’s a kid’s book that my mom used to love when she was little, and it’s about a boy about as picky as Leta. They don’t publish it any more that I know of, but it’s online here: http://www.conigliofamily.com/Cheese.htm

    You might get a kick out of it.

  • amy

    This is hilarious because my 8 year old just jumped on the pancake bandwagon last week. Now she even eats them for dinner when last month, she wouldn’t go near them. As for PB&J, she loves peanut butter sandwiches but wants no part of the jelly. How can you not want them together? What is she crazy? But I’m like you, I gave up this fight a long time ago. I can’t figure out where she gets her sense of taste. She doesn’t really like chicken fingers and fries but she will eat plate after plate of california rolls with steamed broccoli on the side. Now, I know I love sushi but she’s been this way since she was 2. Oh well, its probably healthier for her.

  • Kperdue

    First time I’m prompted to write . . . very funny post and any parent can relate! Thanks for the entertainment!

  • Well, since we just graduated from weekly feeding therapy, I totally get this. It’s a fucking pancake. CAKE, it’s cake. And then when someone who has yet to breed SWEARS their future (perfect) child will eat whatever organic wholesomeness is put in front of them, I think see you on the frozen food aisle, buddy. See you there.

  • Jen

    What a wonderful post. I was on the edge of my seat, Would Leta try the pancake, Would she actually like it? Thank you, Heather, for this bit of entertainment in my afternoon. You’re hilarious.

  • Laura

    HAHA @ #10! (I eat the green M&Ms first because I don’t want them to feel left out or left behind).

    Great story!

  • Oh how you make me laugh! First of all, I WAS Leta once upon a time … only to this DAY I won’t eat pancakes, or any other breakfast foods. And I’m fine, really. I survived. I did have a daughter just like me … and she is now 19, touring Europe and taking photos of men with the worst comb-overs in the world. She survived okay too. But I did almost pull my hair out at times raising her. Wonder where they get their strong will and independent nature from?! 🙂

    I’m having a contest this week and there’s a $50 prize. Come visit if you have a chance!

  • I absolutely love your Leta stories! I was picky like her when I was little, but I’ve grown out of a lot of that, now (I’m 25). I still don’t like syrup, though. I eat my pancakes (and waffles) only with butter.
    I don’t have any kids yet, but my 6 year old nephew won’t eat anything BROWN….and it’s fun (for me since he’s not my kid) to try to talk him into eating brown things. Haha!

  • Karin

    I have an 80 yr old mother who reacts the same way. She is VERY hesistant about trying any new type of food, especially fast food that she has always been rather skeptical about in the first place versus home cooking. But when she takes the plunge and finally tries something new – well hey! it’s her new found favorite. I now have her hooked on Auntie Anne’s pretzel dogs and Pei Wei sweet and sour shrimp. Life is all about expanding those horizons!

  • Wait…Syrup tastes like CANDY? BRB.

    It’s like you never know what’s going to work. One day, reverse psychology seems like the way to go (“no, of course you don’t want a pancake. No, in fact, I forbid you to eat one”) and the next day, a direct approach does the trick. I guess part of their job is to keep you guessing.

  • Shannon

    Heather, the whole way through reading that I felt like you were talking about my daughter. I know that its only after its over that it seems funny.

    Julie is the same way, sooo difficult. She doesnt “wike” anything, so she says. If I can bribe her, or make it seem like I dont care if she eats or not then she does. She will eat it, and amazingly she doesnt despise it completely like she thinks that she does.

    People always ask me if she a fussy or picky eater, and I say no, she is a reluctant eater. I never know when she will eat. She does eat well while in the tub, that’s strange isnt it?

    Its so nice to read about other peoples experiences and to know that I am not the only parent who struggles with this. Thank you.

  • rg

    This whole raising children thing sounds complicated 🙂

  • good gracious. i was on the edge of my seat to find out whether Leta ate the pancake or not.

  • Christine

    YAAAAAAAAAAAyyy! Pancakes! And the wooden spanking implement! And the armpit hair! This has been a red-letter week. What a good girl that Leta is.

  • As a weathered veteran in the Great Kiddie Wars, I applaud your victory. I am encouraged by the thought of it. Good for you!

  • let me know when you need help with tofu, raw fish, and soy milk.

    i’ve had to convince half the people in my own family to sign on to these over the years, and, for the most part, i’ve been reasonably successful.