An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

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.

  • Lovebuzz38

    I think she just felt sorry for you guys. You were trying so hard!

  • sarah

    this IS progress! yippee!

    Now, if you can make that pancake at home, with whole wheat flour, a couple of eggs and put fruit in it .. you have a super healthy breakfast. But .. go .. slooooooooowly!

  • Mmmm….I love pancakes too! Smart girl for saying “I love it and I WANT MY OWN!” Yes!

  • Anonymous

    Woooo for pancakes – that was such a cute story.

    I’m not lovin the daily Chuck picture tho. I know he is your baby and you would do anything and everything for him but it just reminds me of a horrible story that was in the news…

  • Jason

    Blue Plate is LIFE! I actually saw you there once, but was too chicken to say anything.

  • Yeh, what the hell is UP with kids today not eating yummy stuff like hot dogs and pancakes and watermelon? Hand to god, we have to BEG the Bunker Monkey to just PLEASE have ONE piece of watermelon, I swear it’s good! In my day, we only turned down nasty food like brussels sprouts. Damn kids.

    I have also given up on the mealtime fights. I try to make at least one thing I know he’ll eat, and if he won’t eat then he won’t. It’s not like the kid’s gonna STARVE, anyway.

    A couple things work for us, sometimes (and sometimes they don’t): Racing daddy to see who eats all his food first (hey, I know the heimlich, I can handle choking, but to have to beg him ONE MORE TIME to eat a damn hot dog, is beyond my capacity); the “oh, this is GROW-UP food, not for LITTLE kids. I don’t think you should eat it.” ploy; and the “I’m going to eat your food! You better eat if before I do!” ploy. Hey, I never said I had any shame.

    But then, he also likes to watch Blue Man Group, so I blame the husband for his faulty genes.

  • Anonymous

    Hi…I don’t think there is anything “wrong” with Leta. In fact, I have a son who is very much like her. I know you don’t need parenting advice, but I found some solace in the Love and Logic series. After listening to the first CD, the hair that I had ripped out of my head in patches actually started growing back. Its not perfect, but at least I’m not trying to “fight” my kid anymore.

    Thanks for the great stories!

  • Mmmmm…diners. I loved both Ruth’s Diner and Blue Plate when we lived in SLC. My mouth is watering thinking about polenta benendict.

    I can only imagine how excited you were to see that she added another food to her very short list of acceptable foods.

  • As someone who would eat ONLY peanut butter sandwhiches, adding jelly only at the threat of punishment, for oh about the first 8 years of my eating life, I can only say, IS SHE NUTS?

    But what I really want to say is that I love your writing, tone, sarcasm, humor and honesty. I really enjoy reading your blog.

  • I’m emphathising with Leta here because I hate nothing but Marmite on toast (no butter), a few select raw vegetables, and plain potatoes, rice and pasta when I was her age. Oh and sweets, yes. I still have a hideous salt habit because nothing tasted of very much.

    To reassure you, I now eat almost entirely normally and even sometimes find myself tutting when I see my friends pick their cucumber out of their sandwiches.

    Along the way, though, I truly hated being made to eat things I didn’t like, and could convince myself that they made me sick, and I think on some weird level most kids will know if they’re not getting something they need in their diet. My mother had massive guilt attacks when my hair started periodically falling out and when I was as thin as a reed but apart from being fairly short I turned out fine, and I think she and you have the right approach: tempt, tease, persuade, but never force the kid to eat anything. If she won’t, just figure it’s her loss. I regret all those years I didn’t eat all this delicious stuff I used to spurn, but I’d rather that than not have had the choice.

  • Jacmo

    Yeah that. Substitute Peanut butter toast for pancake. Eating is one of the few things these little beings control. We all need to have choices.

  • Katie

    Fantastic. Score one for the parents. Man, I haven’t been to The Blue Plate in years…and I don’t even know why, it’s not like I live THAT far away.

  • Anonymous

    Dang, now I want pancakes.

  • becky

    am so jealous – The Blue Plate was featured on Food Network (Diners, Drive-ins and Dives)…you all are so lucky.

  • how the hell could anyone NOT like the pancakes there??

  • Nice! I’m just going to sit here and take notes, because I fear we are raising one of those as well.

  • AG

    MMmmmmmm, Pancake! Bring on the chocolate chips.

    Heather, reading Dooce gave me soooo much courage to blog about my own depression caused by death in the family, my mother’s nervous breakdown and my subsequent FAT ASS.

    I’d love you to check it out.

    http://www.100daysinbed.blogspot.com

  • Jessica M.

    A Great Victory! As I was reading I was rooting for the two of you =).

    Ps. Boyfriend is 26 – has never, and will never eat a PB&J. It’s a sad thing.

  • Theresa

    Mmmmmmm, buttermilk pancakes with bananas, blueberries and pecans cooked into them. So yummy you’ll never eat syrup again. Just slather ’em with butter………..(sorry, had to wipe the drool off my chin)….. and chow down. And if you’re lucky enough to have them at Blue Heaven in Key West, you’ll want to move there immediately. But making them at home is a good alternative.

  • I remember the days when I refused to eat lasagna and cheesecake. A memory which always prompts “DEAR MOTHER OF ALL THAT’S HOLY, WHAT WAS I THINKING?”

    I hope you and Jon are reveling in your parental mastery.

  • Fight the Power , Leta ! =)

  • Oh, and re: the spoiled little girl comment, if that’s the case, then every single kid on the planet is a spoiled brat, because I have never known a kid who didn’t have SOME weird eating preference (only white foods….ketchup on everything…a strict diet if noodles and butter every day for two years…etc.) or other odd quirk (collecting scraps of paper; only wearing the color blue). As Emerson said, “Children are all foreigners.”

    Kids are weird little creatures, and the person who claims he or she can understand how their minds work is a lying bastard. 🙂 Proof positive: My own bunker monkey is currently trying to lick my feet. It is August. It is hot. I have been in sneakers all day. He doesn’t care (freak). His favorite thing to do is also to stick his fingers up into your armpits. “No pits!” is a well-known refrain in this house.

    Now back to the program at hand.

  • Aw that’s cute. Leta has huge personality.

  • That was the funniest thing I’ve ever read.

    My daughter was exactly the same way when she was little. She would eat chicken nuggets, pasta with butter and apple sauce. And like you, I didn’t fight it because I knew some day she would broaden her horizons and try new stuff. She is now 12 years old and will try just about anything we put in front of her. Her current favorite is guacamole and pico de gallo. I’m not even kidding. She begs me for it. And I move like my ass is on fire to get it for her before she decides she doesn’t want it anymore.

  • ana

    my step daughter doesn’t like to eat peanut butter because it gets stuck in her throat. she won’t eat hamburger, but she’ll eat steak. she’ll eat many more things than any other 4 year-old i know: goat cheese, sushi (only tuna), asparagus, etc. but to get her to even try a bell pepper was a big argument. kids are funny about food.

    my favorite story about my little sister and food: we’re eating ham. she tries it. she says: this is the BEST thing i’ve EVER eaten, what is it made out of? mom replies: pork, it is made from a pig. sister says: i am NEVER eating that again! (didn’t help that she just read charlotte’s web.)

  • If that were my sister she’d be eating the pancake with ketchup.

    She’s 23.

  • I still think throwing the pancake at her head like a Frisbee would have been just as much fun.

    My son LOVES pancakes as well, and usually uses about five pats of butter per cake. At least it’s one meal that has absolutely no association with ketchup.

  • For some reason this almost made me cry. Could it be the kid sitting next to me that will not eat anything besides chicken nuggets, grapes and honey mustard? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s the other kid sitting here that can’t eat anything mushy, or if it has touched another food on his plate. We constantly wait for Mars and Venus to align and all to be right with our world. Ain’t motherhood grand? If I didn’t love them so much, I’d throw them both out the window. Peace out…

  • Graygirl

    oh…..too funny! My youngest son was the same exact way. They used to give him awards in pre-school for trying a teeny tiny taste of something new. He was so picky and he wouldn’t eat ANYTHING!!!! I worried at first but the kid was the healthiest one of my three!!!! He now (22 yrs old) is a strapping 6′ and eats just about everything….mind you he still can be picky but nowhere near as bad as his youth. Good for you….you’ve got to pick your battles when raising kids or you will go crazy with guilt and worry over every little thing. Been there, done that! Let me know if you need help smacking all those that are going to tell you how wrong you are……

    ps: Did I use enough exclamation points????

  • Marianne

    As I kid, I lived mostly on pancakes, chicken fingers and fries, and plain spaghetti. The battle over vegetables or unusual foods only made me and my parents miserable. Now I’m in my 20s and happily eat pretty much anything! There is hope!

  • OMG. I almost just spit my coffee all over my computer screen and keyboard I was laughing so hard. Congrats on your major victory!

  • Beth

    I love how you brought it back around to the connection between a dad and his daughter (you and your dad, Leta and Jon). Very nicely done. It’s so cool that you guys raise her truly together, and give the lie to that old tired stereotype of the uninvolved, incompetent dad.

    Also, I show my 13-month-old son Chuck’s and Coco’s pictures every day; his first word was “dog,” and he loves any dog he can see. He finds Chuck especially to be a fine example of the species.

  • Amy

    Congratulations to you both, and congratulations to Leta, for outwitting the parents again! (I think she secretly KNOWS that pancakes are awesome, she just wants you to work for it) She should be on Survivor some day, or President…the President that eats pancakes with other heads of state! My daughter is a picky eater too, not in the “I hate that way”, but in the “I will sit here for 3 hours and do everything but eat” way. We have got her to try new food over the years by telling her she can’t eat it because she is just a girl…man, that gets her fired up and she will eat anything just to prove us wrong!

  • lisa

    yeah! love the candy idea! pure genius!

    i gave up on fighting about food, too. it was making me a very angry person. and for what reason? food? there are other things to worry about.

    my daughter will be 13 next month and just the other day out of the blue she asked me if she could try my salmon! i about fell off my seat. she loved it!

    have fun with leta. the journey makes it all worth while.

  • As a small child, I was a picky eater, too. My mother and I would have Aquarian standoffs across the kitchen table as she insisted that I try things, and I refused. I could usually wait her out — as soon as she left the room, I ran to the bathroom and flushed down anything that would fit.

    I only wanted to eat cheese omelettes or toast or anything from McDonalds.

    So, my mother decided to stop trying to force me to eat other things. Instead, she would only make me toast and/or cheese omelettes. PERFECT. Occasionally, I could even get her to buy me McDonalds food. One day, she bought me a book, Bread and Jam for Frances. And then she read it to me, religiously.

    It was the story of a cute little furry animal that only wanted to eat bread and jam — and her mother was quietly using psychology on Frances to get her to try new food. In the book, it eventually works. In my real life, I thought it was very cute of my mother to think it would work.

    As an adult, I am the one who will eat anything once and she is the one that turns her nose up (and makes faces and nearly yells out ala Leta) when it is suggested that she try something new, say sushi or fish.

  • You are so hilarious. And sometimes you actually make me want to have kids, which is quite a feat. But you manage to make somewhat normal kid stories engaging and interesting and you don’t seem like robotic shells of parent-people like most parents. So, yeah – stop making me want kids. They are drooly and poop and change your life so that you have to be responsible. 🙂

  • Teri

    As a child, I was a lot like Leta about eating. My mother gave up and made something separate for me most nights. This too shall pass. I really found things to be difficult to eat then though–I think some kids have stronger taste buds. That, and a devilish independent streak.

  • Three cheers for you!!! I’m so happy for your success. You are making slow but steady progress.

    BTW I’m still laughing about the “I love the tumble bus.” In our household that has become the code phrase for my reluctant willingness to try something new. I’ll give my husband a dubious look and then if it doesn’t turn out as bad as I expected, I’ll turn to him and say, “I LOOOVE the tumble bus.”

    And I’m a LOT older than Leta.

  • Beth

    My children are 9 and 6.5 and they won’t eat MASHED POTATOES. What kid doesn’t like MASHED POTATOES? I mean, really! i also dissemble tacos into a mess that I proudly call “Princess Nachos,’ and my 6.5-year-old eats them up and wants more! I love it when I totally outsmart a 6-year-old!!

  • Lynnie

    Many years have passed since my son was little, and while not too finicky, he knew which vegetables weren’t his favorites, like spinach, squash and mushrooms. “Cream of Yummy” soup soon became a favorite at our house, and he was never the wiser!

  • Jenn

    It took us two years to get our youngest (4) to try a waffle. We asked her when she was 3 when she would try it – she said “When I’m older.” So my husband got the bright idea of asking her the day after her birthday: “So, you’re older, is it time to try a waffle?”

    She’s had an eggo about every other day since then. (Don’t even get me started on why she won’t try peanut butter, cake or cookies. But candy – hells yeah.)

  • and here i am begging my kid to just please this one meal eat something that isnt a pancake. every fucking meal all i hear is I WANT PANCAKE PANCAKE PANCAKE. Sometimes the little shit changes it up and requests a pancake with syrup and cream (whipped cream) But DO NOT mix his whipped cream or the whole world will fucking explode.

    Fucking pancakes.

  • For about four years of my life I would only eat chocolate and things made from chocolate. Have you ever tried good old fashioned reverse psychology?

    Your blog is fantastic.

    Jenn

  • Yahoo! Victory tastes great!

    Seriously, thanks for this post. I need a reminder sometimes that I am not in control of my daughter’s food choices. I can put the food on a plate, but I can’t force her to eat it.

    My child is eighteen months old and doesn’t quite weigh 20 pounds. She did once, barely, but then she had a cold, and she hasn’t made it back yet. Her tiny size has made me to total maniac. “Evie, would you like more butter?”

  • Ellen

    Growing up, my mother regaled me with stories of my middle sister’s eating habits. She used to say that she would’ve given her a whole Hershey’s bar just to get her to eat something. I’m not sure it was picky so much as uninterested. See, my sister put mash potatoes on her bald head and decorated her forearm with blueberry juice. For years.

    She’s also the one who ventured forth to the neighbor’s house naked to ask my mother what she should wear.

  • I’m assuming since you have a gazillion readers that someone has already recommended Jessica Seinfeld’s book “Deceptively Delicious”. I highly recommend this book!

    From the website (www.deceptivelydelicious.com) Jessica Seinfeld, like many busy parents, struggled to get her three kids to eat healthily. After much trial-and-error — and many mealtime battles — she discovered a foolproof system: delicious and easy-to-make stealth recipes that sneak in puréed veggies so kids will never suspect the foods they love are actually good for them!

    So feed her all the chicken nuggets and ketchup she wants but hide the “good for you stuff” inside! Brilliant!

  • Ariel

    This is hands down the funniest thing I have ever read on this website. And YOU lady, are funny.

  • Sarah Lyons

    My EIGHT YEAR OLD daughter will still only eat 6 things. Eggo chocolate chip waffles, chicken nuggets, bacon, Easy Mac, meatballs, and stuffed manacotti. Oh, and the chicken nuggets dipped in BLUE CHEESE DRESSING. Will she eat spaghetti with her meatballs? No. Spaghetti and sauce are the exactly same tastes as manacotti (and much plainer), but will she eat them? Absolutly NOT. Will she eat any other type of macaroni and cheese? Nope, only Easy Mac. I gave up trying long ago. She will come to new things on her own. Like just the other day, out of the blue when she looked at the steak on my plate and said she wanted some. Now she wants steak for every meal. Darn expensive, but hey, we’re up to 7 things she’ll eat.

  • Cee

    I was Leta at that age (for several years all I ate were apples, peanut butter and fries). My parents tried and tried, resulting in many arguments and tears, but when they finally stopped pushing me, I began trying new things on my own. I’m grateful for their approach, because at that age I was too young to explain my sensory issues – some foods just “felt” wrong in my mouth, and I would literally gag. If they had pushed any harder, I’m sure I would have ended up with severe eating issues. But I managed to survive to my twenties, and now I eat almost everything.

    Almost. 🙂

  • Ron

    Heh. My 5 year old son wouldn’t touch peanut butter and jelly. I tried to explain to him that this was un-American, un-natural, and downright insane – but all to no avail. Until a couple of months ago that is. One day I came downstairs to find him sitting in front of the tv, watching the battle scene from the Narnia movie (over, and over, and over) with a whole loaf of bread, an open jar of peanut butter, and the now empty jar of jelly! I wasn’t even upset that about half of the jelly was on the living room rug (until I realized I’d have to tell my wife about the rug).

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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