It’s a bit ironic really that I’ve written a blog called the Marmite Kid about Jonah, my son, considering his idiosyncratic relationship with food.
We’ve moved on from telling people that he’s a fussy eater to saying that he has special dietary requirements because we tend to find that shuts them up a bit more.
I find that people have a weird thing about food and kids. Having a healthy appetite and eating everything and anything in sight is seen as a mark of achievement. Parents of fussy eaters can be made to feel that they are somehow failing if their child won’t wolf down whatever is put out in front of them.
I have two kids, one, Evie, who will eat pretty much anything (except porridge and bananas) and one who won’t, Jonah. So therefore, how can my parenting be judged?
Personally, I pay very little attention to it. As a former dancer, I was surrounded by people watching what they put in their mouth, but after five years of teaching dance at the Rhodes Farm Clinic, a unit for young people suffering from eating disorders, I understand that sometimes you should not put so much emphasis on food.
The best thing about Jonah’s diet is the reaction it causes in other people. We recently went to a McDonald’s party and the host was dumbstruck that all Jonah requested was a bottle of water. No milkshake, no chips, no burger, no nuggets, just his usual lunch, which of course I brought with.
In fact, meal times with Jonah is pretty straightforward. For breakfast he has a big bowl of porridge with honey. For lunch, honey sandwiches on brown bread (no crust), a fruit stick, crackers, custard creams, pom bears, yogurt and a bottle of water. Dinner is a bit more adventurous with a sausage (skin off), beanz, cucumber or even pizza.
Snacks are fine as he likes apples and strawberries and I never leave the house without a bag of crackers or brioche. Although he is partial to a little bit of milk chocolate, what he won’t do is consume the crap that most kids have on a daily basis. Offer him sweets and he’ll simply say, “No, thank you.”
Consequently, he is actually very healthy (according to the doctors), his teeth are shiny white (according to the dentist). So it is only other people’s strange reactions that we have to deal with.
The other day, Evie said to me: “Mum I feel sorry when people offer Jonah a sweet because they just don’t understand why he doesn’t want it.”
Jonah’s relationship with food is very likely to be based around control and him feeling scared and out of control if he is given something new to try. The child development doctor we saw said that you can try showing the child the same food up to 15 times before they are likely to accept it but in her opinion this approach didn’t even work with her own children.
So what is the answer I asked her: “When Jonah is older and is at his girlfriend’s house and her dad says eat up your greens, the chances are he just will,” she said.
But one of the things she did ask Jonah was if he had been on a plane. And the reason being was because for fussy eaters, parents often stop exposing them to new situations because they are worried about if they will eat anything.
This is totally understandable but shouldn’t stop your child from enjoying all that life has to offer. This summer we went to California for a month and carted around with us four boxes of porridge, six packs of crackers, custard creams, pom bears, fruit sticks and a whole load of honey!
Little did we know you can buy most of the items in California. And we also discovered another brand of porridge that passes muster. Life is full of surprises.