Written by Stephanie Chandra.
When I was little, picky eating was never on my radar, so when my own little one transitioned from an adventurous eater to a picky one (somewhere around 3 or 4 years old), I found myself in unfamiliar territory.
What happened? We had introduced ALL THE FOODS. She ate different cuisines from around the world, weird sauces that occasionally caused mild allergic reactions, chopped salads like every other New Yorker, everything.
Abruptly, it seemed, she only wanted a handful of foods and nothing else. Not even pizza. Tricks to sell cookbooks in which you hide the foods you want them to eat in things they will eat were popular at the time. We tried them. I learned a lesson. You can’t hide a speck of pepper from a person who is highly sensitive to taste, textures and smells of food. They will notice it, and they will be bothered by it.
They can’t eat it, and you get frustrated. You keep trying. You order the quesadilla from the kids’ menu because it sounds plain. They can’t eat it, and you get frustrated. You cringe as parents humblebrag posts of kids eating broccoli. You quietly acknowledge judgements as you order the chicken and fries or mac & cheese again (because for some reason people will assume you have only ever introduced these things), but you ignore them because your child has to eat, and you know what they will tolerate today. Someone will say something harsh and misunderstanding about forcing kids to eat the only things you put in front of them. You ignore that, too. You’ve done that, of course. It doesn’t work.
I learned another lesson about sensory sensitivity. In a similar way to how I must cover my ears at painfully loud sounds (infernal blow dryers!) that don’t seem to bother other people in the slightest (except my sister!), my child was equally sensitive to foods. A reframing: some things were too loud for her, too.
A breakthrough? Not really. I still didn’t know what to do to get her to eat more than just that handful of foods. Frustrations continued. But you know how the universe occasionally sends you answers in ambiguous or difficult to comprehend ways? Not this time. It was perfectly transparent: our new friend and neighbor down the hall in our building was a picky eating coach. (Enter Jacky!) Enlightenment! Expertise! Insight! Advice! She understood our plight as parents; she understood our child’s perspective on a deep level (through firsthand experience as a former picky eater herself). She knew exactly how much pressure a picky eater experiences, the silent self-criticism no one hears, the recurring disappointment when expectations aren’t met again and again. She knew exactly the unintentional mistakes, unnecessary stress and misguided efforts being made by a picky eater’s loving friends and family who truly have the best intentions in mind.
She knew that a picky eater will try new things when she is ready. And that there is a way to support this, but it isn’t so obvious to those of us who haven’t experienced the other side directly.
She knew the path out of picky eating frustrations. (There is one!) And she wrote this beautiful story to share it with all picky eaters and the people who love them.
Get it, gift it, donate it to someone you know who is struggling, or to a classroom, to help classmates better understand their friend who will only eat butter pasta. And maybe not tease them for it. ;)
Grab your copy here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/172723362X