Thursday, April 18, 2013

An Extra Cheesy Story

My son, Chandler, is a picky eater.  He really only has one food group: carbs.  He’ll eat breads, cereals, Pop-Tarts, waffles, and candy.  But, not pasta. No way.  Suffice it to say that it’s a challenge to find things he will try.  Over the last couple years, he will actually try BBQ sauce on chicken.  It’s the only sauce/ condiment he will eat.  Not ketchup. Not mustard. Not any type of dressing.  He won’t even put milk on his cereal.  Dry cereal – yes.  Cup of milk – no problem.  But, you CANNOT mix the two!

For a long time, he would only eat a taco if it was ground beef on a soft flour tortilla.  He eventually added shredded cheese.  But not ON the taco…on the side, in a little cup.  Gradually, he was willing to put the cheese inside the taco, but it was a process.  A painful one for us as parents. 

After he was willing to introduce shredded cheese to his diet, he began to try other types of cheese, and actually liked them. After a while, he started eating the cheese sticks.  You know…the white individually wrapped “string cheese” sticks that are packaged as a snack food.  Because of his finicky eating habits, this was a big deal, especially since he doesn’t each much protein – other than the gallon-plus of 1% milk he consumes each week.

Even though he started expanding his world of food, it continued to be a challenge for him to find things he was willing to eat at school.  He’d purchase a school lunch, and only eat the bread, and maybe a couple chicken nuggets.  So, this year my wife started packing his lunch at home a couple times each week. That way, we can prepare foods that we know he likes (and will eat…most of the time).

A typical lunch for Chandler would look like this: shaved ham or turkey slices (not on bread – the horrors!), a stick of cheese, some Wheat Thins, raisins, and a couple cookies.  Not too bad of a lunch for an eight-year old.  But, many times he’d bring the cheese home.  And, his mom and I would say, “You need to eat your cheese!”

A couple weeks ago, Chandler got a stomach bug, and wasn’t able to eat much of anything.  After several days, he finally was able to regain his appetite and return to school.  On the way home from school, I had the following conversation with him:

Me: “Chandler, did you eat your lunch today?” 
Chandler: “Yes.”
Me: “Did you eat all of it?”
Chandler: “Yes.  Well, most of it.”
Me: “Did you eat your cheese?”
Chandler: “No.  I gave it to my friend.”
Me: “You did WHAAAAT?  Why did you give it to your friend?  Did he have his own lunch?”
Chandler: “Yes, he had his own lunch.  He just asks me every day if he can have my cheese.  So, I give it to him.”

OK, timeout.  At this point, I am thinking a couple things.  First, that kid needs to keep his hands off your cheese.  Second, I come up with an idea…and I share it with Chandler.

Me: “Well, you tell your friend that he can have your cheese if he gives you his cookies.”
Chandler: “OK!”

It then hits me what a horrible father I am.  Not only am I encouraging my son not eat his cheese, but to trade it for more junk!

So, I say to Chandler, “No, no, no.  Don’t do that.  (I am already playing out in my mind what my wife would say if she heard my proposal).  Just tell your friend that your parents told you that you need to eat your cheese from now on.”
Chandler: “OK.”

Later that evening, Chandler tells Amy that he has been giving his friend the cheese stick every day.  Amy asks him some of the same questions I asked him, and thankfully Chandler left out the details of my scheme to score more cookies. Whew!

I wake up the next morning, thankful that this little cheese episode is behind us.  I get Chandler his breakfast (Pop-Tart or dry cereal, of course), and start to pack the lunch that Amy has prepared for him. I open the freezer to take our one of the ice packs, and place it in the bottom of his lunch box.  I then open the refrigerator.  I reach up and take the shaved ham, when I notice something peculiar.  I immediately wonder if there has been some sort of mistake. But, then a small grin breaks out on my face.  My heart dances, and I shake my head.  I reach back up to the top shelf of the fridge, and stare in wonder at what I hold in my hand: two cheese sticks.