Day 22 / by Vanessa Fiola

**The next 8 days I'll be posting 500 words a day here as part of a creative writing challenge. Join the FB group.”

I sure hope PlayDoh is non-toxic because my child just licked every color we have. He insisted it was ice cream, and since he’s been off any form of sugar for a week now, who am I to argue.

Recent Facebook memories place us in London this time three years ago. Jonah was seven months old, and I was leading a project on behalf of a US-based company who had recently purchased a smaller London-based operation. We were engaged to make processes “more efficient.” That is not the point of my story. My point is that the pictures are coming back to us from that time and I am reminded that we had a child who ate things like steamed broccoli and asparagus and had very few strongly held opinions about food. It’s helpful for me to remember that because now that he’s nearly and adult and has the palette of an elderly hospital patient, I often feel like I have failed him in the eating department. 

A few months after we returned from London, Jonah and I flew to Chicago to meet one of my oldest and dearest friends and her two young boys. I remember at the time her youngest would only eat white foods like buttered pasta and plain rice. Jonah had just started to surface as off-the-charts underweight, which continues still. She encouraged me to feed him pasta, but I told her he was gluten intolerant, which wasn’t entirely true. At the time I had lofty goals of keeping him off of most grains, but I was also trying not to appear judgy about what she “let” her kids eat.

I assumed palette was as easy as exposure and mirroring my own eating habits. It is a funny tendency of parenting and pre-parenting to look at an age you have not experienced and be certain that you will be different. It is not because I lack discipline that I have walked back most things I believed I would never do. It’s just, well, you can’t control everything. For us, his eating habits began to change when I left for Nashville four days a week for four months and his father and nanny fed him most days. You have to pick your battles. At the time, mine were centered around: does he feel loved. I lowered the priority of most other grievances because oatmeal-the-gateway-drug pales in comparison to the host of other factors we had to contend with. 

He’s spent almost the last couple of years insisting on increasingly bland foods. I’ve cajoled, worried and lost battles. I’ve taken well-meaning advice from non-parents and other parents alike in hopes of raising a child who understands the beauty of arugula. His habits have not been entirely atrocious—he weirdly loves spirulina and kombucha, for example—but I’d be lying if I said I weren’t envious of friends who have less picky children. 

Last week, after an 8pm cupcake in celebration of Ryan’s birthday, Jonah called one of his best little friends “stupid.” It was an outburst and might be attributed to a sugar rush, but I took the opportunity to cut out all sugar, including the seemingly innocuous grade B maple syrup on his gluten-free pancakes or local honey atop his grass-fed, farmers market, plain greek yogurt. I can’t say that I’ve seen a marked difference in his behavior, but I can report that the other night he inexplicably grabbed an apple and began to eat it whole, skin and all. He has never liked the skin, and I was so giddy that I didn’t stop him when he ate the entire apple, including the core. I probably should have because he threw it all up five minutes later. But! I’m hopeful that we are on the dawn of a major food shift here. When he reaches for the rainbow chard I'll know everything is going to be alright. 

This is huge because he hates apple skins. This is also huge because he is trolling me at 3 and a half years old. Well played, toddler. (Also those are not dirty dishes in the sink. We are not monsters.)