Thank You, Rock-n-Roll!


When my first born son was a wee tot, probably no more than 1, he tried his first tomato.  It was the first time I ever saw him dislike a taste; up to that point, he was a dream eater.  But that tomato caused a facial response worthy of overcooked brussels sprouts and became the first chapter in a long, depressing story called How A Kid Got Picky.

At the time, I thought: "OK, he doesn't like tomatoes.  No big."  But it turns out, it has been a huge road block in his eating life.  Pizza?  Nope: tomato sauce.  Family spaghetti night? Not with my homemade sauce.  Salads?  Well, sort of fine, if you pick out the toms, which of course, he does.  Salsa? No.  Bruschetta?  Uh-uh.  Most soups?  Fail.

As he has gotten pickier over the years, his not eating tomatoes has gotten more and more frustrating for me.  Pizza is such kid-standard fare that the issue comes up frequently.  Pizza is the meal of choice at most birthday parties, soccer team parties, class parties, always leaving me with "What the heck did he eat?  Chips?  A carrot or two?"

I've tried a million times to get him to try pizza again.  We make pizza for dinner fairly regularly, and he will not eat it.  I've encouraged, cajoled, threatened, bribed, stormed, and reasoned.  I've screamed and yelled.  Over pizza.  I've come unhinged a few times, to be sure, and that's never a good thing.

For a long time now, I have suspected that he would actually love pizza if he just gave it a try.  After all, it's now been over a decade since a tomato passed his lips.  Things change, right?

A couple of years ago and at the end of my rope, I tried a new tactic.  Employing my most practiced nonchalance, I mentioned, offhand, that "someday, I'm sure you'll like pizza."  Since then, every now and then I've asked (using my most crafted casualness): "So, wanna try some pizza this time?  No?  OK, no problem.  Someday you will, I'm sure.  You'll love it."  

In his presence, that zen like confidence prevailed.  But out of eye and ear shot?  I've expressed my true feelings, storming mightily at his monumental stubbornness.  I've obsessed over how he will ever truly enjoy college if he won't eat pizza.  I've wistfully longed for a normal kid, one who inhales pizza like a healthy American teenager. 

It's not that pizza is so great.  Bread, cheese, sauce.  It's not the holy grail of nutrition.  But pizza has become a metaphor, a symbol of his refusal to do something I want him to do, of his epic picky-ness, of the pain-in-the-neck hassle of figuring out how to feed him, of the never ending power struggle that food became at an early age between him and me.  (I learned my lesson.  My other kids are far less picky because I got smart about how to feed them and how to handle food with them.)

So back to the Zen Strategy.  I tried it because I had tried everything else.  I didn't really believe it would work.  The only thing it did was pull the plug on the power struggle, and as much as I wanted him to eat the damn pizza, that was enough for me for awhile.

12 years later, my son has joined a band as a guitarist.  After the first rehearsal, he came home with the bad news: the boys order a pizza at every single practice.  "Well, maybe it's time to try it, then!" was my response.

His?  "Yeah, maybe."

At the end of the second band practice, he called me: "Guess what mom?  I tried pizza.  I loved it."

He even gave me the details about how when the pizza got there, he didn't say a thing, acted like it was no big deal, grabbed a piece and shoved it in his mouth.  I love having that little movie playing in my head.  

Thank you, rock and roll, for giving pizza back to my family, for proving that the zen approach to parenting works every now and then, for teaching me to let go.  Thank you for confirming what I have long suspected but also long resisted: take 97% of what you most worry about when it comes to the kids, and stop worrying.  Fake it till you make it.  Fake it until you figure out that it's really true.  Fake it until what you most want drops into your lap.

I know it's just pizza.  But that pizza is teaching me to be a better mother.

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Comments

all hail the pizza! and the rock!!

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