Hyla only eats white food…

Posted: May 26, 2010 in Notes from the Daddy Front
Tags: , , , ,

She will only eat white food.

Pancakes, French toast, cereal, pasta, bread, rice, chicken, potatoes. You name it. If it’s white, she’ll eat it. And it’s making me crazy. We’re at a place with a buffet so big that it borders on wasteful and up she goes, plate in hand, searching for sustenance, and back she comes – all white, all the time. From breakfast till dinner it’s a festival of starch.

I’m not actually sure what the appeal is of all this whiteness but it’s as certain as the one exception – chocolate. She will also eat anything chocolate and looks for every opportunity to indulge herself. French toast with chocolate chips, pancakes with chocolate syrup and, of course, chocolate cake.

I’ve tried to explain about the different food groups and why they’re important. I’ve shown her the “food pyramid” and explained why you need this variety. But, no. White and chocolate.

So, I’ve tried to make a rule. First, I set down that at every meal she must eat something with some colour. And let the negotiating begin. “Have a glass of fruit juice”, I suggest, knowing that they have all kinds of fresh fruit juices here. Up she goes and come back with what is, basically, Tang. “Try the watermelon juice”, I offer helpfully. The nose wrinkles. “How about some chopped pineapple and papaya in yogurt?” I try, knowing that if you hide the nutrition in something she likes (and is also white) then she might just eat it.

It’s like when we had to give our dog a pill and hid it in a piece of cheese. Up she goes and comes back with a bowl of yogurt. “Where’s the fruit?” “It’s in there Daddy.” So I take my spoon, and begin the search. I find three pieces of diced melon so small that they almost escaped notice. “It’s got colour”, she announces triumphantly!

At dinner she goes up to the salad bar and comes back with a single piece of lettuce with dressing on it (white ranch dressing, of course). After a while the constant cajoling and negotiating wears me down and I relent to my fallback position – one glass of fresh juice and one item of colour every day. You’d think I was asking her to drink vinegar. And yesterday after the Tang and the piece of lettuce I didn’t even try anymore. She actually wore me down to the point of surrender.

Frankly, what is really making me crazy is that she literally lives in a banana republic. I mean, they have more fresh and cheap fruit here than anywhere I’ve ever been. Most of it was picked in the past 24 hours and is so delicious that I have fruit with every meal and bring back a plate to the room for a late night snack. I love fruit and eat it here every chance I get. It’s one of my favourite things about coming to Panama. The bananas literally grow on the trees outside our room. The papayas are as big as my arm and the melon is so sweet that it could give you a cavity. And don’t get me started on the maracuya. What an amazing flavour.

But Hyla will have none of it. “I don’t like fruit”. How can she not like fruit? Is she really my daughter? I feel like I’ve eaten so much fruit that it’s now in my DNA but it’s clearly not in hers. Bananas – $0.10/pound, papaya – $0.75 and oranges – $2.50 for a 10 pound bag. Fruit heaven. “You don’t know how lucky you are to live in a place that has fruit like this. How can you not like all of this?” She tries to explain that it’s the texture that she doesn’t like but I still don’t understand how she can turn down these amazing flavours. It makes me want to scream.

But, I have gained something from this constant tug war. Hyla, and other children her age, are all about hedonism. If it feels good, they want it. They do everything they can to fill their day with the indulgence of every whim with no regard to balance or consequence. They avoid the unpleasant and constantly seek pleasure and there is a lesson in that for me.

As adults we’ve learned that sometimes things that are good for you aren’t always nice, fun or easy. But we soldier on. Knowing that being responsible means that sometimes it doesn’t always feel good. We do it because that’s just the way it is. But not her. She will go to the most extraordinary lengths to avoid anything that doesn’t make her happy. And secretly, I wish that I could do the same. If white food makes me happy then why not? Who needs all that “yuck” any ways?

Well, we all do and I’m trying to teach her about balance – an important lesson for us all. But when I see the smile that comes with yet another piece of chocolate food I just melt and she knows that she’ll get her way because I have such a hard time being the mean Daddy. I want to be the fun Daddy, the cool Daddy and she knows it and she works it. Yesterday she explained for almost three minutes why white food is actually full of colour because, as I just taught her a few days ago white is a combination of all the colours, she almost got to me to buy into it.

Great. Another lawyer in the family.

So, now, I’m trying a new rationalization – we’re on holiday and who needs all those rules on a holiday? I did promise her mother that I would try to promote the fruit and vegetable thing but this is just making me weary. And I think that the main reason that I just can’t bring myself to enforce these rules is that in my heart, I’m a hedonist, too, and I feel like a giant hypocrite trying to make her do what I wouldn’t want to do myself.

So, we’re off to lunch – spaghetti with alfredo sauce (of course) and I’ll be having the fruit plate. I keep telling her that when she gets older she’ll regret not eating all the fruit that I’m sure she’ll come to love but, for now, it’s all white all the time. And when she looks at me with those big blue eyes and smiles that smile that melts my heart it’s pretty clear that dinner will be fish and rice. And chocolate cake. And I know that she’ll win and I almost don’t care. Because I was her age once and then I only wanted mashed potatoes with every meal.

White is all the colours. Who could say no to that?

I can’t help but admire her because if I was her, I would have tried the exact same argument. She’s got me and she knows it, and for that, I love her all the more.


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